Natural wood floor cleaner

Natural wood floor cleaner is easy to make at home.

Natural wood floors are the most beautiful floors you can have in your home - and you want to keep them that way. A natural wood floor cleaner can easily be made from a few simple ingredients, most of which you probably have in the kitchen cupboard.

First a bit about natural wood floors

Varnished or lacquered floors

Many modern wooden floors are lacquered or varnished and this makes them easier to care for. The days when you had to spend hours every week caring for wood floors have gone.

However, the problem with lacquers is that they can be damaged by dropped objects, for example, or by just lots of wear and tear from constant foot traffic. When a lacquered floor gets damaged this way, generally, the floor has to be re-sanded and the lacquer re-applied. Cleaning with a simple natural wood floor cleaner will not cure the problem. Varnished floors have had a thick application of varnish or lacquer on top of the bare wood. It does not penetrate the wood to any great extent.

If your floors are varnished you can still wash them with a simple soap or detergent dissolved in water.

Routine cleaning can be done with water, or water and a little natural soap, or gentle liquid detergent. (Soap is more nourishing for natural wood floors than detergents, as it is based on natural oils. Use a good soap such as olive oil based soap.)

Most commercial products for wooden floor cleaning are in fact detergent based.

For a brief over-view of the differences between soap and detergent see: Pure and natural soap

Natural wood floor cleaner:
Wax and oil finishes

Alternatively, some floors are prepared with wax finishes. Again, until recently this was a labour-intensive solution.

Now oils are applied first and then a hard wax finish seals the wood. These floors are best cleaned with only water in the form of a slightly damp cloth. Water by itself will make white marks appear on a wax finished floor.

You can use this fact to test the floor if you are not sure what type of finish it has been given. Just drop a few drops of water in an inconspicuous place. If the floor has a wax finish a whitish spot will develop where the water was dropped. You will need to buff the area with a little fine wire wool coated with wax to get rid of this type of mark.

In some ways waxed floors are easier to maintain than varnished floors. Small repairs to the surface can be done quite easily with a fine steel wool pad and some wax. You need to apply more wax polish every few months.

Parquet flooring

Parquet flooring will most likely have a lacquer or varnish coat over it. It is best to consult the suppliers for best cleaning practice. Normally it is cleaned with a damp cloth after hoovering or brushing with a soft broom. For a deeper clean, methylated spirit is often used and then another wax layer is applied.

Natural wood floor cleaner: cleaning different types of wood floor

1 Cleaning bare, unvarnished wood

Soaps and detergent

First, there's soap.

Use good quality soap such as olive oil soap and a cloth, mop or a scrubbing brush. This works well on natural floors without any varnish or wax surface. Be careful not to leave standing pools of water on the surface at any time as this raises the grain of the wood. Soap is very effective at removing grease and dirt. If dirt is ground in, as on a well-used stairway you will need to scrub a little.

Unvarnished natural wood floors can also be washed using a little simple detergent or liquid soap in a bucket of water. Detergent will normally be a little harsher than a good soap.

Any obstinate stains can usually be removed by a little ordinary bleach. Try a diluted bleach first. Wipe away with fresh water and sponge dry. You can also use it undiluted if need be and apply it beyond the borders of the stain so as to leave no sharp contrast in the wood colour.


Use a dash of vinegar to improve the grease removal when washing a plain wood floor. After the wood has dried there should be no undue smell of vinegar. Leave the windows open if possible to let any odour dissipate quickly.

Vinegar cleans bare wood beautifully. Dust and dirt just lifts off. Use a dash of vinegar on a damp cloth or a vinegar and water mix in a bucket for large areas. Cider vinegar is gentler than spirit vinegar and smells nicer. It's more expensive usually.

Don't use vinegar on varnished floors as the acid content may damage them.


Stubborn stains or grease may respond to vodka - if you can bear to use it this way!

Olive oil

Olive oil makes a good conditioner for bare wood. A few drops in a bucket of water can be used with a clean mop. For smaller areas use a little oil on a damp cloth. Use it after cleaning with soap or vinegar.

2 Cleaning varnished wood

I use a little vinegar on my varnished floorboards. It is always well diluted - a capful in a gallon of water or thereabouts. I cannot unreservedly recommend it however because there's an outside chance it may cause some long-term damage. Varnishes vary widely in their quality, so while vinegar might be OK on one, it may be too much on another.

Soap can be used as above for bare floorboards. Use a mop rather than a brush and preferably dry the floor afterwards with an absorbent cloth. Liquid or bar soap will get rid of most dust, dirt and grease.

Finish with a polish made from beeswax occasionally.

Many commercial beeswax products contain all sorts of chemicals which are best avoided. You can make a simple beeswax at home. See below for a recipe.

Flea Market Decorating: Creating Style with Vintage Finds (Better Homes and Gardens Books)

has lots of home renovation recipes as well as all sorts of tips and strategies for getting the best from old and recycled furniture.

Beeswax Crafts: Candlemaking, Modelling, Beauty Creams, Soaps and Polishes, Encaustic Art, Wax Crayons

This lovely book gives practical information on a wide number of uses for beeswax, including polish recipes.

3 Cleaning waxed wood

Waxed floors are best cleaned with just water and a soft cloth. Some additional wax can be applied to scuffed areas. As noted above, fine steel wool can be used. Avoid spilling liquids on your floor and clean up spills quickly.


You can also make your own general purpose natural wood floor cleaner very easily. Here's how.

General purpose natural floor cleaner


Olive oil 1/2 cup

Tablespoon cider vinegar

Lavender oil - 10 drops (optional - it masks the scent of vinegar)

Shake the ingredients all together in a bottle and apply sparingly with a clean damp cloth. Add a label if you are going to leave it unused for a while, or you might find it on your salad!

This natural wood floor cleaner is not for waxed floors but it can be used on a variety of other surfaces, including furniture. Always test a small inconspicuous area first to be sure that it is doing no harm.

If you can't be bothered with these simple homemade approaches, then Organic Nursery Floor Concentrate

from BabyGanics is probably about as safe as can be for an organic commercial floor cleaning product!


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