Vinegar is versatile, affordable, highly effective, and non-toxic — it’s the ultimate multi-purpose cleaner.
But is vinegar safe on hardwood floors?
In this guide, I clear the confusion by providing the facts about cleaning hardwood floors with vinegar.
- Why you shouldn’t use vinegar to clean wood floors
- What happens if you do
- Situations where it’s okay
- And safer alternatives to vinegar
Plus, I reveal what flooring experts say about cleaning hardwood floors with vinegar.
Use the links below to navigate the article:
- Can You Use Vinegar on Hardwood Floors? The Short Answer
- What Happens When You Clean Hardwood Floors With Vinegar?
- What Do Experts Say About Cleaning Hardwood Floors With Vinegar?
- How to Spot Clean Hardwood Floors With Vinegar
- Alternatives to Vinegar for Cleaning Hardwood Floors
- Bottom Line: Vinegar Will Damage Hardwood Floors Over Time
Can You Use Vinegar on Hardwood Floors? The Short Answer
So, is vinegar safe to use on hardwood flooring, or is it something you want to avoid?
Here’s the short answer:
You should NOT use vinegar to clean your wood floors regularly. You won’t notice any damage right away, but over time, the acidity in the vinegar will break down the floor’s finish, allowing water to penetrate and degrade the wood.
That said, you can get away with using vinegar to spot clean hardwood floors as long as you exercise some caution (more on this later).
What Happens When You Clean Hardwood Floors With Vinegar?
When mopping hardwood floors with a vinegar solution, you won’t notice much of a change — at first. And that can be deceptive.
Over time, you might notice the floorboards “cupping” and warping and the finish becoming dull and peeling between the boards and near their ends.
The reason for this is twofold. First, the acidic vinegar seeps in and dissolves the finish over repeated applications. It also affects the wood itself, which is similarly susceptible to damage from acidic substances.
The second problem is the water used to dilute the vinegar. If you’re using a traditional mop or similar tool, the water will seep into the cracks and endpoints of the floorboards.
Water and wood do not mix.
Wood expands when it absorbs water, causing the floorboards to bend and buckle. The wood and its finish don’t expand evenly, which leads to the finish peeling, cracking, and eventually separating from the wood.
Since the vinegar degrades the finish, water seepage will only worsen as you continue using vinegar on your hardwoods.
Gaylord Hardwood Flooring prepared an excellent video explaining this process and demonstrating proper care and maintenance practices for hardwood flooring.
What Do Experts Say About Cleaning Hardwood Floors With Vinegar?
I reached out to several wood flooring experts to get a broader perspective on this topic.
I asked the same questions to each expert:
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- Is it safe to mop hardwood floors with a vinegar and water solution?
- Will the vinegar damage the floor?
Fulcrum Floors, a wood floor installation and finished company in New Hampshire, said, “The best product for cleaning wood floors is Bona. I wouldn’t recommend any vinegar/water solutions.”
Messina’s Flooring and Carpet, another New Hampshire flooring company, said, “Water and vinegar don’t mix well with hardwood. We usually recommend Bona Products to our customers, but any hardwood cleaner that evaporates quickly will work. We also advise customers to dry mop frequently and clean with a solution only when needed.”
Lee Cutchall Flooring, a contractor in Massachusetts, said, “Avoid vinegar. We only recommend cleaners specifically made for hardwood. Bona is a good option. Use minimal water when cleaning.”
Anselone Flooring, a flooring design company based in Massachusetts, said, “If you have hardwood floors (solid, engineered, prefinished, unfinished with a poly applied on site, etc.), I would never advise you to use vinegar on that surface. It’s acidic and can eat away at the finish. I also would never advise a customer to wet mop wood flooring at all. You can find a specialty hardwood spray solution at any hardware store and clean it with a microfiber cloth.”
Floor & Decor, a national specialty flooring specialty retailer, said, “diluted vinegar is safe to spot clean water-resistant engineered wood floors, but always use a floor cleaner for natural hardwood floors.”
A.J. Rose, a leading flooring retailer in New England, said, “Maintaining your hardwood flooring depends on the finish. Each manufacturer has different guidelines for what is safe. We generally recommend a hardwood-specific cleaning kit like Bona.” But when I followed up and asked if vinegar is problematic, he said, “Not typically as long as it is watered down properly.”
Cardoza Flooring, a family-run flooring company in New Hampshire, said, “We do, in fact, recommend using a one-to-one ratio of vinegar to water for cleaning both hardwood and luxury vinyl plank. We also recommend using Bona and Resista cleaning products.”
When I spoke with New England Floor Sanding, they said, “it’s more about the water than the vinegar. Typically, when homeowners use vinegar to clean their floors, it’s heavily diluted with water, and mopping with too much water causes major issues.” When I asked what the ideal cleaning solution is, they said: “Bona Wood Cleaning Kit” (available on Amazon).
How to Spot Clean Hardwood Floors With Vinegar
As I stated, cleaning your entire hardwood floor with a vinegar solution is never a good idea.
However, if you have a particularly stubborn stain or mess that other methods won’t remove, you can try spot-cleaning with vinegar.
To prevent damage to your floors during spot-cleaning, follow these directions:
- Prepare your vinegar solution –– dilute the vinegar more than you would under normal circumstances. The recommended solution is 1 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of water.
- Dip a clean, soft cloth into the solution and carefully wring out all excess liquid. The cloth should be damp, not dripping wet. You want to avoid any pooling of water on your floors.
- Scrub the spot with the cloth, repeating step 2 as necessary. Avoid seams between boards, as water can easily seep into these areas even if the finish is intact.
- Immediately and thoroughly dry the area after the spot is removed.
Use this method sparingly to preserve the finish and shape of your floors over the long term.
Alternatives to Vinegar for Cleaning Hardwood Floors
Vinegar may seem like an attractive and affordable option for cleaning your floors, but the cost of damaged finish and boards is not worth the risk.
Instead of vinegar, here’s a list of cleaning solutions that are safe to use on hardwood floors.
Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner
Pros: This cleaner has been on the market for a long time, and it is highly recommended by experts and homeowners alike. In fact, most of the contractors and floor professionals I spoke with recommended Bona over vinegar. It’s pH neutral and doesn’t have a strong odor like vinegar or other commercial floor cleaners. Plus, it dries quickly, so you don’t have to worry about water damage.
Cons: Bona is a one-purpose cleaner and is more expensive than other options. It’s not an “all-natural” option, and some people may be sensitive to the chemicals used in its formula.
Read my in-depth review of Bona to learn more or check the current prices on Amazon.
Zep Commercial Hardwood and Laminate Floor Cleaner
Pros: This is a specialized cleaner ideal for high-traffic areas. You can use it frequently without any adverse effects on your floors. It is fast-drying and won’t leave residue behind.
Cons: Like Bona, this is not an “all-natural” cleaner. It can be pricier than other options, and it is not multi-purpose like vinegar.
Check the current price and read more reviews of Zep on Amazon.
Murphy Oil Soap
Pros: Murphy Oil Soap is made with 98% natural ingredients and is a cost-effective choice. Unlike vinegar, the Murphy formula is non-acidic and gentle on your floors and finishes.
Cons: This soap has to be mixed with water, which can result in oversaturation. It can also leave behind a slippery film if you don’t mix it right or let it dry properly.
Learn more about Murphy Oil Soap on Amazon.
Method Hardwood Floor Cleaner
Pros: Method uses a gentle, natural, and biodegradable formula that is effective and environmentally friendly. It doesn’t need to be mixed with water, and it has a pleasant fragrance — unlike vinegar and some of the other popular floor cleaners.
Cons: Compared to vinegar, Method Floor Cleaner is expensive. Some customers complain that it leaves behind a slightly sticky residue.
Read this article to learn more about Method, or check it out on Amazon.
Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap
Pros: This is a multi-purpose cleaner with a plant-based formula, and it comes in a variety of scents. Like vinegar, it is also cost-effective. One bottle goes a long way. It’s gentler than vinegar and is equally eco-friendly.
Cons: Like Murphy Oil Soap, Castille soap has to be mixed with water, which can result in oversaturation of your floors. It is not specially formulated for hardwood floors, so use it with caution.
Learn more about Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap on Amazon.
Bottom Line: Vinegar Will Damage Hardwood Floors Over Time
Maybe you’ve read blogs that say vinegar is safe on hardwood floors or know someone that regularly uses it in their home without any issues.
There are mixed opinions on this topic, and since vinegar won’t immediately damage your hardwood floors, it’s difficult to demonstrate the effects.
But the fact is, vinegar and vinegar-based solutions will degrade the finish, warp the wood, make existing nicks and dents worse, and severely damage your floors over time.
Almost all the flooring experts I spoke to advised against using vinegar. And most recommended cleaners designed specifically for hardwood floors, such a Bona.
Vinegar’s high acidity dissolves your floor’s finish after repeated use, allowing the water you need to use to dilute it to seep in and damage the floorboards.
With that in mind, you can still use vinegar to spot-clean your wood floors — as long as you do so properly and infrequently.
Bottom line — using vinegar to clean hardwood floors is not worth the risk, and there are plenty of safer options that won’t degrade the finish or damage the wood.
I highly recommend Bona for regular cleaning because its formula is pH neutral, dries quickly, has a mild odor, and doesn’t leave behind any streaks or residue. Learn more in my in-depth Bona review or check it out on Amazon.
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