How to Make Old Hardwood Floors Look New Again

Posted by Maurcia H. on 7th Jun 2023

You adore the look of older hardwood in your home. The trouble is that “older” often appears “dirtier.” Bring your old hardwood flooring back to life with these simple cleaning hacks. 

Know the Finish of Your Hardwood Floors

Before you try to clean your old hardwood floors, it’s a good idea to determine just what kind of finish you are dealing with. How do you determine what's the finish of your hardwood floors? Start by dribbling a few drops of clear tap water in a few inconspicuous spots on the floor. Let stand for a few minutes. If the water soaks in, you have an unsealed floor; if the water has left a white ring, you have varnish or shellac; and if the water has remained on the surface, consider yourself lucky. Water that doesn’t penetrate or discolor the floor’s surface has a polyurethane finish. 

Be Careful With Wax, Shellac or Varnish Finishes

If your hardwood floors feature a wax, shellac, or varnish finish, you should proceed carefully when cleaning. These finishes are vulnerable to water, so be sure to use as little liquid as possible. The simplest solution for cleaning your old floors is a bucket of warm water and about ½ or ¼ cup of regular white vinegar from your kitchen pantry. Working in small sections and with a damp mop or rag (not wet), floor dirt should come off pretty easily. 

Cleaning Unsealed Floors

If there is no finish at all on your hardwood floors, which is usually the case in homes older than 60 years, special care must be taken when cleaning dirt and grime from floorboards. Every time you introduce water to a portion of an unsealed floor (yes, even a small spill), liquid is absorbed into the wood. Over time this can warp or even rot the floorboards. It is still okay to use a damp rag with a vinegar and water solution to clean this type of old hardwood flooring; just be careful not to use too much water. 

How to Keep Old Hardwood Floors Clean

Wood is a great material for floors. It is beautiful, durable, and lasts for years. If you have old hardwood floors, the best thing you can do is sweep dirt and dust away daily. Plus wipe up any spills or stains right away.

Here are some basic cleaning tips for keeping your beautiful hardwoods looking great despite your family’s daily abuse:

  • Vacuum or dust mop frequently. 
  • Wipe up spills as soon as they happen. 
  • Use area rugs in high traffic areas; this helps to protect your floors from scratches, dings, and dirt, too! 
  • Take off your shoes when you come into the house so you aren’t grinding dirt into the floor with your shoes.


Taking care of old hardwood just takes a gentle approach and a little patience. But, it’s all worth the effort when you see how great they look. 

About The Author

Maurcia H. is a seasoned writer with 20-plus years of publishing experience which includes 10 traditional print books, three book collaborations; more than 100 ghostwritten books. Specializing in both how-to pieces as well as industry oriented articles, Maurcia has written press releases, blog posts and articles for a variety of construction companies.