How to Clean & Treat Old Oak Hardwood Floors

hardwood floor texture image by GoodMood Photo from

Oak is a durable wood, commonly used in furniture, building frames, veneer production and flooring. Because of its durability and neutral colour, oak is one of the most popular types of hardwood floors. Prior to cleaning and treating an old, oak hardwood floor, consider the condition the hardwood floor is in.

The finish on the floor dictates whether deep cleaning and treatment is possible or whether they would cause further damage because the finish or seal is no longer efficient.

Test the finish of an old, oak hardwood floor. Dump one tablespoon of water onto a high traffic area. If the water soaks in immediately, either the flooring has not been finished or the finish is worn. If the water soaks in, but it takes a few minutes, the finish is partially worn. If the water beads on the surface of the floor and can easily be wiped away, the floor is properly sealed and the seal or finish is not damaged.

Using a dust broom, soft-bristled broom or vacuum cleaner, sweep up all dust, dirt and debris from old oak hardwood floors daily.

Combine equal parts room temperature water and white vinegar in a mop bucket. Dip a cloth or microfiber mop in the mixture and remove excess moisture by wringing the mop. Mop undamaged oak hardwood floors as needed to remove dirt, grime and build-up. If the finish or wood is damaged in any way, do not mop the floors.

Dry the hardwood floors completely with a towel to remove excess moisture and prevent water spotting.

Determine what kind of finish is on the oak hardwood floor. Most oak floors are finished with either a polyurethane or water-based urethane finish or sealed with an acrylic, oil or wax. Run your hand over the hardwood. If you can feel the wood grain, it's likely an acrylic, oil or wax. If the floor feels and looks shiny, hard and smooth, it's likely a urethane finish. If the finish is urethane, no further treatment is required.

Select a liquid wax or oil product designed for hardwood floors. Both oil and wax work to restore shine to a hardwood floor, and either can be used on any of the three types of seals. Spray or squirt directly on acrylic, oil or wax-finished oak hardwood flooring in an even coating. Allow the wax or oil to dry.

Buff the floor by rubbing a soft cloth or rag in a circular motion. Continue until the entire floor is buffed and appears shiny and clean.