COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfecting: What's Safe for Wood Floors? 

With the spread of COVID-19, killing germs on surfaces around the house is top of mind. If you have real wood floors, read on before you get carried away with using bleach, disinfectant sprays, or other "sterilizing" non-wood floor cleaning products.
by Brett Miller, VP of Technical Standards, Training, and Certification for NWFA
March 23, 2020

With the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), killing germs on surfaces around the house is top of mind. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to protect yourself. Additionally, the CDC suggests cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, faucet handles, and phones daily.

What about your floors, though? The germs that could possibly have been tracked into the house may be crossing your mind right about now. If you have real wood floors, read on before you get carried away with using bleach, disinfectant sprays, or other “sterilizing” non-wood floor cleaning products.

Wood floors are already a healthy choice for indoor air quality and interior environments because they have no fibers, grout lines, or embossing that can trap microorganisms, bacteria, dust, pollen, particles, animal dander, or allergens. A regular cleaning routine should be all you need with wood floors. It’s easy, too. Try to sweep daily, vacuum on the bare floor setting about once per week, and use a damp mop with the right cleaning product on a monthly basis. The type of finish on the floor can dictate which cleaner is appropriate to use. Consult the flooring or finish manufacturer to determine how to care for your floor.

The mop should be slightly moistened and well-wrung out, ensuring the amount of moisture left on the floor surface is minimal. When using spray mops, use only high-quality spray mops that provide greater control over the amount of solution that is applied, and that comes with super-absorbent, disposable or washable pads that remove the cleaning solution and soil from the floor’s surface.

Many wood floor cleaning products have ingredients, such as isopropyl alcohol, that have disinfecting properties to them. It is important to use the appropriate cleaning products, as recommended by the floor and/or finish manufacturer, to avoid damaging the wood finishes and to ensure the longevity of your floors.

When used directly on a wood floor, products such as bleach, disinfectant aerosols, or other “sterilizing” cleaning products can break down existing finishes, resulting in premature wear. In addition, these products can discolor finishes and wood, can leave a haze on the floor’s surface, or may cause irreversible damage to any type of wood floor.

You also shouldn’t use a steam mop on a wood floor. Steam is the vapor form of water, which means it can travel deeper and faster between the cracks and into the cells of the wood. Repeated use can permanently damage the wood and the floor’s finish.

Finally, to decrease the potential for tracking germs inside, consider removing your shoes before entering your house. Place breathable throw rugs at doorways to help prevent dirt and debris from being tracked inside.

For more tips on properly maintaining wood floors, click here.