How to Clean Old Damaged Wood Floors: Quick Tips In 2022

Hardwood floors are one of the most sought-after types of finishes in residential developments since they can make any room look classy and cozy.

However, before you decide to use hardwood as your floor’s finish, you should know how to clean it first.

By knowing how to clean it, you will know if this kind of finish suits you. After all, proper maintenance is the key to ensuring your floor finish’s timeless beauty


If you can’t clean it well, then you can be sure that your new finish will look old in less than a year’s time.

Does your family have an old house with an existing old hardwood floor? Then, you can use that place for practice.

In this article, we will teach you how to clean wood floors.

It does not matter whether you have an old, damaged wood floor or a new one. We will give you information on what is the best way to clean both of them.

How to Clean and Maintain Your Old and Damaged Wood Floors:

Cleaning your wooden floors sounds like an easy job but you actually need to put some effort into it regularly.

  1. Sweep and dust your floor every day, especially in high-traffic areas. To do this, use brooms, dustpans, dust mops, and foxtails.
  1. Even if you are using area rugs in some parts of the room, make sure to clean the area underneath them once in a while.
  1. Immediately clean up liquid spills. 
  2. Do NOT use harsh chemicals. Harsh chemicals can damage your floor’s sealant and eventually the wood itself.
  1. Repair, re-coat, or address the damage to your hardwood flooring as soon as possible.

The above-mentioned tips will actually work on both old and new finishes. You just have to be more careful if you are dealing with an old finish.

2 Types of Hardwood Floor Finish:

The first thing that you need to do is determine your floor’s type of finish. Is it a surface finish or a penetrating finish?

  1. Surface Finish.
  • It has a layer of protection on its surface, which prevents liquids, especially water from penetrating the wood material.
  • Usually, clean water is enough to remove stains on surface finishes. 
  • In some cases, however, you will need a cleaning solution. Make sure that your cleaning solution is water-based.
  1. Penetrating Finish.
  • You have a penetrating finish if your floor finish absorbs water-based liquids.
  • To avoid any potential water damage, make sure to use solvent-based cleaning solutions.


  • Find a small area that you can scrape for a sample. Make sure that the area is not located in any high-traffic areas.
  • Scrape a small portion or sample of the finish.
  • Check the nature of the removed material.
  • If it is clear, then you have a surface finish. Otherwise, you have a penetrating finish.
  • After you have identified whether you have a surface finish or a penetrating one, the next thing that you need to do is determine the type of damage or stain in your floor finish.



Materials Needed: Dry Mop, Broom and Dust Pan, Vacuum Cleaner.

Suitable for: Surface and Penetrating Finishes

  • If you’d like to use a dry mop, make sure to use a microfiber mop.

It can clean even the spaces between your wood planks or grooves on your wooden floors.

Microfiber mops have cloth pads that have small fibers. These can collect dirt without damaging your wood.

  • Another good idea is to use a broom and a dustpan. Just make sure to use one that is made from synthetic fiber.

Simply use the broom to sweep the dry particles towards the dustpan to collect them.

  • If you have a budget, then you can choose to buy a floor-brush type of vacuum cleaner at your favorite Home Depot. 

They can also remove dirt without destroying your wooden floor. For best results, can do this every day.

If you take a long time before cleaning the dry particles, they may accumulate.  Old hardwood floors can collect dirt faster than new ones.

If you don’t have enough time, then just do it once or twice a week.


Materials Needed: Solvent-based hardwood floor wax, clean cloth, clean water, plastic knife, and spray bottle.

For Surface Finish:

  1. Start by using a plastic knife. Gently insert the edge or tip of the plastic knife under the dry food stains.
  1. Slide it carefully upward or until you reach the other end of the dry or accumulated stain.
  1. Slightly wet a clean cloth using a spray bottle filled with clean water.
  1. Use this cloth to wipe and wet the spot.
  1. Dry and wipe the affected areas using a dry, clean cloth.

For Penetrating Finish:

  • Follow the same procedure that is used for surface finishes.
  • If there is an area where the wax coat was removed, then, re-apply a small amount of hardwood floor wax to the affected area.

Remember to use a soft cloth and apply the wax in a circular motion.


Materials needed: plastic spatula, ice bag, ice cubes, and solvent-based hardwood floor wax.

For Surface Finishes:

  1. Start by putting ice cubes in your ice bag.
  2. Place the ice bag over the buildup of gum, candle wax, or crayon marks.
  3. Wait until it becomes brittle.
  4. Once it becomes brittle, remove it by inserting the plastic spatula on its edge.
  5. Slide it carefully upward or until you reach the other end of the dry gum, candle wax, or crayon marks.

For Penetrating Finishes:

  • Follow the same procedure that is used for removing these types of stains on surface finishes.
  • If there is an area where the wax coat was removed, then, re-apply a small amount of hardwood floor wax to the affected area.


Among all of the liquid stains, dark stains from inks and pet stains are the most difficult to remove and will definitely require hard work and effort.

Materials Needed: hardwood floor cleaner, abrasive pad or steel wool, clean, damp cloth, sandpaper.

For Surface Finishes:

  • You can remove it from the surface by using a damp cloth or a damp mop in the case of a large area.
  • After that, dry the affected area using a clean cloth or dry mop.

For Penetrating Finishes:

  • Use extra-fine sandpaper to sand and remove the stains.
  • Check your local hardware store for available sandpaper.
  • If you’ll be sanding a large area or an entire floor, you may want to use a drum sander.
  • Wet the steel wool or the abrasive pad using mineral spirits or hardwood floor cleaner like Murphy’s Oil Soap.
  • Carefully scrub the area using the wet steel wool/abrasive pad.
  • Remove the extra mineral spirit using a damp cloth.
  • Using a dry cloth, remove the excess water.
  • Once the affected area has completely dried, using a soft clean cloth, apply the hardwood floor wax to it.
  • Make sure it is solvent-based and apply it in a circular motion.


To remove deep scratches, you will need to sand the area and refinish it

Also of Interest: How to Remove Scratches From Car Windshield: 9 Easy and Quick Tips.

However, for deeper scratches, we recommend consulting with a professional.


If you are one of those people who don’t have time to go to a home improvement store to buy chemicals to clean your wood floor, then no worries!

You can use natural materials found in your homes such as lemon juice and olive oil as well as white vinegar.


  • Start by mixing two teaspoons of lemon juice with one gallon of water.
  • Add one teaspoon of olive oil.
  • Transfer a small amount of this solution to a spray bottle.
  • Spray the solution on the floor.
  • Wipe it using a cloth for small areas and a cotton mop for larger areas.
  • Remove the excess water using another cloth and make sure to dry the entire area.


If you want to use white vinegar, follow these steps:

  • Start by mixing two teaspoons of white vinegar with 2 and a half gallons of warm water in one clean bucket.

You need that much water to dilute white vinegar.

  • Add olive oil or any essential oil to the solution.
  • Apply the solution to the hardwood flooring using a mop.
  • Rinse the area with a clean cloth or mop
  • Remove the excess water by using another clean cloth.

Keep in mind that you should never let a solution stay on the floor for a long time.

If you are planning to use a steam mop, remember that you can only use it on hardwood floors with surface finish or sealants.

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How do you clean old untreated wood floors?

You can actually use vinegar to clean old, untreated wood floors.

You will just need a stronger mixture compared to the one we listed above. But the procedure is just the same.

For old, untreated wood floors, you will need one cup of white vinegar and a gallon of warm water.

Mix them well, then proceed with the same steps that we listed above.

Can you use Murphy’s Oil Soap on Unfinished Wood?

Yes, you can use it to clean unfinished wood. But keep in mind that not all hardwood floor cleaners are suitable for the unfinished wood.

You may want to avoid those with strong chemical components because they can damage your floor finish.

Always check the suitability of the chemicals first.

What is the most affordable way to refinish an old hardwood floor?

The easiest and most affordable way to refinish old wooden floors is by using a Revitalizer Gloss like Rejuvenate Professional Wood Restorer.

This solution can restore the shine of your old wooden floor while fixing minor scratches.  


Old and damaged wood floors require different ways of cleaning depending on the type of finish.

Now that you know what’s required for you to clean hardwood floors, you can be confident that you’ll be able to maintain its classy look.

D. Hahn

DIY guru, dad, husband, blogger. When I'm not creating life hacks I'm teaching my kids how to fix stuff after their dad breaks it.

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