Do we need to disinfect hardwood floors this era of COVID-19?
We need to look very closely at how we clean our homes and disinfect our surfaces. The novel coronavirus is known to be able to be tracked into a home by the soles of our shoes
It’s not just about COVID-19. It’s just currently our biggest thread. Pets and their accidents can do some damage to our flooring and leave us sensitive about cleanliness as weel.
Let’s see what we can and can’t do about disinfection.
You might be interested in my closely related blog post: Can I use a shark steam mop on wood floors?
Can you use bleach on Hardwood Floors?
If you’ve heard of people using bleach on hardwood floors, but are skeptical then I’m glad you’ve come here. Hardwood floors are a significant investment in a home, and while they certainly add value to your home, they require proper care and maintenance. They are different than other types of flooring and therefore, products and cleaning regimens that may be appropriate for other floor types, may in fact be harmful to them. Yes, I’m referring to bleach.
Some people subscribe to the belief that bleach can be used and is even beneficial to disinfect hardwood floors. I believe bleach is a bad idea for this type of flooring and I will explain it why.
Why people believe bleach is beneficial for their hardwood floors:
- it’s a heavy-duty disinfectant.
- Some say it can be used to get rid of urine stains or other dark stains marring the surface.
If you have stains on your hardwood floors that you’re anxious to get rid of, read my post “How to Remove White and Dark Stains from Hardwood Floors” before reaching for the bleach. If you are interested in disinfecting your floors, read on and I’ll take you through why bleach isn’t a good idea for hardwood and show you some alternatives instead.
Why People shouldn’t use bleach?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued official recommendations on the cleaning and disinfection of homes, including recommending a diluted household bleach solution, “if appropriate for the surface”. Key words there are “if appropriate for the surface”. Specifically, they recommend bleach for use on hard (non-porous) surfaces.
What people may not realize is that while their hardwood floor is, of course, hard. It is not in fact non-porous. It is immaterial if the hardwood has one or two or even three coats of finish. With a finish it is less porous, but is still ultimately porous.
What Clorox – Bleach Manufacturer has to say About Hardwood Floors?
In addition to get you convinced, The manufacturer Clorox, has actually directly addressed the question of whether the use of bleach on hardwood floors is safe, on their very own website.
They point to the fact that hardwood floors are porous, and indicate bleach is intended for non-porous surfaces.
They do state that depending on a number of factors, it might be okay, but only ever once. Seems a very big risk for a disinfectant treatment you are strongly cautioned to use only one time.
Why you shouldn’t disinfect your hardwood floors with steam?
Some believe steam will help disinfect your hardwood floors but unfortunately it can be harmful for your hardwood floors as well. The abrupt and extreme change in temperature can penetrate even finished hardwood floors. It can permeate the pores of the wood through the finish and settle in.
Steam can cause buckling or warping, break down of the finish, and even eventually foster conditions for mildew and rot in the floor boards.
All that said, some manufacturers advertise their steam mops as safe for hardwood floors that are sealed and in good condition having no areas where the sealing finish has been degraded.
If you are convinced that steam cleaning is what you want and your hardwood is sealed, then I recommend the Bissell PowerFresh Steam Mop. Bissell proclaims this steam mop as safe for sealed hardwood floors.
What Can you Use to Disinfect Your Hardwood Floors? 4 different methods
Clorox, perhaps due to a heightened awareness of the fact that their main household product isn’t safe for hardwood floors, came up with their own solution. They created their very own wet mop cloths that disinfect, and are safe for use on finished hardwood floors. Clorox Scentiva Disinfecting Wet Mopping Cloths, are bleach free and sized to fit the Swiffer Sweeper or other any other mop of that size.
Lysol is another household name associated with disinfection. Their disinfecting products have been in homes for years and some of them appear on the EPA’s list of Disinfectants for Use Against COVID-19. According to Lysol, their Clean & Fresh Multi-Surface Cleaner is safe to use for disinfection on sealed hardwood floors by damp mopping.
The household name Pine-Sol has developed their Pine-Sol Multi-Surface CloroxPro Cleaner, in original pine scent as well that is safe for use on finished hardwood. It doesn’t appear on the EPA’s list, but this will disinfect your floors, killing 99% of germs.
You might be interested in my related post: Can you use pine sol on laminate floors?
Another popular alternative is to disinfect your hardwood floors by using a solution of distilled white vinegar and water. Vinegar can kill pathogens including E. coli, salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes, and possibly the influenza A virus. However, it’s important to note that distilled white vinegar has not appeared on the EPA’s list and it can’t boast that it kills 99% of germs like some of the other products.
Before using any of these products to disinfect or sanitize your hardwood floors, you must first clean the floor thoroughly. Dust mop or vacuum your floor before you damp mop. For more information about dust mops for hardwood floors, read my in-depth post “10 Best Dust Mop for hardwood floors “.
How to Disinfect Hardwood Floors with Clorox Scentiva?
- Grab your damp mop or Swiffer and place a wet Clorox cloth over it.
- Mop your floor gently.
- To ensure that your floors are disinfected by using the cloths, you need to see that the floor surface appears wet for 10 seconds.
- Once you have finished mopping using the Clorox wet mop cloths, allow the surface to air dry. You may need to change cloths periodically.
NOTE: There is no need to rinse your floors following the use of these cloths.
How to Disinfect Hardwood Floors with Lysol Clean & Fresh?
- Dilute a 1ounce of Clean & Fresh Lysol into 5 ounces of warm water.
- Take out your damp mop and soak the microfiber mop cloth in the diluted Lysol cleaner solution.
- Pull out and then wring the microfiber cloth out until it is only damp and there is no dripping water.
- Leave on the floor for one minute to sanitize and then wipe away.
Manufacturer recommends up to six minutes wait time before wiping up the cleaner for “deep cleaning and disinfecting wood floors”.
NOTE: I find six minutes to be too long for hardwood floors, and would not leave it longer than one minute before wiping it away and drying the floor.
How to Disinfect Hardwood Floors with Pine-Sol Multi-Surface?
- Combine a 1/4C of Pine-Sol to one gallon of water.
- Soak your damp mop head in the diluted cleaning solution.
- Once the mop head is soaked, pull it out of the cleaning solution and wring it out thoroughly so that there are no drips and it feels merely damp.
- Proceed to damp mop your floors.
- Rinsing is not required, but if floor continues to look wet, take a towel and dry it off.
How to Disinfect Hardwood Floors with Vinegar?
- Mix 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water.
- As with the other products, you’ll soak the mop head or microfiber mopping cloth thoroughly before wringing it out to a state of dampness with no dripping.
- Proceed to mop your floor.
- Rinsing isn’t necessary. If when finished parts of your floor still appear wet, take a towel and dry your floors.
NOTE: It must be distilled white vinegar. Do not substitute with red or balsamic vinegar
How Often Should You Disinfect Your Hardwood Floors?
Don’t disinfect your floors more than once every two weeks. If you’re keeping up with routine dust mopping and vacuming, the appearance and care of your hardwood should look good.
Normal cleaning won't kill germs, but it will remove them. Disinfecting won't remove dirt or dust or germs, but it will kill germs.
Use gloves when disinfecting, if you prefer to use reusable rubber gloves be sure to wash them with soap and water after you’re finished disinfecting and then set them aside to be used only for disinfecting.
Make sure you have an appropriate mop whether it be string chenille or microfiber; you need something that will be gentle on your floors.
Never Mix Cleaning Agents
Please never mix vinegar with bleach. The combination will create chlorine gas which will cause coughing, burning eyes, and even breathing problems. Whichever cleaning product you decide to use, read your product label instructions, and don’t mix.
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