One of the greatest appeals of hard flooring is how easy it is to clean. Unlike carpet, with its tufted fibers and gunk-embedding potential, floors made of materials like tile, wood, and concrete make you feel like you can just wipe and go. Sometimes, though, you may encounter more stubborn spots or delicate materials that merit a little extra attention.
Before you get started, make sure you know what your floor is made of and research what you can and can't clean it with. Don't use abrasive brushes on soft materials like cork, too much water on wood floors, or too much vinegar on sensitive materials like marble and granite. You'll also want to do a spot test somewhere inconspicuous to make sure your new cleaner doesn't damage or discolor the floor.
We also encourage you to sweep or vacuum (if compatible with your flooring) before using a liquid cleaner to make sure any solid debris is picked up and well out of the way rather than left to disintegrate into a pile of soggy mush. Better Homes & Gardens recommends mopping floors in high-traffic areas like your kitchen once a week, while those with less activity (or less grime potential) can get a swab every other week or once a month depending on the neatness of your household[*].
We scanned through some of our favorite sites to find these tips for cleaning your floors naturally.
Just a few simple household ingredients are all it takes to clean your floors naturally. Here are some of the most effective DIY options.
1. Water + Vinegar
The classic household hero, white vinegar, strikes again. One common ratio is half a cup of white vinegar per gallon of water, though other sources recommend equal parts of each—the decision will hinge on how your specific floor material handles the acid in vinegar.
Just dump the two in a bucket, adding a few drops of a colorless essential oil for scent if you so choose, then happily mop away.
2. Water + Vinegar + Vegetable Oil
If you're working with a wood floor, try adding half a cup of white vinegar and one teaspoon of vegetable oil to a cup of water[*]. Mix the components together and rub them on the floor with a cleaning rag, either covering the whole surface or just going for the occasional spot.
You'll want to go over it again with a different, clean rag to avoid leaving any household-sabotaging slippery spots. You can also create the mixture in a spray bottle for more specific spot-cleaning potential.
3. Water + Vinegar + Dish Soap + Rubbing Alcohol
The Housewife How-Tos website recommends this specific mix based on its individual ingredients' properties that allow it to work on a variety of flooring materials[*].
The rubbing alcohol, for example, helps speed up evaporation time to avoid floor streaks and also helps both disinfect and degrease the floors, while dish soap will dissolve the bond between the dirt and floor while it degreases and cleans.
You specifically want a simple, straightforward dish soap for this mixture; avoid additions like moisturizers or antibacterial ingredients. Their ratio of two cups of warm water, half a cup of vinegar, a quarter cup of isopropyl alcohol, and just an eighth teaspoon of liquid dish soap also cuts the acidity of the vinegar so that it won't damage sensitive floors.
4. Water + Vinegar + Washing Soda
Washing soda is also a popular additive to floor solutions. Though it's primarily used for laundry (as you may have guessed from the name), its grease- and stain-fighting abilities mean it's easily adapted for general floor use.
BHG recommends a mixture of one gallon of hot water, two tablespoons white vinegar, two tablespoons washing soda, and one and a half teaspoons of liquid dish soap (see our notes on liquid dish soap above).
Make sure the water is hot since high temperatures are necessary for the washing soda to properly dissolve. This one is best mixed in a bucket and used for mopping.
5. Water + Vinegar + Olive Oil
Another wood floor tip: Adding olive oil to a wood-floor-cleaning mix helps shine up your floors even after the mixture dries. Add three quarters of a cup of olive oil and half a cup of lemon juice to a gallon of hot water, mix together, and apply to the floors with a well-wrung-out mop[*].
6. Water + Vinegar + Baking Soda
We return once more to the land of science fair volcanoes, but this time on your tile floor. While you can use a baking soda and vinegar combo as a general floor cleaner, they may be of even more useful as a grout cleaner for your pesky tile-line grime[*]. You don't need to do this on a regular basis, but it's an excellent refresher every few months.
Combine equal parts baking soda and warm water to form a thick paste. Spread this paste on your grout, then take a spray bottle of vinegar and spray it over the paste-covered areas. Let the vinegar sit for about 15 minutes to get all the benefits of that fun fizzing reaction, then use a brush (an old toothbrush will suffice) to scrub. Rinse with warm water once you're finished.
Looking for something professionally made to save time and (in some cases) clean and disinfect in one step? We've got you covered.
As the extensive text on the label tells you, there's almost nothing Dr. Bronner's vegetable-based castile soap can't do. For a mopping mix, the company recommends half a cup of soap per three gallons of hot water.
This biodegradable cleaner, also from Dr. Bronner's, is specifically designed for household cleaning, whether it's laundry, countertop, or floor. The main difference between this product and its castile cousins, aside from the scent options, is that Sal Suds is slightly more effective on grease and other tough stains and is significantly more concentrated.
For wood, laminate, or stone flooring, add half a teaspoon of Sal Suds to three gallons of hot water.
The Babyganics floor cleaner is fragrance-free and can be used on tile, porcelain, carpet, vinyl, sealed hardwood, and laminate.
Given the propensity of babies to spend plenty of time scooching around the floor and then putting things in their mouths, it makes sense for a brand aimed at families to be extra cautious about their ingredients.
The company recommends one ounce per half gallon of warm water, then mop as usual.
Experts interviewed by The Strategist recommended The Concentrate by Branch Basics[*]. This concentrated cleaner is made exclusively from plant- and mineral-based ingredients and can also serve a slew of functions around your home, in addition to cleaning wood, vinyl, and granite floors.
Using simple tap water is by far the easiest and most natural way to clean your floors. Unfortunately, holding a steaming teapot next to your kitchen tile isn't going to cut it. If you want to capitalize on the simplest and most-straightforward cleaning liquid, you're going to have to buy a steam cleaner.
Advap's line of residential steam cleaners create dry steam vapor using a compact system. Just attach a towel to the floor brush and wave it over your floors to clean and disinfect. No need for an extra rinse, and since steam vapor doesn't use a lot of water, your floors will dry quickly.
Simply put: steam vapor will save you time, cut down on water usage, and both clean and disinfect in one step.
Whether you're starting with simple steam vapor or doing some kitchen chemistry, different flooring materials will have different needs, and you should be sure you're clear on your floor's specific preferences before you start swabbing the deck.
But once you're ready, there are plenty of natural options to smooth the way and leave your surfaces sparkling.