How to Clean Greasy Hardwood Floors (3 Simple Solutions)

How to Clean Greasy Hardwood Floors

Beautiful hardwood floors set the vibe at home — until it gets greased and stained and it becomes a problem. Luckily, there are various ways to clean grease off hardwood floors with items commonly found at home.

Hardwood floors are susceptible and thus need careful handling.

Although most are now protected by surface-sealants that safeguard the wood itself from scratches and tears, older homes don’t have this layer protection on their wood floors.

This type of flooring is called unfinished hardwood.

While keeping in mind what kind of finish your hardwood floor has, carefully choose any of the steps below on how to clean greasy hardwood floors effectively.


Vinegar is one of the most effective cleaners of grease residue out there, but it can dull the floor’s finish over time, so it must be diluted with water when used on hardwood. You can reap its benefits if used moderately, so make sure not to overuse it.

Important note: Realize that vinegar is an acid that can damage the protective coating on hardwood flooring. The consensus among hardwood experts is mixed. For instance, Bona doesn’t recommend using vinegar on the hardwood since it is an acid and can dilute the protective coating. Others like Natalie Wise (author of the “The Natural Home”) approves the use of vinegar, but not too much.

If you’re using vinegar, it will work best on finished (or sealed) and unfinished hardwood floors, but not on waxed surfaces.

What you will need:

  1. White vinegar
  2. Warm water
  3. Washcloth

Steps to follow:

  1. Pour in equal parts white vinegar and warm water into a bucket.
  2. Slightly soak a clean washcloth to the solution. Make sure the washcloth is only damp and not dripping wet as too much wetness or moisture can damage the hardwood floor’s finish.
  3. Apply the damp washcloth to the greased area. Gently rub in a circular motion so as not to spread the grease any further. Don’t put too much weight on it to avoid scratching the floor’s finish.
  4. You may repeat applying the solution and slightly rubbing the area until the grease stain finally wears off. When reapplying, use a new, clean washcloth to ensure that the grease rubbed off will not stick back to the floor.
  5. Once satisfied, wipe the area dry with a clean washcloth to make sure no residue is left.

Dishwashing liquid

Dishwashing liquid

Another powerful and readily accessible grease cleaner is dishwashing liquid. If used properly, it can easily remove grease off the wood floor without damaging its finish.

This solution works best for finished or sealed hardwood floors while mindful of the frequency on unfinished floors.

 What you will need:

  1. One teaspoon dishwashing liquid
  2. Warm water
  3. Spray bottle
  4. Washcloth

Steps to follow:

  1. Mix 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid with warm water in a spray bottle. Shake the spray bottle to make sure to mix the solution well.
  2. Mist the solution to the greased area and let sit for 5 minutes. Make sure not to spray excessively as too much wetness or moisture can damage the hardwood floor’s finish.
  3. After 5 minutes, gently rub the area with a washcloth in a circular motion so as not to spread the grease further. Avoid putting too much pressure on the washcloth to avoid scratching the floor’s finish.
  4. You may repeat applying the solution and slightly rubbing the area until the grease stain finally wears off. When reapplying, use a new, clean washcloth to ensure that the grease rubbed off will not stick back to the floor.
  5. Once satisfied, wipe the area dry with a new, clean washcloth to make sure no residue is left.

Mineral Spirits

Wood experts have great trust in mineral spirits, such as paint thinner, in cleaning both finished and unfinished hardwood.

To safely clean grease off the wood floor, you have to make sure that the working area has lots of ventilation.

Mineral spirits work best on both finished and unfinished hardwood floors.

What you will need:

  1. Mineral spirit such as thinner
  2. Washcloth

Steps to follow:

  1. Dampen the cloth with spirit.
  2. Gently rub the clean washcloth over the grease stain at a time. Make sure not to saturate wood as too much wetness or moisture can damage the hardwood floor and its finish.
  3. Reapply as needed until grease wears off.
  4. Ventilate the area to dry out all excess spirits.

For more effective cleaning, you may combine any two of the methods above (e.g., do Method 1 first, followed by Method 2). If the grease residue still hasn’t come off with these solutions, you may try these products available at the market:

1. Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Popularly sought after by various hardwood owners, Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner is one of the top hardwood cleaners that clean well while being non-toxic and safe for the family and pets. This product is water-based and safe for any type of wood finish.

To use Bona in removing grease, simply transfer the cleaner on a spray bottle, then spray onto the greased area and wipe with a clean washcloth.

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2. Black Diamond Stoneworks Wood and Laminate Floor Cleaner

Black Diamond is another popular option for cleaning hardwood and is safe for kids and pets, as it is also non-toxic.

It can remove not just grease but also stains, spills, and dirt from hardwood and other surfaces.

To remove grease using Black Diamond, simply spray onto the greased section and wipe with a clean washcloth.

Some FAQs

Can you use vinegar on hardwood?

There are a lot of how-to articles surfacing online that recommend the use of vinegar on hardwood flooring. As I’ve said earlier in this article, the consensus is mixed. Companies like Bona discourage the use of vinegar as, according to them, vinegar can damage the protective coating because it is acidic.

Others caution against using too much. Just in case you’re using vinegar, test it on an obscure area first to see if it damages the protective coating before proceeding to clean the whole area.

How do you get grease off a wood floor?

Mopping hardwood

There are numerous methods you can try. One is using a combination of grease-cutting dishwashing soap diluted in water. Add a few drops of it on a bucket of water. Make sure that the mop head is not soaking wet, but only damp before mopping the surface.

Excess liquid can create moisture that can seep through any opening on the hardwood surface. Dishwashing soap is a good option as it is pH neutral and should not damage the hardwood.

However, check the care tag for the instructions or call the manufacturer to check if you can use dishwashing soap (this applies to newer installations that have a warranty).

If dishwashing soap is not an option, then only use a damp mop, which in most instances, will be sufficient for the task.

Another option is buying a product specifically for cleaning hardwood. Again, make sure to purchase the correct product that will match the finish.

What is the best thing to use to clean wood floors?

The answer would depend on the type of stain or dirt. If you’re dealing with food spills, remove the surface debris first before wiping it down with a damp mop or towel. For grease food, add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to cut through the grease then follow up with a clean damp towel.

Using dishwashing liquid can also be effective at cleaning crayon stains.

For more stubborn greasy stains, you will need something more potent like grease stains. Please refer to the “Mineral Spirits” method above for more information.

More serious spills and stains may require a specialized cleaning agent and may need some wet sanding to remove any surface contaminants.

Depending on your hardwood’s finish, you may need to re-buff, apply wax, or a layer (or two) of the polyurethane finish.

How do you clean sticky hardwood floors?

There are different approaches to clean stick hardwood floors. The most effective would be using a pH balanced cleaner formulated for hardwood like Bona. Different products will have nuanced steps to the application so please read the label for the proper steps.

Another way to deal with sticky hardwood is by using a few drops of dishwashing liquid and warm water. Dishwashing liquid is pH balanced so it should not damage your hardwood but to make sure, please test in a small area first to check if there will be any negative effects.

You could also try using vinegar and warm water, but floor experts advise against using it because of its acidic nature.

How do you remove greasy film from hardwood floors?

Greasy build-up on hardwood floors can be residue accumulation from cleaning products. Some hardwood cleaning products will leave this film that can a hazy effect.

One way to remove this hazy film is to use an ammonia-free glass cleaner and scrub it using the scrubby side of a dish sponge.

The second option is to use a mixture of ammonia and water to cut the greasy residue. Don’t use too much as it can further damage the surface.

Additional tips

Better than removing grease stains, maintaining your hardwood floor in tiptop shape should always be the top priority.

  1. Keeping shoes off, having a regular maintenance schedule for vacuuming, and using a trusted cleaner are the best tips to maintain hardwood floors. It is also important to clean spills the soonest to prevent it from staining further.
  2. Checking out the type of hardwood floor is also equally necessary. This is to understand better how to properly clean each type of hardwood and see what damages it in the long run.
  3. Putting rugs and mats around the house, especially in high-traffic areas, can also better protect the floor from spills, stains, and scratches.
  4. Schedule refinishing hardwood floors or adding protective coating such as paste wax and beeswax to add a layer of protection to the floor.