How to Clean Hardwood Floors with a Vacuum Cleaner

Everyone knows that hardwood floors are gorgeous, trendy and delicate. That’s what most of us think, anyway. The truth is that hardwood floors are not as delicate as you may think. With proper finishing and maintenance, your beautiful floors can last for a lifetime.

A few simple rules that should be followed in caring for hardwood floors:

  • Take your shoes off
  • Take care of spills and scuffs right away
  • Ditch the classic wet mopping
  • Vacuum, vacuum and then vacuum some more

That’s basically all you need to do to keep your hardwood floors looking amazing for years. The use of a vacuum can be the one step that is overlooked the most. We’ll offer some practical advice on how to properly care for your hardwood floors by using a vacuum.

Hardwood Floors and Vacuuming

Even with light traffic through your home, dirt and fine dust particles can become lodged in the tiny cracks and crevices that are normally found in a hardwood floor. Dry sweeping with a traditional broom or disposable dust wipe is rarely sufficient for cleaning this ground-in dirt. Using a broom on hardwood floors can result in a cloud of dust and pet dander that is filled with potential allergens. Using a good vacuum can be a better way to keep your hardwoods looking their best.

The choice of which vacuum to use on hardwood floors has to be a careful decision. While vacuums are the best way to get your floors really clean, they can also be a quick way to damage and dull your floors. You must have the right vacuum and use it in the proper way.

Vacuums and Beater Bars

Most vacuums will include a beater bar, or bristle brush, in the main cleaning head. This is the brush with staggered bristles that’s usually visible when you turn the vacuum over. It is a great tool for cleaning carpets because its brushing action fluffs up the pile to allow the suction to remove the dirt and pet hair. This is great for carpet but is your hardwood floor’s worst enemy.

The beater bar in a vacuum makes thousands of rotations per minute. This rapid, constant scraping against your floor’s surface can wear down the finish over time. It will leave your floor looking scratched and dull. It will also diminish the durability of your floor.

The ideal vacuum for hardwoods, therefore, is one that doesn’t have a bristle brush. This doesn’t mean you have to purchase one vacuum for your carpets and one for your hardwoods, however. Check the vacuum’s available settings before purchasing it. Most stick vacuums and canister style vacuums will have specific settings for hardwood flooring, tile or laminate. This setting should disengage the beater bar to prevent damage to the bare floor. You must be careful to switch between modes, however.

Taking Care of Hardwood Floors

Taking proper care of hardwood floors is not so much of a chore as some may think. As with a carpeted floor, there are some things we can do to keep our hardwoods looking great, and there are some things that may not be the best tactic to take to maintain hardwoods.

The Basics

One of the best steps you take to maintain the beauty of your hardwood floors is to take off your shoes upon entering the home. This will prevent wear and scuffing. Use a vacuum to clean but make certain that any beater brush or bristle bar is turned off before use. If you must use a damp mop, make certain you use as little water as possible and preferably dry the floor afterward.

Here are some simple steps you can take to keep your hardwoods looking great:

  • Immediately wipe up any spill that happens.
  • At least once a week, you should vacuum, sweep or clean your floor with a disposable dust cloth. More often than once a week would be better.
  • Use doormats, both interior and exterior, at entrances into your home. These mats will collect dirt and wick away moisture before it can be tracked into your home.
  • Use area rugs in front of heavy use areas, such as in front of kitchen sinks. Rugs should be made of a material that will prevent moisture from becoming trapped between the rug and the floor.
  • Runners and area rugs with slip-resistant backings should be placed in high-traffic areas to cut down on wear and tear to your floors.
  • Keep your pets’ nails trimmed to diminish scratches.
  • Avoid rolling or pushing furniture and appliances across the hardwood.
  • Maintain the humidity level inside you home between 35 percent and 55 percent.

Things to avoid when you have hardwood floors:

  • If possible, avoid using these types of products on your hardwoods: cleaners with an ammonia base, wax based or acrylic finishes, standard detergents not specifically formulated for hardwoods, oil-based polishes and soaps, soaps with abrasives or acidic ingredients such as vinegar.
  • Avoid damp mopping if possible.
  • Standing water should not be allowed to remain on the floor for more than a few minutes. Wipe up spills immediately. If you damp mop, try turning a fan on to blow across the floor to dry it.
  • Don’t walk across the floor with shoes that may scratch or ding the finish, such as spike heels or heels with metal taps.
  • Don’t place furniture on small metal tips or domes; replace with softer rubber tips.
  • Avoid using runner, rugs or mats with rubber, foam or plastic backing as these can trap moisture that may discolor your finish
  • Make certain beater bars are turned off when using vacuums


The more you vacuum your hardwood floor, the cleaner your home will be. Vacuuming will remove the ground in dirt and debris that gets trapped in your floor. The only special feature you need on a vacuum for hardwoods is a way to turn off the beater brush before use. Combine that with powerful suction and your hardwoods should remain beautiful for years to come.

Leave a Comment