Hardwood Floors & flooring

Oil Soap Safety: A User's Guide for Clean Hardwood Floors

by Sherin Hylan

using sponge to clean wood floor

With the vast array of cleaners available today, consumers need to be aware of how to properly use their products to avoid health hazards and damaging surfaces. Murphy® Oil Soap is one natural cleaner that's effective on hardwood floors and more when used as instructed. It's always important to know what's in your product and how to use it the right way.

Murphy® Oil Soap safety starts with its makeup: The original formula gets its strength and consistency through water, cleaning agents derived from coconut and plants, natural fragrances and 2-percent synthetic ingredients. These ingredients are free of harsh chemicals such as phosphate, ammonia and bleach, which can actually damage and discolor gentler types of wood. The cleaner is also biodegradable, making it safe for the environment when discarded.

What's in It?

So, what's inside the bottle? The product specifically includes water, sodium tallate, trisodium MGDA and lauramidopropyl dimethylamine oxide. Don't be intimidated by the latter; this purifying agent is nontoxic and devoid of health concerns, according to GoodGuide. Based on these ingredients, the product has received approval by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to bear the Designed for the Environment (DfE) logo. This indicates products that contain chemicals from the EPA's "safer chemical ingredients list," which ensures there are no potential human and environmental effects.

What Can You Use It On?

The Original Formula is safe for finished wood, tile and linoleum surfaces. How can you tell if you have finished wood? These floors have been sealed with a water-resistant film, such as a polyurethane coating. If you're unsure of your finish, place a drop of water on the surface. If it absorbs the water, it's not finished, and Murphy® Oil Soap should not be used yet. If the droplet beads up, you should still test the product in an inconspicuous area to be sure your floor isn't water-sensitive. When testing, follow the dilution directions below, and keep in mind that the product should only be used on intact wood finishes.

Safety Directions

The key to realizing Murphy® Oil Soap safety, in items like Original Formula, is to understand it is a concentrate that has to be diluted with warm water. The recommended dilution is 1/4 cup per gallon of water, but shoot for 1/2 cup per gallon of water for heavier cleanings or sturdier woods like oak or rosewood. When cleaning hardwood floors, use a lightly damp microfiber cloth or mop, and wring any excess water out before applying it to the floor; too much moisture can warp a wood surface if it is left there.

Additional Precautions

Murphy® Oil Soap Original Formula is safe for your home if used as directed. However, under certain circumstances, it can cause skin and/or eye irritation. If ingested or in contact with allergies, it can also cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Therefore, exercise the following safety precautions:

  • Keep the product out of reach of pets and children.
  • In case of ingestion, drink a glass of water to dilute and seek medical attention.
  • Avoid contact with your skin and eyes.
  • Rinse your skin if it's in prolonged contact with the product.
  • If you get it in your eyes, rinse them out with water for up to 15 minutes.

Use your product in a well-ventilated area, too. Fresh wood smells great, and the product's fragrances are natural, but they can be potent if used in smaller rooms.

What About Residue?

One critical question when finding an effective hardwood floor cleaner is whether it will leave a residue. When diluted properly, Murphy® Oil Soap Original Formula does not leave a residue. Despite the fact that it is called "oil soap," there is no "free oil" left behind. If you see a residue after applying Murphy® Oil Soap for the first time, it's likely that another cleaner was previously used. This is why it's always important to test a small discreet area first.

Not all hardwood is created equal, and neither are their respective cleaners. This product strives to maintain the same level of care to your home as it does to the people living in it. Have you used Murphy® Oil Soap Original Formula? Share your experience.

This article was brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive Company, the makers of Murphy® Oil Soap. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.