Alternative Solutions and Cleaning Tips
An alternative to cleaning with detergent products is to simply wash wood floors with hot water and white vinegar. Older wood floors were washed this way, often on a daily basis. I learned this from my grandmother, who was also sensitive to fragranced products.
Her weapon of choice was the rag or string mop, a bucket with a wringer attachment, hot tap water and a half cup of white vinegar per gallon of water. Grandma turned her nose up at cheaper, generic white vinegars. The products she used, such as Heinz white vinegar, were made from natural ingredients. Some white vinegars sold for cleaning may contain petroleum derivatives.
No wood floor, no matter what the finish, can abide an inundation of liquid. Water seeping into cracks will cause the deep wood fibers to swell, and trapped moisture provides a home for mold and rot.
Whether using a sponge mop or Grandma's favorite rag mop, apply a mop that is wrung out well, not dripping. My father's first job as a teenager was mopping the fine hardwood floors in a hotel every morning. If he wasn't careful and the varnish lifted because of excessive wash-water, it would be his duty to sand down the spot and revarnish it. He is still a top-notch wood refinisher, having learned the hard way.
Most wood floors do not tolerate the combination of moisture and strong sunlight. Drops of water on the floor act like little magnifying glasses, boiling the surface of the finish and expanding wood fibers. At first, the floor appears dull in spots, but if the action is repeated, eventually the finish will craze and flake, necessitating a complete refinish. It is better to lightly wash a floor daily with a nearly-dry mop than to slosh water on it occasionally in an effort to lift the grime.
I usually use white vinegar for cleaning my floors, both wood and vinyl, but of these commonly available commercial products, Natureclean is my choice for the best biodegradable wood floor cleaner. All three products contain some chemicals that may cause reactions in sensitive individuals. I have found that Natureclean products in general cause me less discomfort, are well-priced, and work as advertised.