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How to Disinfect Hardwood Floors Without Damaging Them

Due to Coronavirus, we have had to adjust to a new normal. Many people are spending most of their time at home due to state lockdowns. Businesses are required to enforce strict sanitation and social distancing protocols. We’ve heard it repeatedly: A clean and sanitary environment is imperative in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

While the wiping of surfaces has become second-nature, many neglect to regularly clean and disinfect their home and business floors. Hardwood floors can spread COVID-19 germs, and bacteria amongst family members, customers, and colleagues can be present on hardwood floors.

Here are some tips on how to disinfect hardwood floors and keep your home or workplace safe during the Coronavirus pandemic:

What’s the Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting?

Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are often confused with each other or are thought to be the same. Below are the important distinctions between the three:

  • Cleaning: Cleaning reduces the presence of germs, bacteria, viruses, and other debris. It can include sweeping, dusting, scrubbing, rinsing, and washing.
  • Sanitizing: Sanitation reduces germs and bacteria stated on the sanitizing bottle. It will clean floors, but it won’t kill all germs, bacteria, or viruses.
  • Disinfecting: This is the most effective way to eliminate COVID-19 germs and bacteria. Disinfecting deactivates and destroys viruses.

Why Should I Disinfect?

In the midst of the COVID pandemic, it is important to keep the surfaces and floors of your home and business clean. Like other viruses, the Coronavirus germs can live on surfaces, including floors.

Cleaning and sanitizing your hardwood floors will not be as effective against the potential spread of COVID-19 as disinfecting. These methods won’t deactivate or kill the virus, but disinfecting hardwood floors will deactivate the Coronavirus. When deactivated, the virus won’t multiply, be easily transmitted, or pose as great of a risk for serious symptoms.

How Often Should I Disinfect?

It is important to disinfect your hardwood floors on a regular basis to stop the possible spread of Coronavirus. As you’re spending more time in your home, it is recommended that you disinfect your floors and other hard surfaces at least two to three times a day. If someone in your house has COVID, disinfect high-traffic, hard surfaces (including floors) as frequently as possible.

In an office setting, disinfecting the floors multiple times a day may not be possible. It is recommended to disinfect hardwood floors daily.

What Should I Use to Disinfect Hardwood Floors?

Not all floor disinfectants are safe on wood floors. Many floor disinfectants contain harsh antimicrobial chemicals such as ammonia, sodium hypochlorite, hydrogen peroxide, and peroxyacetic acid. These chemicals can damage the wood and its sealing, preventing the proper bonding of future floor recoating. The potentially irreversible damage can weaken the wood, lessen the floor’s durability, functionality, and life, as well as ruin its appearance and void its warranty.

Disinfectants approved for hardwood floors will have a neutral pH and list quaternary ammonium as an active ingredient. Researching how to properly use and apply the disinfectant is recommended. If you are unsure whether the disinfectant is right for your floors, call the flooring manufacturer or hire a professional floor cleaner.

NOTE: Be aware of the type of hardwood flooring you have. Unsealed wood floors will require a different type of disinfectant and cleaning procedure than floors with a polyurethane coating.

Below are approved hardwood floor disinfectants:

  • BonaKemi Bona PowerPlus Antibacterial Hard-Surface Floor Cleaner (Best for coated gym hardwood floors)
  • Buckeye Eco-22 One-Step Disinfectant (Use on coated hardwood floors)
  • Basic I.F.T (Use on coated floors)
  • National Chemical Laboratories Lemon-Quat (Use on a coated hardwood floors)
  • Essential Industries Neutral Germicidal Cleaner (Use on finished wood floors)
  • National Chemical Laboratories Neutral Q (Use on finished hardwood surfaces)
  • American Sanders Nova Disinfectant (Use to clean wood floors coated with polyurethane or acrylic)
  • Basic Squeaky Concentrate (Use on coated hardwood floors)
  • Buckeye Terminator (Use on finished hardwood surfaces)
  • American Sanders TimberClean (Best used to clean wood floors coated with polyurethane or acrylic)

When using the above recommended hardwood flooring disinfectants, it is important to rinse off the product, as long-term, adverse effects to the wood and finish can occur.

Antibacterial Floor Wash

Pre-mixed antibacterial floor wash is a convenient way to disinfect your hardwood floors. When looking for an antibacterial floor wash, get one that removes dirt, germs, and bacteria, but doesn’t leave residue or streaks, damage the surface, and is quick drying. Many of these products are water-based, making them not recommended for unfinished floors or floors with a wax finish. Many of these cleaners come in a spray or squeeze bottle and are safe to use around children and pets.


While bleach generally isn’t recommended for disinfecting hardwood floors, because it causes slight damage to the wood fibers, making the wood weakened. However, bleach can still be an effective disinfectant against COVID, as well as a stain spot remover. There are three types of bleach available for cleaning hardwood floors. They are chlorine bleach, peroxide bleach, and oxalic acid. Each type of bleach is effective for removing specific types of stains. Before you select which type of bleach to use to disinfect your floors, consider the color and type of the stain you wish to remove. For example, pet urine and water stains respond best to oxalic acid, while blood and cherry stains respond best to chlorine bleach.

Another thing to consider is the type of wood your floor is made of. While bleach can be used on all types of wood, the use of bleach will lighten and discolor many types of wood. Avoid using bleach on darker woods like redwood, mahogany, cherry, cedar, and rosewood. White oak and walnut may discolor to a purple or green shade.

Avoid using bleach on your entire floor. It is best used as a spot treatment. If you do decide to use bleach, dilute it with water before applying it to wood flooring. You also must remove the finish of the wood before applying the bleach. This will ensure the bleach gets below the surface and removes the deep stains and hidden germs, bacteria, and viruses. Rinse the bleached area with water and allow it to dry before reapplying the coating.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful disinfectant that can be used on hardwood floors if applied carefully. It is recommended that you use a hydrogen peroxide concentration of no more than 3 percent. Hydrogen peroxide can damage the finish of hardwood floors, so it is important to use the least amount of water and hydrogen peroxide treatment as possible. This can be done by wringing out the mop before using it on the wood floors.

Like bleach, hydrogen peroxide is a great for spot treating surface stains and should not be used on the entire floor.

Disinfection Best Practices

Hardwood floor disinfectants are powerful in killing and deactivating viruses, bacteria, and germs. As such, they can be dangerous to humans. Extreme care should be practiced when using disinfectants and cleaning hardwood floors. The following hardwood floor disinfecting best practices will make cleaning efficient and safe.

Prepare the Floor

Before you begin, you need to prepare your floors for disinfecting. Before you apply the disinfecting solution to the floor, pre-wash it with water. After pre-washing, apply your disinfecting solution to the floor. Let the disinfectant stand around 10 minutes. After the disinfectant has been applied, rinse the wood floors thoroughly to remove leftover chemicals from between wood slats and from under the seal. Finally, let your floor air dry.

Personal Protection

Disinfectants can cause severe burns and eye irritation. They can also cause dizziness when inhaled, because they are poisonous. When cleaning your floors, wear durable, disposable rubber gloves, long sleeves and pants, closed-toed shoes, and eye protection.

Create Ventilation

As with any kind of potent cleaning chemical, it is important to have sufficient ventilation when cleaning your floors. Consider opening windows and turning on fans to keep the air circulating. Inhaling fumes from disinfectants can cause dizziness, light-headedness, fainting, and nausea. Additionally, the added ventilation will help your floors dry quicker, which will lower the risk of slips.

Test the Disinfectant

Not all disinfectants marketed as safe for hardwood floors actually are safe. To avoid ruining the functionality and appearance of your wood floor, it is recommended you apply a small amount of disinfectant to an inconspicuous spot on the floor. If it causes no damage or adverse effects of that spot, then you’ll be safe to continue cleaning the rest of the floor. If the spot gets ruined, you’ll save the rest of your floor and avoid voiding the warranty.

Work in Sections

Nobody likes seeing their clean floor get walked over as they are still cleaning it. To avoid disinfecting the sections you’ve already covered, it is a good idea to clean the floor in sections. When you clean in sections, you provide a safe path to maneuver on and off the floor as well as avoid re-cleaning areas. To do this, choose a corner of the floor and begin cleaning. You can move to another corner or you can spread out from that corner, gradually covering more and more of the floor.

Leave a Path

When you’re disinfecting your hardwood floors, leave a path where you can walk on and off the cleaned area. Consider doing the high-traffic areas first. This will help these areas dry the soonest and have less disruption. The quicker these areas dry, the lower the risk of slips and falls. By leaving a path, others can easily walk around you as you finish up the rest of the floor.

What to Avoid When Disinfecting Your Hardwood Floor

Both bare and coated hardwood floors are subject to water seepage. Because of this, there are some hardwood floor disinfecting products and sanitation methods to avoid.

Harsh Chemicals

The use of harsh chemicals may seem like a sure way to disinfect and sterilize hardwood floors. After all, the goal of disinfecting and sterilizing is the elimination of germs and bacteria. Harsh chemicals may be effective against COVID-19, but they can damage hardwood floors. These chemicals are so strong they destroy the floor finish, causing discoloring and haze.

Too Much Water

Water is often used as a buffer to dilute potent chemicals. While water lessens the adverse effects of strong disinfectants, too much can ruin hardwood floors, because hardwood floors do not react well to water. In nature, and in hardwood floors, water can lead to rot, mold, and a weakening of wood.

Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning may seem like a safe and effective way to disinfect hardwood floors. It moistens the flooring yet minimizes the risk of flooding your floors with too much water. Steam is vaporized water that can cause wood to warp and lead to the damage to the finish.


Some homeowners and business owners prefer to disinfect their hardwood floors with natural cleaners. Vinegar has long been the default natural floor cleanser. While it has an unpleasant smell, it contains no harsh chemicals.

Vinegar is not recommended for disinfecting your hardwood floors as it is not an approved disinfectant. While it is a safe, natural floor cleaner, vinegar can damage hardwood floors by wearing down the polyurethane coating.

Thinking of Installing Hardwood Floors in Your Home or Business?

Maybe you’ve read this post because you have tile or laminate flooring. You may also be considering the installation of hardwood flooring in your home or business. While there are specific products and best practices on how to disinfect hardwood floors, this type of flooring is easier to clean and disinfect than other flooring types. Hardwood floors also promote better air quality as they don’t have the fibers and grout lines that can trap allergens, bacteria, pollen, pet dander, dust, and microorganisms.

Hardwood floors are hygienic and improve the look of a home or office. Contacting a hardwood flooring store in Las Vegas like us is the first step to installing hardwood floors.