How to Remove Murphy’s Oil Soap from Hardwood Floors

You’ve overdone it with Murphy’s Oil Soap and you want to get rid of it. 

Despite the marketing saying Murphy’s Oil Soap is perfect for hardwood floors – most floor manufacturers and installers will void the warranty of your floors (particularly polyurethane-coated floors) if you try to clean your floor with oil soap.

remove oil soap from hardwood floors

(Murphy’s Oil Soap was invented in 1910. Polyurethane, a very common type of hardwood coating, was released first in the 1950s, so it stands to reason that Murphy’s Oil Soap wasn’t tailor-made for polyurethane coatings. )

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, so read on for the 4 best solutions to removing Murphy’s Oil Soap from your hardwood floors. 

In this guide I’ll cover: 

  • How to remove Murphy’s Oil Soap – the best options you have
  • Common issues people have with Murphy’s Oil Soap on hardwood floors

How Do You Remove Murphy’s Oil Soap from Hardwood Floors?

Here’s the hard truth – depending on how bad the buildup is and how many times the oil soap has been applied, your only option may be to have a professional fully sand down and refinish your floors.

That said, you can still try to fix the situation on your own with the options below.

There is no single, fool-proof way to remove Murphy’s Oil Soap (except for getting your floor refinished!) since there are so many possible combinations of floor coating, age, number of applications of Murphy’s, amount of buildup, etc that will impact what you need to do. 

So here are some of the best options out there, in order, starting with the lightest impact and least risky up to the most heavy-duty approach. 

Warning: This is all dependent on the type of flooring and floor coating you have installed. If you can, try to identify the coating that is on your floor and search for manufacturers’ recommendations for how to clean your particular type of wood and coating. If not, be careful and start with the least risky methods first.

BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING: make sure you have thoroughly swept and vacuumed your floor so it’s completely clear of dust and dirt.

1. Damp Mopping with Water or Hardwood Cleaner

This should be your first attempt to resolve the issue. It’s also the cheapest and easiest and something you should be doing on a semi-regular basis for your floors anyway!

  1. Wet a mop lightly and then wring it out until it’s just damp and not dripping at all. You can grab an MR.SIGA Professional Microfiber Mop (Amazon), an Old Home Kitchen Microfiber Reusable Mop Pad (Amazon), or a Swiffer Sweeper 2-in-1 Mop (Amazon) for this purpose.
  2. Mop your floors in sections and in each section, immediately…
  3. Dry off with a terry cloth or microfiber rag to pick up the residue and dry the floor off completely. For this I’d recommend either the Amazon Basics Microfiber Cleaning Cloths or Amazon Basics Terry Cloth Washcloths.

If you just have some light residue the water will dilute the oil soap and the mop will help remove it.

Any time you are applying moisture to a hardwood floor you have to be careful. Moisture is the enemy of floors. Work in small sections and dry it off as soon as you can. 

While damp mopping can get your floor clean, you can go the extra mile by damp mopping with an ammonia-free cleaner. Again, you’ll want to have a microfiber mop and cloth or terry cloth.

Here are 2 great hardwood cleaner options to try:

Method Hardwood Floor Cleaner Squirt + Mop Bottle
  • Ergonomic nozzle spray designed to cover your floors in fewer sweeps and help avoid puddling.
  • Use to clean linoleum, vinyl, laminate and tile floors.
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
Bona BONAKEMI USA 160 OZ, Power Plus Hardwood Floor Deep Cleaner
  • Delivers a deep cleaning without the effort
  • Powerful formula loosens and removes heavy dirt build-up
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

2. [CONTROVERSIAL] Damp Mop with Diluted White Vinegar

Using too much vinegar can damage your floor coating, so this is something that should be used sparingly – if ever. Start by diluting it a bit more and then if that doesn’t work, go back and try with less dilution.

It’s pretty straightforward, first just mix 1/2 a cup of distilled white vinegar with per gallon of warm water. If that doesn’t work, try 1 cup per gallon of warm water.

Again, follow the damp mop method: don’t pour any standing water on your wood floors.

3. Use Heavy Duty Floor Cleaners [MOST LIKELY TO REMOVE OIL SOAP]

Okay, if nothing else worked, I think this is the last stop before you need to call in the pros to sand down and refinish your floors.

This is really your best bet.

NOTE: I do NOT recommend dumping water on the floor as is shown in the video. Follow the damp mop method and focus more on scrubbing the floor with the mop. As she shows in the video, her boards start to buckle from water damage.

The cleaners to get to follow this video:

How to Clean Murphy’s Oil Soap Using Heavy-Duty Floor Cleaner

  1. You’ll need both the Basic Coatings I.F.T. and Basic Coatings Squeaky Cleaner.
  2. Remove any dirt or other stuff from your floor using a vacuum.
  3. Mix 1 part I.F.T to 4 parts water.
  4. Soak some terry cloth or microfiber cloths in the water and wring them until they are just damp and not dripping.
  5. Wrap a cloth around mop like the one in the video. If it gets dirty flip it over. The instructions say to pay special attention to the corners.
  6. Do the above until the entire floor is clean, switching out for a new cloth when the old one gets too dirty. I’d recommend wiping up each section so it’s dry as well.
  7. Damp mop the floor using just water until it’s clean.
  8. Clean the floor again using Basic Coatings Squeaky cleaner,
    following the same cleaning procedure described above (Steps

It bears repeating: No matter which of the above you try, DON’T LET YOUR FLOORS STAY WET FOR TOO LONG. And again – DON’T JUST DUMP THE CLEANER ON YOUR WOOD FLOORS. Dry it up with a terry cloth or microfiber rag immediately and thoroughly. It would be a shame to get the Murphy’s Oil Soap residue off your floor only to ruin your wood with buckling and bumps.

Did none of that work? You might be out of luck and at this point, your only recourse may be to call in a pro to sand down and refinish your floor. An expensive proposition, but if you can’t stand it, that might be the only option you have left.

As a general rule, in the future – try to avoid cleaners that could damage your floor or create a buildup that you’ll have to deal with later, so anything that includes the following should not be used on polyurethane-coated floors: 

  • Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Wax
  • Ammonia

Why Should You Remove Murphy’s Oil Soap from Hardwood Floors?

When you’re cleaning your wood floors, you’re not cleaning the wood itself – you’re cleaning the finish on your floor – which is highly likely to be either a water or oil-based polyurethane coating. 

And the polyurethane coating is there to protect the wood and keep it looking good by keeping it clean and free of stains or light scratches. Don’t focus on cleaning the WOOD specifically, focus on cleaning the FINISH OR COATING ON YOUR FLOOR

If you put Murphy’s Oil Soap on a polyurethane coating it will not soak into the wood, it will just sit on top of the polyurethane.

While it’s wet and before anyone steps on it, it’ll look fantastic – shiny and smooth. But after it dries and particularly after multiple applications, it could also damage the coating.

After Murphy’s evaporates you’re just left with the non-water ingredients on your floor – the oil and other ingredients. And that’s why you’re here.

Based on everything I’ve seen, it’s probably safest not to use oil soap on polyurethane-coated hardwood or engineered hardwood at all. It’s not the ideal way to clean those types of floors and repeated applications could actually damage your coating and thus the wood on your floor. 

It’s safest to use Murphy’s Oil Soap on waxed wood or on a wax-based finish. This is almost definitely not your floor.

How Can Murphy’s Hurt the Appearance of Your Hardwood Floors?

  • Residue build-up: even if you dilute the oil soap sufficiently before applying, after repeated use you will notice residue build-up on your floors. 
  • Streaks and smudges
  • Collects dirt and dust
  • Feels sticky or greasy
  • Discolored, uneven color on the floor
  • Dull the shine on your floor
  • Footprints

Will Cleaning A Hardwood Floor with Murphy’s Oil Soap Void the Warranty?

Yes, (most likely) if you clean your polyurethane hardwood floor with oil soap of any kind (among other types of cleaners) you will likely void your warranty with the manufacturer. Check the warranty for your particular manufacturer.

you can void your vinyl floor warranty if you clean it with oil soap

If you don’t believe me, check out a few of these MANY examples of warranties that are voided by the use of oil soap:

  • Fuzion Hardwood: “Loss of gloss due to improper use of maintenance materials such as; soap, ammonia, pine soap, oil soap, any abrasive cleaners or any other non-approved cleaners will void the warranty.”
  • Mullican Hardwood Flooring: “Use of non-approved cleaning and maintenance products including oil soap, liquid/paste wax, oil, silicone or ammonia based products will void all warranties.”
  • Bruce Hardwood Floors: “Never use any of the following products (or products similar in nature) on your floor: ammonia-based cleaners, acrylic finishes, wax-based products, detergents, bleach, polishes, oil soap, abrasive cleaning soaps, or acidic materials such as vinegar. Many of these products can pit or etch the finish of your flooring or prevent the proper use of recommended maintenance materials.”
  • Harris Wood: “Use of non-approved cleaners and maintenance products or any oil soap or ammonia-based cleaners will void all warranties DO NOT USE liquid or paste wax, oil soaps, or any other cleaners that contain silicon, lemon oil, tung oil, acrylics or ammonia.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does Murphy’s Oil Soap Dull Floors or leave a residue?

If you do not dilute Murphy’s Oil Soap enough or apply it repeatedly to the floor you will start to dull your floors as the residue and buildup left over will accumulate. 

Does Murphy Oil Soap Have Wax In it? 

No. Murphy’s Oil Soap does not have wax in it. The ingredients include Water, Sodium Tallate, Fragrance, Trisodium MGDA, Lauramidopropyldimethylamine. None of which are wax. 

Do You Have To Rinse Off Murphy’s Oil Soap?

The instructions for Murphy’s recommend following the application of the oil soap with a wet mop.

Picture of Tom Powell

Tom Powell

Over the last 7 years, I’ve done a bit of everything when it comes to maintaining and repairing my 110-year-old house. Installed vinyl plank and vinyl peel and stick flooring, resurfaced and stained wooden porch, leveled and installed tiling on a concrete floor, resurfaced our kitchen cabinets… It never ends, but it feels great when you finish a project yourself and end up with a beautiful new (or repaired) floor.

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Picture of Tom Powell

Tom Powell

Over the last 7 years, I’ve done a bit of everything when it comes to maintaining and repairing my 110-year-old house. Installed vinyl plank and vinyl peel and stick flooring, resurfaced and stained wooden porch, leveled and installed tiling on a concrete floor, resurfaced our kitchen cabinets… It never ends, but it feels great when you finish a project yourself and end up with a beautiful new (or repaired) floor.

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