Many of the best-known, most heavily advertised wood cleaners, including Murphy Oil Soap, Mop & Glo and Orange Glo, actually are poor choices for your wood floors. They contain oils or waxes that can temporarily make floors look shinier…but that also build up a residue on the floor and degrade the polyurethane finish. Within weeks of using these products, floors often appear cloudy, dull and worse than ever. Home owners who use these floor cleaners often find themselves locked into an endless cycle of floor care—to keep their floors looking nice, they must reapply these products every few weeks to temporarily restore the shine that these cleaners promise but only very briefly provide.

What’s more, once you have applied these cleaners to your wood floors even a single time, a flooring pro will not be able to restore your floors with a “screen and recoat”—a relatively simple buffing followed by reapplication of polyurethane—because of the waxy residue that’s left behind (the polyurethane just won’t adhere). Instead, if you hire a pro to restore your floors, they might have to be sanded to bare wood before a new finish can be applied. That could cost you an extra $1,000 for 1,000 square feet, compared with a simple screen and recoat. It also will be much more disruptive for you because the process will take longer and send far more dust into your home’s air.

What to do: Never use any cleaner on your wood floors that promises to provide a “shine” or “sheen”—these words are a tip-off that the cleaner includes oils or waxes. Instead, select one that specifically says it is formulated for hardwood floors and leaves no residue. One good choice is Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner. It’s effective, widely available, inexpensive and easy to use (

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