Does Anyone Know What’s *Actually* in Floor Cleaner? This Cleaning Expert Tells All

If you're keeping tabs on the glow-boosting ingredients in your skin-care products or the nourishing ingredients in your favorite recipes, have you ever stopped to think about the ingredients in your floor cleaner? (Be honest.)

For those of us who have just been plunking a mop into a bucket of water mixed with whatever's under the sink, we asked John Schierlmann, director of research and development at Bona (because if anyone would know, it'd be him) to help shed some light on what, exactly, constitutes a good floor cleaner.

Before we get to that part, Schierlmann explains why choosing the right product is so important—especially for hardwood floors—and it mainly comes down to not doing damage while you're trying to do some good.

"If the formula is too aggressive in solvency or pH, it could scratch or blush the finish," he says. "Further, if the cleaner is not formulated correctly, oils or surfactants can be left on the hardwood coating surface, dulling it or leaving slippery deposits on it."

Schierlmann recommends looking for a hardwood floor cleaner that's free of bleach and harsh or aggressive chemicals, and—this one might seem obvious—that's specifically formulated for hardwoods. One that checks off all those boxes and more? Bona® Hardwood Floor Cleaner, which uses plant-derived ingredients to create a gentle-yet-effective, fast-drying cleaner. Keep reading to learn more about the exact types of ingredients you should scan the label for.

These are the main 4 hardwood floor cleaner ingredients to prioritize.


Surfactants reduce the surface tension of a liquid, which helps to remove the dirt, grease, oil, and/or sugar from the surface you are cleaning by suspending the contaminate in question in the water solution of the cleaner, Schierlmann says.


Solvents act as an assistant to surfactants when it comes to cutting through grease—making this a key ingredient in cleaners intended for use in places like the kitchen.

Chelating agents

Minerals like calcium and magnesium are good for you, but they're not so great for your floors. Chelating agents help pick up these potentially damaging minerals, and make the cleaner more efficient.


Preservatives get a bad rap, but they're actually a good thing in floor cleaners because they keep the solution free of bacteria, yeast, and fungi—aka not things you want to be spreading around on your floors.

FYI, Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner happens to have all of the above. "All of our floor cleaners are specially crafted to gently, yet effectively care for those surfaces, are pH neutral, and include water-based, biodegradable, and plant-derived ingredients making a safer product for people, pets, and the planet," Schierlmann says.

One more thing: While natural, plant-based ingredients are great, DIY versions won't always cut it, depending on the type of floor you have—vinegar solutions or floor steaming machines may damage floors or cause a dull, cloudy appearance, Schierlmann says. "Excess liquid may also damage the floor, so leave the mop and bucket for other tasks," he adds.

Tips for the ideal floor-cleaning process

"Your cleaning routine should depend on how much foot traffic your floors see and how much wear and tear they experience," Schierlmann says. "The floor is the largest surface in your house, so proper care and maintenance is important to ensure a healthy environment." Basically, floor care is kind of like full-body skin care for your home.

Schierlmann recommends breaking down the ideal cleaning schedule into daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks. "Giving your floors a good dusting with a microfiber mop or cloth will be your best daily defense against scratches and surface damage," he says. "Microfiber cleaning pads often use static electricity to trap dirt, particles, and other allergens."

Once a week, he recommends vacuuming and using a spray mop, and then every couple months, use a floor polish on hardwood floors to protect them. Finally, give your floors a deep clean once a year, and consider refinishing any spots with scratches or strong wear and tear. Next up: Bragging about your newfound knowledge of exactly what's in floor cleaner.

Top photo: Getty Images/Westend61

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