How To Clean Wood Stairs? [7 Steps]

Wooden stairs can provide a great way to complement and add a unique style to your home. When they are properly cleaned and maintained, they can last several years before requiring any major updates to the finish. In this post, we will cover the best ways to keep your wood stairs clean so that they can last as long as possible.

Here is an outline of the steps that you can use to keep your wood stairs clean:

  1. Remove all clutter from the steps
  2. Sweep the steps
  3. Vacuum the steps (if you have carpet treads)
  4. Apply carpet cleaner 
  5. Allow carpet to dry
  6. Mop the steps
  7. Polish the steps

In this post, we'll cover each of these steps in more detail. We'll also discuss how often you should clean your wood stairs, what the best cleaners are, how to polish wood stairs, and more. You don't want to miss out, so be sure to keep reading.

Young woman in white apron cleaning wood stairs, How To Clean Wood Stairs? [7 Steps]

Steps To Cleaning Wood Stairs

Cleaning your steps regularly can keep them shiny and aesthetically pleasing. Things such as dust, dirt, and pet hair can easily accumulate on the surface of your stairs, which over time, can wear down the finish.

Supplies you'll need:

  • Stiff brush or broom
  • Mop
  • Vacuum cleaner (if you half carpeted treads)
  • Wood cleaner
  • Carpet cleaner (if you have carpeted treads)

Step 1: Remove all clutter from the steps

Things such as children's or pet toys should be cleared away from the steps before cleaning them. Also, be sure to remove any items that may be hanging on the banister such as purses, backpacks, or jackets.

Step 2: Sweep the steps

After clearing away the steps, take your broom and start from the top of the staircase, sweeping each step using vertical strokes. It's best to sweep this way so that you can sweep the dust and debris down to the next step. Be sure to stand to the side as you sweep the steps, as not to sweep the debris on your legs.

Click here to see this broom on Amazon.

Step 2: Vacuum the steps (if you have carpet treads)

If your stairs have carpet treads in the middle, take your vacuum, and starting at the top of the steps, use the extended attachment to work your way down each step. If you have a handheld vacuum, work your way down each step by vacuuming from the left to the right of each tread.

Step 3: Apply carpet cleaner (optional)

If you are planning to manually clean the carpets, be sure to set your bucket of solution at the top of the steps and work your way down until you reach the bottom step. When hand-cleaning carpet treads, it's best not to apply too much solution to the treads, as it will take longer to dry.

Using your brush, work your way from the left to the right of each thread, paying attention to the middle of the tread (which is usually the most soiled). Also, if you have any areas that require spot cleaning, be sure to apply it before applying the carpet cleaner so that it has time to set in.

If you are using a portable carpet cleaner, start at the top of the stairs and work your way down in the same manner working from the left side of each step to the right side.

Check out this carpet cleaner on Amazon.

Step 4: Allow carpet to dry

If you hand wash the carpet treads, they’ll need time to dry (anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour). If you’re using a portable carpet cleaner, you can wait about 15-20 minutes before proceeding with the next steps to clean the stairs.

Step 5: Mop the steps

Pour your wood cleaning solution into a bucket of warm water. Be sure not to apply too much water to the steps and ring the mop out thoroughly after dipping it in the bucket. Too much water on your steps can cause them to swell, so this is very imperative. However, if your steps don't require mopping, you can simply skip this step.

Step 6: Polish the steps

The best way to apply wood polish is to use a microfiber-covered mop terry cloth fabric to wipe each step down (starting from the top of the staircase). Only apply as much polish (and only when needed) as is recommended by the instructions.

Click here to see this wood polish on Amazon.

Quick Wood Cleaning Tips

  • Avoid using abrasive scrubbing pads, steel wool, or buffing pads on wood stairs.
  • Stay away from chemicals such as acetone, turpentine, and alcohol when cleaning your steps.
  • Make sure that you use the right polish based on the type of finish on your steps (you don't want to have to re-finish them).

How Often Should You Clean Wood Stairs?


Depending on the amount of traffic they receive, once every 1-2 weeks may be ideal. Steps that are regularly swept and vacuumed will remain in better condition for a longer period of time, and it will reduce the chances of spreading allergy-causing debris.

What Is The Best Wood Cleaner?

There are a handful of commonly used wood cleaners that are recommended by flooring professionals. We've listed them below.

Murphy Oil Soap Wood Cleaner

This cleaner has been around for over 100 years and is one of the best solutions for regular hardwood floor cleaning. It's not too harsh and can be used on finished and sealed wood only. It's important that you not use too much solution, as it’s known to cause buildup and an oily feel to your wood. Many consumers love this product because it works wonderfully and has a pleasant fruity scent. It can also be used on linoleum and floor surface tiles.

Buy Murphy's oil cleaner on Amazon.

Orange Glo Hardwood Floor Everyday Cleaner

Orange Glo floor cleaner is another effective, non-harsh wood cleaner that can also add polish to your wood surfaces. It's known for its citrusy scent, as well as its easy application. This cleaner dries fast and doesn't leave any streaks in the process. It can be used on wood floors, laminates, cabinetry, and wood furniture as well.

Buy Orange Glo on Amazon.

Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Bona is another wood floor cleaner that's been around for about a hundred years, making it one of the most trusted names in the floor cleaning market. This cleaner is water-based, easy to use, and very effective at getting rid of dirt and grime. It's also eco-friendly, which means that you can use it safely in homes with pets and small children. It adds a notable shine to hardwood floors and doesn't leave any streaks.

Buy Bona wood cleaner on Amazon.

Pledge Gentle Wood Floor Cleaner

Pledge is one of the most renowned wood cleaning brands in the US. Its mild lemon-smelling scent can be detected as soon as you open up the door to your home. This floor cleaner doesn't need to be diluted and can be applied directly to the floor to rid of dirt and grime. It can also be used on wood furniture.

Buy Pledge wood cleaner on Amazon.

Method Squirt Mop Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Method products have been slowly but steadily making a name for themselves in the home cleaning industry. This particular floor cleaning product is a plant-based and biodegradable solution that offers safe cleaning for your wood surfaces. It also works as great floor polish. The cleaner can be applied directly to the floor and doesn't require a rinse.

It can also be used to seal your hardwood and laminate floors. It hasn't been known to leave any sort of stickiness or residue behind, and it's fairly priced.

Buy method wood cleaner on Amazon.

How Do You Polish Wood Stairs?

Wood floors can be very durable and long-standing. However, even the highest grade or type of wood material can be susceptible to scuffs and scratches. A solid polish product can help to minimize the effects of surface stains as well as help your wood stairs regain their shine. Let's look at how to effectively apply polish to your stairs.

Supplies you'll need:

  • Sponge
  • Wood polish
  • Hardwood floor cleaner
  • Broom
  • Dustpan
  • Microfiber mop pad
  • Wood floor polish

Step 1: Perform a patch test on the finish

It's always a good idea to test a new polish on your stairs' finish before applying it to the complete area. If you can't remember or are unsure of the type of finish you have, you can simply take a utility knife and scrape it across a small area on the corner of the bottom step.

If the finish becomes smudged without any clear material being removed, then the stairs likely contain a penetrating finish. In this case, you should only apply wax (and not polish). However, if the scraped-off material is clear, you likely have a surface finish on the stairs, in which case they can be polished.

Step 2: Clear and clean the stairs

Remove everything that may be laying on the steps and banisters. Next, sweep the steps from top to bottom making sure you get in the corners of steps where dirt and debris can accumulate. After sweeping, use an appropriate wood floor cleaner and mop the steps using warm water. Start at the top of the steps and work your way to the bottom, making sure not to apply too much water to the steps if you don't want the wood to swell (don't let puddles of water linger on the steps).

After, you can either wait for the steps to dry or dry them yourself with a microfiber or terry cloth fabric.

Step 3: Apply wood polish

Gently agitate the polish container to mix up the solution. Next, take your polish and apply a small but ample amount to your polishing cloth. Then, starting at the top of the stairs, apply the polish to the step in a circular motion, steadily working your way from left to right.

If you are using a mop, be sure to only apply a small amount as you don't want to have to mop up the excess. Work the solution in the direction of the wood grain.

It's best to only polish small areas at a time to make sure that they are sufficiently coated. After you've applied your first coat of polish, wait for the appropriate drying time (usually about 10 to 15 minutes) and then apply your second coat.

It's best to wait at least an hour before allowing any traffic on the steps after polishing them. And if you can wait for hours, that's even better.

What Is The Best Finish For Wood Stairs?

There are two main categories that wood finishes come in. They include the following:

Penetrating Finishes

These finishes actually dry within the wood, curing it. They are known to create a more natural look. The most common types include tung, linseed, and Danish oil. They are best applied using microfiber cloths or everyday rags.

Click here to see this tung oil on Amazon.

Surface Finishes

Surface finishes cure on top of the wood's surface, making it more durable. Common types include polyurethane varnish and shellac. These finishes are typically applied with a brush and tend to look a bit shinier.

Click here to see this polyurethane on Amazon.

Do Stair Treads Ruin Wood?

No, stair treads do not ruin the wood. They actually do the opposite, which is to protect the wood. Carpet and rubber treads help to minimize the impact of everyday wear-and-tear that wood stairs face.

Think about how many times you and your family members go up and down your steps on a single day. A lot, yes? Well, treads help to keep the surface of the wood (and the main impact areas in the middle of the steps) in a better condition than they would be if left uncovered--even with a good finish or paint job.

Treads also serve a second purpose, which is to provide effective traction on wood stairs. Wood stairs can be slippery, especially if they're polished. And they can even present safety hazards during colder months when wet shoes are the norm. Carpet and rubber treads provide effective traction to help you prevent slips and falls while going up and down the stairs.

In Closing

Young woman in white apron cleaning wood stairs, How To Clean Wood Stairs? [7 Steps]


Now that you've learned how to effectively clean and polish your wood stairs, you'll be able to keep them up for years to come. Interested in learning more about stairs and flooring? Be sure to check out our other posts:

Where Should Stairs Be Located In A House (And Can You Relocate Them)?

Should Stairs Match The Flooring That's Upstairs Or Downstairs?

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