Deep Cleaning a Hardwood Floor

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Deep Clean Your Floor?

At Mr. Floor, we call it the White Sock Test. Here’s what you do to see if you’re floor passes the test. First, clean your wood floor using your regular method, getting it to the point where you’re happy that you’ve done a good job.  Second, walk around the floor in white athletic socks for an hour or two, just as you might on a weekend or during an evening after work.

If the bottoms of your socks are dirty, you know it’s both time to deep-clean your floor and that you need to change the way you typically clean your floors.

What Is a Deep Cleaning of a Hardwood Floor?

Almost all professionally installed hardwood floors, whether finished in the home or prefinished at the factory, are protected by a polyurethane coating.  Polyurethane, when fully cured, is virtually impervious to water. However, if left unprotected or if the coating is compromised, wood will act like a sponge, absorbing contaminants and causing flooring to become a magnet for dirt.

Over time, dissolved dirt, grease and oil combine to form a stubborn film that adheres to the top of the polyurethane. This layer of grime is nearly impervious to vacuuming and typical mopping. To be successfully removed, this film must be dissolved and the contaminants released so that they can be pulled away from the wood floor’s coating.

Deep cleaning is the mechanical and chemical process of loosening the bond between the layer of grease and dirt from the polyurethane coating and then collecting the loosened contaminants for disposal.

Surfactants Loosen the Layer of Dirt and Grime From the Floor

To loosen a film of contaminants from the polyurethane coating, a cleaning solution of surfactants mixed with water is required. Surfactants are molecular substances that are able to attach one end of their molecule to water and the other end to the dirt or grease. The surfactants help the water-based solution to grab hold of the dirt and grease and pull it away from the floor’s coating.

There are numerous surfactants in various cleaners throughout your home. Both Windex and Dawn dish soap contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, a fairly common surfactant. The problem, of course, is that these aggressive cleaners also contain solvents like isopropyl alcohol in Windex and ethanol in Dawn. Solvents can irreparably damage the polyurethane protecting the floor.  The perfect hardwood floor cleaning solution is aggressive enough to release 99% of the common floor contaminants into the cleaning solution without using chemicals that can invade, dissolve or degrade the polyurethane.

While there are a number of cleaning products on the market, it will come as no surprise that we believe Mr. Floor Wood Floor Cleaner is the safest and most effective cleaning solution for any wood floor. The surfactants in our wood floor cleaner are aggressive enough to break the bonds of dirt and grease from your floor’s coating without doing any harm to the coating itself.

In fact, the exact same wood floor cleaner that we sell to thousands of consumers is the same solution we use when we charge $500 to $1,000 for our wood floor deep cleaning surface.

How Mr. Floor Deep Cleans a Hardwood Floor

Increasingly we have clients call us in to deep clean their wood flooring.  Despite the cost, the speed and consistency with which we can deep clean a wood floor is very attractive, especially to those for whom time is money.

There’s no magic to our process (other than the Mr. Floor Wood Floor Cleaner). You simply need the right cleaning solution, a bountiful supply of cleaning cloths or microfiber mop pads, and either the mechanical or human muscle power required to release and wipe up loosened contaminants once they’re suspended in the water-based solution.

Of course, prior to any deep cleaning, you need to remove the loose surface dirt, hair and debris from your floor. This is an essential step. Do not use any wet cleaning solution on a floor that has not first been cleaned of loose debris. If you do, you’ll turn the loose dirt and debris into sand paper that scratches your floor with each pass of a mop.

Once the floor is free of loose debris, we start by spraying Mr. Floor Wood Floor Cleaner in a small section of the floor.  We then run a professional buffing machine equipped with white cotton cloths across the sprayed area.  After a few passes with the machine, we replace the cleaning cloths and repeat the process. If the white cloths come up dirty, we know we need to work the area again. When the cleaning cloths come off the buffing pads free from dirt, we’re ready to move on to the next section.

After a few hours and attending by hand to those sections that the buffing machine can’t reach, the floor is deep cleaned, beautiful and certain to pass the white sock test!

You Can Deep Clean a Floor Yourself

Of course, you don’t need a thousand-dollar professional buffing machine to deep clean your hardwood floor.  You can accomplish the same results by using a microfiber mob, a dozen or so microfiber pads and the time and energy to do exactly as we described above.

A sturdy microfiber mop is essential to allowing you
to really put some muscle into the cleaning.

Because you’re using microfiber mop pads, you don’t need to attach white cotton towels to the bottom of your mop.  The pads will supply the mechanical friction required to pull up the dirt that the Mr. Floor Wood Floor Cleaner has loosened.  The microfiber mop pads also have enough padding to sufficiently emulate the give of our machine pad.  It’s like using a sponge versus a sheet of paper towel to clean something.  The sponge conforms to an irregular surface, insuring that the entire floor is cleaned.

Here’s a caveat, however. If your floor experiences hard use from children, pets and/or a spouse who comes in with dirty feet, you’re going to want to have a dozen cotton white bar mop towels on hand to use after the first-pass cleaning with a microfiber mop pad.  The reason is that to effectively absorb all of the dirt loosened by Mr. Floor Wood Floor Cleaner, you’re going to need to go over the floor several times and unless you have a dozen microfiber mop pads to use, cotton towels are more convenient and less expensive.

Plus, white towels also give you that gratification of seeing the dirt collect on them as you spray and wipe the floor during several passes.

Professionals and Homeowners LOVE Mr Floor Wood Floor Cleaner

You will, however, need a some cheap white bar towels or sheets of paper towel to check the sections of the floor you’ve done to see how many times the process must be repeated.

Depending on how much built up dirt you have on your floor, you may need go over the same area three, four or five times to truly match the quality that we can get with our buffing machine. As with most things, patience is a virtue and the more effort you put into the work, the better the results will be.

For Those Interested in Wood Floor Cleaning Perfection

Here’s a Mr. Floor Master Class tip.  If you’re serious about the most pristine and even-looking wood floor, you’ve got one more step.  After you’ve cleaned the floor to the point that it can pass the white sock test, you’ve got one more step. Put a dry pad on the mop and buff the cleaned area one more time.  You don’t need to apply a lot of force, like you did during the cleaning cycle. Just go back and forth over the area several times with the dry mop.

Buffing a floor after cleaning will pull up the microscopic film that forms on top of a just-cleaned polyurethane floor. This nearly invisible layer is cleaning solution that dried on the floor while you were cleaning.

Now the truth is that this last step isn’t totally necessary, especially for every-day cleaning. However, this is what it takes to achieve a Mr. Floor shine.

Resources You’ll Need to Deep Clean Your Wood Floor

Here’s a list of the things you’ll need to deep clean your wood floor

  1. Mr. Floor Wood Floor Cleaner (Not Windex, not vinegar and definitely not Murphy’s Oil Soap)
  2. A sturdy microfiber mop (NOT the cheap Swiffer mop)
  3. Plenty of microfiber pads (Figure on a dozen to rotate through the wash)
  4. A dozen white, 16″ x 9″ bar towels
  5. The time and patience to go over the same section of floor until it passes the White Sock Test.

That’s really it!

You can buy the first two things directly from our online store and if you use the coupon code “DeepClean20” you’ll save 20% off on your first order of any products in our store.

Write to us with any questions and to let us know if your floor can now pass the White Sock Test!



Igor Murokh

 Igor is a graduate of the University of Illinois and holds a B.A. in Economics.He has worked in the flooring industry for over 20 years and is the VP and Sales Manager of Mr. Floor Companies in Skokie, IL. Igor is a certified wood flooring inspector (CWFI) and routinely helps clients assess flooring issues.

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