How to Clean Bamboo Floors
Cleaning the bamboo beneath your feet the right way will keep it looking its best for years to come. Can you Swiffer it, or use vinegar? Here's what you need to know.
Thanks to a harvest time of as little as 5 years, bamboo is an environmentally sustainable, increasingly popular flooring choice. Its durability varies, depending on species and manufacturing processes: Natural solid bamboo is one tough customer, considered to be twice as hard as red oak, while carbonized or engineered bamboo flooring can be as much as 30 percent weaker than natural, and more susceptible to wear and tear.
Whichever type you choose, your bamboo floor will look great far longer if you learn how to clean and care for it properly. Protect your investment with these tips and techniques.
STEP 1: Remove debris with a broom or vacuum.
Have a soft-bristle or fine-fiber broom accessible to keep bamboo in like-new condition. Without regular sweeping, ideally once a day, gritty dirt and dust can scratch the floor’s surface. While it is safe to vacuum a bamboo floor, the vacuum must be equipped with a floor cleaning attachment or a hard floor setting to prevent damage. Avoid using standard vacuums, which have heavy wheels and rotating brushes that can cause scratches or dents.
Like other hardwood and laminate flooring, bamboo flooring and bamboo laminate flooring are susceptible to water damage, so it’s crucial to clean up spills promptly to prevent water from penetrating and damaging the wood fibers in the boards. This is especially true of carbonized bamboo flooring, which is subjected to extreme heat in order to create a rich, dark hue. As a result of its manufacturing process, carbonized bamboo lacks the strength of standard bamboo flooring.
STEP 2: Prepare a mop solution with bamboo floor cleaner.
Mop weekly, using a hardwood-rated cleaner like Bona or Murphy Oil Soap to maintain shine and protect the surface. Avoid ammonia-based cleaners as well as vinegar and other acidic cleaning agents that can discolor bamboo floors or harm the finish, making them more susceptible to other damage.
Note: If the manufacturer’s instructions specify dilution with water, take care not to over dilute the solution.
STEP 3: Remove any stains or scuffs.
Be vigilant for stains and scuffs while you’re sweeping or vacuuming as they will likely require additional attention. Don’t attempt to remove stains or scuffs until all loose debris has been swept up. Otherwise, you may end up grinding loose dirt into the floor’s surface when you treat the scuffs or stains. (See below for detailed stain-removal instructions.)
STEP 4: Mop the floor in sections.
Thoroughly wring out your mop to ensure that it’s just slightly damp so it won’t cause liquid to pool on the floor. Excessive moisture can get trapped in cracks between planks, where it can cause expansion, cupping, or buckling.
STEP 5: Allow the floor to air-dry.
Resist the urge to manually dry the floor with a rag or towel as this will create swirl marks. Instead, let the floor air-dry, which should not take long. Once it’s dry, do not apply any finishes or waxes unless they are specifically recommended by the flooring manufacturer—doing so could stain or damage the flooring. Some manufacturers will even void the floor’s warranty if you use a finish or stain that it does not approve.
Spills, Stains, and Scuffs on Bamboo Hardwood Floors
To protect your investment in your bamboo hardwood floor, it’s important that you clean up spills promptly and effectively and be vigilant about removing unsightly stains or scuffs. Ahead, learn the best way to clean bamboo floors without damaging them in the process.
Stave off damage from everyday accidents by sopping up any spills immediately with a soft, dry cloth. Once the spill is picked up, clean bamboo flooring with a fresh rag lightly dampened with water, and dry the area if any water remains.
If you’ve laid bamboo in a kitchen or bathroom, it’s highly recommended to place a rug near the sink or any other spots where spills or dampness are likely to occur. Just be sure the rug is made from a breathable material without a latex or rubber backing, which can discolor or damage the floor, especially if it is dark bamboo flooring.
Try to protect your bamboo flooring from stains, but when they do occur, the cleaning approach you use will depend on the source of the stain, the variety of bamboo, and whether the stain has affected the finish or has sunk into the wood. Using the wrong removal agent could worsen the problem.
Fortunately, the best cleaner for bamboo floors may already be sitting in your refrigerator or pantry. Some water stains or discolorations can be successfully treated with a dollop of real mayonnaise. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes, then wipe off and polish with a soft, clean rag. If the oil-rich mayo doesn’t do the trick, at least it shouldn’t make matters worse; however, various other “remedies” you might see online have the potential to harm bamboo flooring, so proceed cautiously.
If a stain resists your best efforts, take heart: Many bamboo floors can be refinished, so you may be able to eliminate the stain when the time comes to refinish the floor.
For scuff marks from heels, simply apply a bit of wood floor cleaner to a soft, dry rag (diluted as required) and gently rub the floor. Spot-dry when finished, and the floor should look as good as new.
How to Maintain Natural and Engineered Bamboo Flooring
While it’s important to clean your bamboo flooring regularly, you should also take these preventive measures to keep your bamboo looking beautiful for years to come.
- Keep pets’ nails trimmed.
- Make your bamboo floors a barefoot (or stocking feet) zone. The soles of street shoes can trap fine pebbles that can scratch floors.
- Put colorfast felt or furniture sliders under all chairs and other furniture. No scraping means no scratching.
- Maintain a relative humidity of 30 to 50 percent in your home. Excessive humidity for a prolonged period can lead to swelling, whereas too little humidity can cause bamboo to dry or crack.
- Never use rubber- or latex-backed mats on bamboo flooring. These mats can trap moisture against the flooring and cause damage or discoloration.
- Stiletto heels and sports cleats can leave indentations on bamboo flooring. This is especially true of carbonized bamboo, which is 30 percent softer than natural bamboo.
- Sunlight can fade bamboo over time, which is why it’s a good idea not to keep furniture and rugs in the same spots for years. Instead, rearrange your furniture now and then, or better yet, use curtains or blinds to filter sunlight.
- Never steam-clean your bamboo floor.
By using the methods above, you can remove scuffs and safely clean up spills from your hardwood bamboo floors, returning them to their former glory. Remember to first do no harm when cleaning bamboo floors. Cleaning solutions, floor polishes, and other products that may be safe for other hardwood flooring types can permanently damage or stain bamboo flooring. With that in mind, use only cleaners and polishes expressly recommended by the flooring manufacturer.
FAQs About Cleaning Bamboo Floors
If you’re wondering how to make bamboo floors shine or how many years a bamboo floor will last, then read on for answers.
Q. Can I use Swiffer WetJet on bamboo floors?
Most floor manufacturers recommend using a bamboo-specific cleaner on bamboo floors. While the Swiffer WetJet may not damage the floors, it may leave an unsightly film or brush marks on the floor.
Q. How long do bamboo floors last?
Because bamboo is harder than most other hardwoods, it’s extremely durable. For instance, carbonized bamboo flooring withstands intense heat during its manufacturing process. In general, bamboo is a durable flooring option that can last up to 50 years, if well maintained.
Q. Do bamboo floors need to be sealed?
Yes. You should seal bamboo in the same manner as you would a hardwood floor.
Q. Can you wax bamboo floors?
Never wax a bamboo hardwood floor. Wax can leave a residue on the floor that makes the floor slippery. If you’re wondering how to make bamboo floors shine, simply run a damp mop over them after the cleaning is complete, being careful not to let water pool on the floor.
Q. Why is my bamboo flooring separating?
Bamboo floors can separate as a result of changes in humidity that occur with the passing seasons. Dry air in the wintertime can make bamboo shrink and contract, causing the planks to pull apart. Warm humid air during the summertime will cause the boards to soak up moisture and expand. Proper installation plays a role in preventing this from happening: As with other hardwood, it’s important to allow the wood planks to sit inside the house for a few days before installation so they stabilize. As well, wood floors will be less likely to expand or contract in a home that is climate controlled.
Q. Can you steam-clean bamboo floors?
No. You should never attempt to steam-clean a bamboo floor. While bamboo floors are extremely durable, they are not waterproof. Water and steam can cause significant damage to a bamboo floor.
Q. Is vinegar safe for bamboo floors?
No. You should use only pH-balanced cleaners for bamboo flooring. Because vinegar is acidic, it can corrode and damage bamboo flooring.