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Is It Safe to Vacuum Hardwood Floors?

Written by James Hall |

can you vacuum hardwood floors

Not sure whether it’s safe to vacuum your hardwood floors? Here’s our guide to vacuuming and cleaning wood flooring.

Hardwood floors aren’t as delicate as many people think. Most hardwood flooring has a polyurethane coating, which is durable and prevents wear-and-tear.

With that said, it’s still important to minimise the risk of scratches and marks. In this article, we’ll discuss whether you can vacuum hardwood floors, which type of vacuum you should use, and other hardwood cleaning tips.

Can You Vacuum Hardwood Floors?

Yes, you can vacuum hardwood floors. In fact, vacuuming is the best way to remove dirt, hair, and other debris. It’s important to use a vacuum cleaner that won’t scratch or mark the floor though. Avoid heavy uprights, rotating brush bars, and wheels that might mark the floor.

Why It’s (Usually) Safe to Vacuum Harwood Flooring

It’s safe to vacuum hardwood floors, but only if you’re not using a vacuum with stiff bristles and a rotating brush bar.

Vacuuming with the right type of vacuum is the fastest (and safest) way to remove grit, dirt, fine dust, and other debris from a wood floor. This debris is abrasive and causes micro-scratches when people walk on it, so frequent vacuuming can actually protect your floor’s finish.

In general, hardwood floors should be vacuumed at least once per week. You may need to increase the frequency for high-traffic areas or if you have pets.

What Types of Vacuum Are Safe for Hardwood?

Not all vacuum cleaners are safe for hardwood floors. Some are more likely to leave scratches or marks, so it’s important to avoid these models.

The worst culprits are heavy upright vacuums with powerful brush rolls and stiff nylon brushes. Aside from the brushes causing scratches, the wheels of uprights are also more likely to mark the floors.

Instead, look for a vacuum cleaner that:

  • Has a floorhead without a rotating brush bar OR
  • Has a hardwood floorhead (such as the Dyson Soft Roller)

Ideally, the wheels should either be padded or made of soft rubber. Of course, you’ll also need a vacuum with strong suction power to pull dirt from between crevices and floorboards.

Cylinder vacs are often the best vacuums for hardwood flooring. These vacuums usually don’t have a rotating brush bar, which protects against scratches. There’s also less weight going through the floorhead – although you’ll still need to be careful that the wheels on the main body don’t cause marks.

Certain lightweight stick vacuums can also be a great choice for cleaning hardwood floors. Unfortunately, many of these have a rotating brush bar on the main floorhead that can’t be switched off, which makes them unsuitable for hardwood. But some also come with an additional hardwood floorhead (or at least a hard floor setting) that protects your floors.

If you only have access to an upright vacuum, make sure the brush bar is switched off and the floorhead on its highest setting when cleaning hardwood flooring. This isn’t ideal – the brush will still touch the floor – but there’s a lower risk of scratches.

What About Robot Vacuum Cleaners on Hardwood Flooring?

Most modern robot vacuums are designed to clean hardwood floors without causing damage. They tend to have rubber wheels and softer brushes than full-size vacuums, so they can clean daily without scratching the floor.

Should You Sweep Hardwood With a Broom?

Vacuuming is effective at removing dirt and other abrasive debris from your hard floors, but sweeping can still be effective.

A broom is particularly useful if you only have a vacuum with a powered brush bar that may damage the floors. Brooms are also quiet, never run out of dust capacity, and are often more convenient than a bulky upright vacuum.

Vacuuming with a hardwood-safe vacuum is always the most effective way to clean floors though. Sweeping can also stir fine dust and other allergens into the air, while a vacuum with a HEPA filter should catch most of these particles.

Other Tips for Cleaning Wood Flooring

We’ve written a full guide to cleaning tips for hardwood flooring, but here are some simple tricks to get you started:

  • Establish a cleaning routine. The best way to maintain hardwood flooring is with a regular cleaning routine. Don’t wait until dirt and other debris becomes noticeable.
  • Wet clean your floor at least twice per month. Vacuuming each week gets rid of dirt and grit, but it doesn’t clean your floor. You may need to wet clean more frequently if you have a busy household. Never let water sit on hardwood floors, so use a damp mop rather than a wet one – especially for unsealed floors!
  • Ask guests (and family members) to take off their shoes at the door. This greatly reduces the amount of dirt that’s brought into the house and protects your hardwood’s finish.
  • Add a mat to your front door hallway. Similarly to taking off shoes, a mat will reduce the amount of debris that reaches the hardwood flooring.
  • Scuff marks can often be buffed out. For light scuffing, use a soft sock to buff it out. You may need to use a hardwood-safe cleaning product for heavier scuffing.
  • Clean up all spills as quickly as possible. Spills attract dirt and can cause damage to your floor’s finish. Blot them up with an absorbent cloth as soon as possible, then use a soft, damp cloth to remove any remaining liquid.

Tip: Vinegar and lemon juice are often used for cleaning, but we don’t recommend these products for hard floors. The acidic properties can cause damage to the floor’s seal.

Summary

Vacuuming is the most effective way to remove dirt, grit, and other abrasive debris from hardwood flooring. A vacuum is also much more effective than a broom at picking up pet hair and fine dust.

It’s important to avoid vacuum cleaners that might scratch your flooring though. Heavy upright vacuums with powerful rotating brush bars should be avoided. Instead, use a cylinder vacuum without a brush bar, or a lightweight stick vacuum with a hardwood attachment.

Do you have any questions about whether it’s safe to vacuum hardwood flooring? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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