Can you clean hardwood floors with bleach?

Person using a white mop to clean hardwood floors.
(Image credit: Getty)

Can you clean hardwood floors with bleach and which detergents are safe to use? Find out exactly what to use to protect your floors.

We answer a question about hardwood floor care that comes up time and again: can you clean hardwood floors with bleach or will it ruin them? There are many misconceptions about which products wood can be cleaned with and even the best steam mops won’t safely clean your hardwood floors if you’re using the wrong product for your flooring. Flooring is a big investment in your home too, so it's important to make sure you know how to clean hardwood floors properly. 

We ask a professional cleaner for their expert advice on whether bleach can be used on hardwood floors or if it will cause damage and explore the cleaning products you should be using, instead.

Can you clean hardwood floors with bleach?

Here’s the expert’s take: can you clean hardwood floors with bleach? The answer is no. 

Professional cleaner, Shandel Small, says you should never use bleach on hardwood floors, especially at full strength or it will strip the wood, damaging it and lifting the color. As wood is a natural material with a porous surface, the bleach is too caustic to use, even on treated wood.

What the expert says...

Shandel Small, Professional cleaner, says, “You cannot use harsh chemical detergents on hardwood floors, especially bleach. You will damage your floors. Use a gentle, specialist wood cleaning product such as Zep.”

Most hardwood floors are treated with a protective finish by applying stain, wax or lacquer as a protective coating. As bleach is highly caustic, meaning it will strip the finish away, breaking it down and getting to the wood underneath.

Have you ever accidentally spilled bleach on your favorite sweatpants? If so, you’ll know that it lightens all materials it comes in contact with especially porous, organic ones like wood. Using bleach to clean hardwood floors with, especially in high concentrations, could lead to patchiness and discolouration. 

What can you use to clean hardwood floors instead of bleach? 

So, can you clean hardwood floors with bleach? Simply put, no. The active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, is highly corrosive and wood is too vulnerable to corrosion due to being a natural material. At the very least, using bleach will corrode your finish, if not the wood beneath. 

You might be wondering what you can use to clean hardwood that won’t erode the surface. Gentler cleaning products designed for wood exist and are available widely at stores. Cleaning expert Shandel uses Zep wood cleaner but many other similar wood-specific cleaning products are available.

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Tanisha Fletcher

Tanisha started her career in commercial retail buying for one of Amazon UK’s Top 10 revenue grossing online homeware retailers. Years spent obsessing over homeware products made it an easy career switch to writing about them. Her freelance career has seen her craft customer-focused web content for brands big and small, as well as writing articles in the health, lifestyle, home and retail sectors.

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