How to Clean Ground-in Dirt on Wood Floors

Parquet floor image by Einar Bog from

Different floors get dirty in different ways and need different treatments. On floors that have a sealed surface, the dirt stays on the surface and can be cleaned fairly easily with a mop and water. On floors with other kinds of sealants, however, the dirt can actually get ground into the wax, oil or lacquer coating. The coating itself gets dirty and needs to be stripped off before the floor will look good again.

Determine if your floor is surface-sealed. If you know who the manufacturer is, contact the company to find out. Otherwise, rub your finger across the floor. If your finger doesn't leave a smudge, your floor is surface-sealed. If it does, the floor is lacquered, varnished, untreated, penetrating-sealed or some other sort of floor.

Mix a mild floor soap with water in a bucket according to the directions on the container.

Dunk a mop in the bucket and wring it out. The mop should be slightly damp, not wet.

Mop with the wood grain, removing as much dirt as possible. Dip the mop into the bucket to rinse it out when it gets dirty.

If you find a patch of ground-in dirt that won't come off with your damp mop, dip a dish cloth into the soapy water, wring it out and scrub the patch vigorously until it's clean.

Dump out the water in the bucket when it gets dirty. Mix more water and floor soap and continue mopping until the floor is clean.

Dump out the soapy water and refill the bucket with clean water. Mop the floor a second time to remove the soap.

Vacuum or sweep the floor to remove dust.

Rub white spirit into the whole floor with a rag. This will strip the dirty coating off the floor.

Rub the floor vigorously with a clean cloth. This will remove the dirty coating from the floor, taking the ground-in dirt with it.

Spread a thin coat of liquid floor wax on the floor, using a cloth. This will seal it and protect it from new dirt.

Run a buffing machine along the floor in the direction of the grain to buff the wax finish to a high shine.

Most recent