Which floor-cleaning product is right for your wood floor? September 07 2015

What's the difference between a floor soap and a floor cleaner? Which one should you be using for daily care of your solid wood or engineered wood floor? Amongst the range of brands offered, which is the best wood floor cleaning brand available on the South African market? In this blog, we hope to clarify these points and provide some guidance for you.


In most of the ranges available on the market in South Africa, floor cleaning soaps are specifically formulated for use on floors and surface that are finished with oils. This may include natural stone tiles or linoleum, but in this case we specifically talk to solid hardwood or engineered wood floors. It is best to use the soap of the same brand that your floors are finished with because the soaps contain small amounts of the oil that feeds and replenishes the top-coat as it cleans and the branded soap will distribute an oil with the same properties as the one already on your floor. As a guide for leading South African brands, the following floors are normally finished with the following products unless specified otherwise:

  • Zimbos floors are finished with Loba oils,
  • Oggie-sa floors are finished with WOCA oils,
  • Bestwood floors are normally finished with Bona water-based varnishes or oils depending on the specification of the client.
  • Truewood floors are finished with WOCA oils
  • Italcotto wood floors are finished with Bona water-based varnish

Pronature is worth special mention as a local brand that produces Envirotouch oils which you or your architect may have selected for environmental reasons. It is made from locally-sourced natural ingredients and as such has a comparatively low ecological and carbon footprint. It must be noted however, that Pronature products still off-gas organic compounds.

The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in Envirotouch products are natural-based products such as citrus oil that give the product it's pleasant smell, however they may also be a mild irritant for sensitive individuals and both WOCA and Bona boast low or zero-VOC certification. Bona and WOCA are therefore recommended for households where occupants have sensitive respiratory systems, or medical respiratory conditions.

Floor cleaning soaps offered by all the brands mentioned above are not suitable for use on varnished floors unless they are going to be polished or buffed during application. Use during ordinary cleaning will leave unsightly streaks as the oil that feeds the wood will remain on top of the varnish and won't be drawn in in the same way it is if the finish is an oil-finish. 


Bona offers a Cleaner for daily maintenance of their water-based varnished floors. It only cleans and it does so well. There is no additional wax, oil, or infill polishing that the Cleaner offers. It pairs superbly with their Naturale water-based varnish, the matt appearance of which has no colour and looks almost like unfinished wood, but with all the protection of a quality, varnish finish.

WOCA Cleaner, on the other hand, is used as part of the annual maintenance regime for stripping surplus and grimy oil before applying the maintenance oil coat. Whilst Bona Cleaner can be used for daily care of an oiled floor, WOCA Cleaner is not designed to be used as part of the daily care regime at all. 

Homemade floor soap

There is a dearth of posts on the internet suggesting that using a little dish-washing soap and vinegar in water will clean your wood floor well. Dish-washing liquid is not a neutral pH soap. It has a tendency to leave a sticky residue and does not lift ingrained dirt. Wood floors washed with dish-washing soap soon look grubby and require unnecessary deep cleaning - a service we are more than happy to provide, but better for the budget if it is not required for longer periods.  At best a solution of vinegar and dish-washing liquid  will remove the oils and leave the floor looking dull, or accelerate the ageing process, so that fissures appear prematurely.

In conclusion

If you really don't know what your floor was finished with, we suggest using Bona Cleaner for daily care. If you have any additional questions or queries please do get in touch and our friendly staff will be available to assist you!