Even if you’ve never been sucked into an HGTV house-flipping TV show marathon, you've probably noted that homeowners (and renters) are shifting away from whole-room carpeting and toward hardwood floors.
Hardwood floors are easier to clean than pulling out an upright vacuum, but they still need to be regularly maintained, lest some truly awful stains penetrate the sealed coating and damage them irreparably. Any jaunt to your local hardware store will tell you that there are many, many cleaning solutions.
Don’t worry, we’re here to help.
We tested many floor cleaners to determine which do the best job getting rid of tough stains. Most performed well, even on gross stains that had been sitting on the floor surfaces for days. While our favorite hardwood floor cleaner is the Better Life Naturally Dirt-Destroying Floor Cleaner (available at Amazon) , any of the products on this list will give you a clean, streak-free floor with enough elbow grease—the testing was that close.
Better Life Naturally Dirt-Destroying Floor Cleaner
The Better Life Floor Cleaner is effective, smells good, and comes in a user-friendly squirt bottle. What more could you need?
It struggled a bit removing some of the tough stains from the more textured floor surface (i.e. the vinyl flooring), but so did almost every other cleaner we tested. Better Life easily removed all of the other stains from the other floor surfaces.
Whether you’re just doing some spot treatment or trying to clean the floor in an entire room, the Better Life squeeze bottle allows you to direct the solution exactly where you need it to go, without any extra mess or splashing. Its citrus mint scent is subtle and pleasant, rather than overwhelming and chemical-y, so you won’t mind how it makes your home smell.
Even better, Better Life is rated as “pet safe,” so while neither your kids nor your pets should be drinking or licking this floor cleaner, you don’t have to worry as much as you would with a floor cleaner that has more potent cleaning chemicals.
As one of the most affordable products on our list, Zep Hardwood & Laminate Floor Cleaner is a no-brainer. Zep breezed through most of our cleaning tests with ease. While we did notice that it left teeny tiny red wine stains behind in the grain of the engineered hardwood flooring, this was only the case after the stain had been sitting on the floor surface for days. As long as you use Zep to clean up dark stains before they set in, keeping your floors looking shiny and new won’t be a problem.
The 32-oz version comes in a nice spray bottle that is easy to wield and store. We didn’t notice any particular smell while using it, so if you have people in your home who are sensitive to fragrances or certain scents, Zep may be the best floor cleaning option for you.
Hi there, my name is Julia MacDougall, and I’m the Senior Scientist here at Reviewed. In addition to overseeing our testing labs in Cambridge, Mass., I also get to test a ton of cool products. I know way more than I ever thought I would about air purifiers, water filter pitchers, coding toys for kids, fire extinguishers, and slime.
While I wasn’t really keen on scrubbing floors, I did so for science and in the end, it wasn’t so bad. Plus, getting the floors intentionally dirty was pretty cool. (Oh, right, like you’ve never wanted to smear chocolate sauce on something and get away scot-free with no consequences.)
As you might guess, the bulk of the testing for these hardwood floor cleaners centered around actually removing stains from hardwood floor surfaces.
As such, I applied six representative stains (chocolate sauce, tomato sauce, dirt, milk, fox urine, and red wine) to three “hardwood” floor surfaces (engineered hardwood, laminate hardwood, and vinyl flooring that looks like hardwood). I wanted to get a good mix of the different types of stains that might land on your floors due to kids, pets, or just normal usage. The fox urine stain was particularly, uh, potent, but fortunately, all of the floor cleaners we tested removed not only the stain itself, but also the accompanying smell. (Trust me, I would have noticed if this wasn't the case.)
After letting the stains set in for multiple days, I set to work scrubbing the sections of flooring with paper towels and the various cleaning solutions we wanted to test.
During testing, I favored paper towels over the more traditional wet mop because these stains were tough, set-in stains; in this scenario, it’s much more likely that you’d have to get down on the floor and scrub the stain out, since a few passes with a wet mop would most likely not get the job done.
In addition to assessing stain removal, I also scored the hardwood floor cleaners on their drying speed, residue left behind, scents, ease of use, and other subjective factors.
What You Should Know About Hardwood Floor Cleaners
What are the different types of hard floor surfaces?
Hardwood: The OG. Hardwood floors are made with real wooden planks (of many different types of wood) and sealed manually, once installed, with one or more coats of polyurethane or another type of sealant.
Engineered Hardwood: A thin layer of hardwood superimposed on one or more layers of plywood. These boards have been pre-finished, so they do not require the coating and sealing of more traditional hardwood floors.
Laminate: A man-made material that is a composition of multiple material layers, where the strongest and most reinforced layer is the top layer. Laminate flooring comes in many styles, but the most common ones attempt to reproduce the look of stone and wood.
Tile: Ceramic tiles secured in place with grout. This surface is more common in rooms that need to be more resistant to water, such as a bathroom or a laundry room. We did not test the products on our list on tile, but in most cases, you can use these cleaning solutions to clean the tile in your home (as long as it is rated for "sealed surfaces").
How do I clean a hardwood floor?
Make sure that your hardwood floor surface is sealed and protected before you do anything. In general, we recommend that this is a task best left to professionals (ditto for re-finishing and re-sealing). Coating and sealing not only helps to prevent stains from penetrating the wood, but it also protects your floor against other types of physical damage (e.g. furniture scratches).
When picking a cleaning solution, it’s a good idea to check the ingredients listed on each product. Professionals recommend staying away from solutions with oils, soaps, or ammonia, which can leave your floors looking less than pristine.
While most products indicate that they can be used on sealed surfaces, be sure that the label explicitly mentions that it can be used on hardwood floors before jumping into the cleaning process. In order to avoid worries about chemically damaging their floors, some folks prefer DIY hardwood floor cleaning recipes that consist of ingredients you can find in your pantry.
Once it’s time to get down to cleaning, most experts suggest removing any physical objects or solids (e.g. LEGOs or food crumbs) from the floor surface using a broom, a dry mop, a vacuum cleaner, or a soft microfiber cloth. Then, follow the directions on the cleaning product. Usually, these directions are some variation on “apply, rinse, and mop until clean and/or dry.”
For cleaning sprays, you may have to apply more to get the kind of cleaning power you require, but sprays typically dry faster and require less mopping. Conversely, with liquid cleaners (such as the classic PineSol), a little bit goes a long way, but you’ll have to expend more effort mopping up at the end to reduce the likelihood of leaving any residue behind.
When it comes to removing tough stains from hardwood, it’s best to remove the stains as quickly as possible. If you find yourself facing set-in stains, though, we recommend using the cleaning solution and a paper towel, a sponge, or a damp microfiber cloth to get rid of the mess. While scrub brushes may prove more effective at mechanical stain removal, there’s also a non-zero chance that they may scratch the finish on your floors.
While most professionals recommend using a water-based cleaner for your hardwood floors, it’s still good to keep in mind that less is more when it comes to mixing water and hardwood (particularly while mopping). Leaving large quantities of water on the floor for extended periods of time increases the likelihood of water getting between or inside the planks and warping your floor.
How often should you clean your hardwood floors?
While no one likes cleaning or washing their hardwood floors, this is one of those chores that is best done on a semi-regular basis to prevent the headache that comes with having to try to do it in the hours before your relatives descend upon you for a big holiday meal. The Home Depot’s guide to hardwood floors recommends dust mopping or sweeping hardwood floors weekly, mopping clean high traffic areas every 1-2 weeks, and using your hardwood floor cleaner to clean your floors once or twice a month.
Do hardwood floor cleaning solutions work on other types of hard floor surfaces?
Some hardwood floor cleaners specify that they are only to be used on hardwood floors. However, the directions in most hardwood floor cleaners indicate that they can be used on “sealed surfaces,” which includes sealed hardwood, engineered hardwood, laminate, and vinyl.
For other floor types, such as stone, tile, and bamboo, it is best to check the directions on the cleaning spray itself or on the manufacturer’s website to see if that cleaning solution is appropriate for your floor surface.
To be extra cautious, apply a bit of the cleaning solution onto an obscured section of the floor (e.g. under a piece of furniture, or in the corner of the room) to ensure that it won’t stain or otherwise affect the floor.
Are floor cleaning solutions dangerous for kids and pets?
Many cleaning solutions contain ingredients that are poisonous. If anyone or any pet in your household has ingested cleaning chemicals, call 911 or your regional Poison Control center immediately.
It can be difficult to protect kids and pets against floor cleaning products because in addition to the danger of them accidentally being ingested, these products can linger on floor surfaces. While no floor cleaning product is ever 100% safe for kids and pets, certain cleaning solutions are billed as “pet safe,” which indicates that the number and/or amount of the toxic ingredients are much lower than they are in typical cleaners.
In general, if you’re concerned about floor cleaning solutions being ingested or licked by children and pets, we recommend using a cleaning solution that comes in a spray form, as these products tend to dry faster.
If you have more serious concerns about the ingredients in floor cleaning solutions, we recommend checking the EPA’s Safer Choice products database for household products (not just cleaners) that have to meet certain standards in terms of their ingredients, packaging, and performance.
Orange Glo is another classic hardwood floor cleaner brand. While the Orange Glo 4-in-1 Monthly Hardwood Floor Polish is perhaps the brand’s best-known product, the Orange Glo Everyday Cleaner, which is the product we actually tested, is nothing to sneeze at.
It left behind a bit of red wine and chocolate sauce on the engineered hardwood floor, but the Orange Glo Everyday Cleaner made the task of cleaning up tough stains relatively easy.
Its expected orange scent is pleasant without being overpowering. However, due to the presence of bubbles in the sprayed cleaning solution, you’ll need to be a bit more scrupulous when it comes to mopping it away.
This popular vacuum brand also makes a hardwood floor cleaner. We tested the Shark Multi-Surface Cleaner independent of its Shark VacMop system, and we were pleasantly surprised by the results.
It may have left a bit of the days-old red wine stain behind in the grain of our engineered floor, but otherwise, this Shark cleaning solution cleaned up when it came to the rest of the stains, including the milk and chocolate sauce stains.
With its faint lemon scent and the fact that it is usually sprayed from the dispenser of the Shark VacMop, this quick-drying solution gets the job done without giving you a chemical headache.
The Shark Multi-Surface Cleaner also has a GreenGuard Gold certification; cleaning products with this certification give off fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are chemicals that could potentially reduce your indoor air quality (one other way to reduce the VOCs in your home is to use an air purifier rated to remove VOCs).
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner
One of the best-known brands in Target, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-Surface Concentrate held up well in our cleaning tests. We found a few tiny leftover red wine stains in a couple of the floor surfaces, but it generally worked well on stains such as tomato sauce and fox urine. Unfortunately, it left behind a few more bubbles than some of the other cleaning solutions, so it requires more mopping or wiping to finish the cleaning process.
The formula for Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface Concentrate is 97% bio-based, which, in addition to its lovely rosemary scent, should make it a fan favorite of those more keen on environmentally-friendly products.
This cleaner is very affordable, but it comes in a 16-oz bottle that is half the size of most of its competitors; you may need to buy refills more frequently.
Nice rosemary scent
Smaller amount of cleaning solution in one spray bottle
An Amazon favorite, Black Diamond Wood & Laminate Floor Cleaner lives up to the hype. With the exception of leaving minor red wine stains on the engineered hardwood floor, the Black Diamond cleaner did a clean sweep (pun intended) of the rest of the stains, and gave no quarter when it came to stains such as dirt and milk.
This odorless cleaner comes in a useful spray bottle that is easy to store when not in use.
Most people who smell Pine-Sol instantly flashback to the cleaning-related chores of their childhoods; indeed, Pine-Sol has serious staying power.
In our tests, the only difficulty we had with Pine-Sol was with one seriously stuck-on stain: the milk stain, which had hardened into a solid milk patch after a few days. Otherwise, Pine-Sol was up to the task of removing other tough stains like tomato sauce and chocolate sauce.
Because Pine-Sol is a thicker, more concentrated liquid, it can be diluted to make it more liquid-like and less overpoweringly lemon-scented. Despite its thicker nature, the Pine-Sol liquid tends to come out of its container quickly, so watch that you don’t pour out more than you intended.
Additionally, because Pine-Sol is thicker than most of the cleaning solutions we tested, you’ll definitely need to rinse and mop every bit of it up to avoid leaving a bubbly veneer behind on your hardwood floors.
Many people swear by Nature’s Miracle carpet cleaner when it comes to pet stains on carpets, and unsurprisingly, the brand’s Hard Floor Cleaner has proved to just as effective.
Like most of the products we tested, Nature’s Miracle left behind a bit of the red wine stain on the engineered hardwood floor, but it easily dispatched the rest of the stains, including fox urine. Even better, the smell of the fox urine was removed as well.
Nature’s Miracle is also one of the few cleaning products on this list that is “pet safe," which makes sense for a product that is aimed at pet owners. This spray bottle has a circular spray nozzle for easy off, jet, or spray setting selection.
If you’re looking for brand recognition, Pledge is right up there. Launched in 1958, Pledge has long been associated with cleaning wooden furniture and floors; as expected, the Pledge Wood Floor Cleaner lives up to the brand’s reputation.
While the Pledge left a couple of minor stains behind after we finished scrubbing the floors, it’s nothing that couldn’t have been fixed with a second application of the cleaning solution.
Its subtle lemon scent and easy-to-use squeeze bottle makes cleaning your floor a relatively pain-free process.
Bona PowerPlus Hardwood Floor Cleaner - Oxygenated Formula
If you have hardwood floors, you’ve definitely heard of the brand Bona. We tested two lines of Bona’s cleaners—Bona PowerPlus Deep Clean and just the straight-up Bona floor cleaner. While the latter is the brand’s most popular product, the former is the better cleaner, albeit by a small margin.
Bona PowerPlus Deep Clean differentiates between hardwood surfaces and other hard surfaces like vinyl and laminate, and it has a specific cleaner for each, so we tested them both. During testing, we used the Bona PowerPlus Deep Clean Hardwood Floor Cleaner on the engineered hardwood flooring and its counterpart the Bona PowerPlus Hard Surface Floor Cleaner for the vinyl and laminate floors. While these sprays left a few minor stains behind on the vinyl flooring, the Bona PowerPlus sprays were up to the task for all of the other tricky stains, including the tomato sauce stain.
In addition to being stored in a handy spray bottle, the Bona PowerPlus Deep Clean Hardwood Floor Cleaner has the GreenGuard Gold certification. Even better, the Bona PowerPlus Hard Surface Cleaner is antibacterial. If you want a product that performs well, is eco-friendly, and can sanitize your floors, you can’t go wrong with the Bona PowerPlus Hardwood Floor Cleaner and the Bona PowerPlus Hard Surface Floor Cleaner.
Bona’s standard floor cleaner only fell slightly short of its PowerPlus line. During testing, we applied Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner to the engineered hardwood floor and its counterpart Bona Hard Surface Floor Cleaner to the vinyl and laminate floors. With the exception of a few small stains left behind on the engineered hardwood, a little elbow grease was enough to remove even really tough and stuck-on stains from our test floors.
Like the Bona PowerPlus Deep Clean Hardwood Floor Cleaner, the Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner is GreenGuard Gold certified. This cleaning solution is largely odorless and comes in an easy-to-use spray bottle.
Method is one of the better-known brands at Target, so we were excited to see how the Method Squirt + Mop Wood Floor Cleaner did in our tests. While we found a tiny bit of the fox urine left behind in the grain of the engineered hardwood floor, the Method cleaning solution did a great job removing stains, even those really tough stains like the tomato sauce stain.
We tested the almond-scented Method cleaner (it also comes in spearmint sage and lemon ginger scents), which smells delightful without being overpowering. The Method Squirt + Mop Wood Floor Cleaner comes in a handy squeeze bottle, but it felt like we needed a lot of cleaning solution to cover the test stains.
Often sold in a bundle with the Weiman Hardwood Polish & Restorer, the Weiman Hardwood Floor Cleaner is a solid choice when it comes to making sure your hardwood floors shine.
This cleaner did leave a small red wine stain behind on the engineered hardwood, but other than that, some gentle scrubbing was enough to get rid of tough stains like milk and chocolate sauce.
The directions on the back of the squeeze bottle say that you should use generous amounts of this cleaning solution to get rid of stains. Following the directions gave us good cleaning results, but it may means that you’ll have to buy replacement bottles more often.
We also saw that the Weiman Hardwood Floor cleaner left some bubbly residue behind, so you’ll need to be a bit more thorough when it comes to cleaning up your floors after applying this cleaning solution.
The Bruce Hardwood and Laminate Floor Cleaner is an affordable option that you can easily find at most major hardware stores. After lots of scrubbing, we found a few small stains left behind on the engineered hardwood floor, but the Bruce cleaning solution performed well otherwise.
The Bruce Hardwood and Laminate Floor Cleaner has a faint chemical smell. It’s not overpowering, but it is noticeable. It comes in a spray bottle, and is very easy to use and store.
Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.