best ways to clean unfinished wood flooring

Best Ways to Clean Unfinished Wood Flooring

By Maria Hernandez / September 18, 2021 / 7 Comments

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    Everyone knows unfinished wood floors are the perfect way to highlight a rustic home: but how do you keep them clean? The answer differs greatly depending on who you ask and your desired results.

    Harsh chemicals can stain and strip the wood of its natural grain. Too much water will cause them to warp or discolor.

    It’s a delicate balance, but there are methods to clean your floors safely without damaging them. Let’s explore the best options.

    Everyday Cleaning

    Routine cleaning is essential to keep dirt and dust from scratching or staining your unfinished hardwood. Even if you have a “no shoe policy”, dirt will find a way inside. The best way to combat damage is to establish a regular cleaning regimen.

    If you have a hardwood vacuum with a bare floor setting, you’re in luck. This is the simplest and most effective way to remove dust and dirt without damaging the boards. If you’re not sure that the beater bar is set high enough, test it in an inconspicuous area first.

    While brooms are the obvious choice, some styles work better than others for unfinished wood. Look for a soft-bristled model or static dust mop. Remember to use light strokes and glide, rather than push the dirt.

    Be sure to listen for sounds of scraping, as small rocks can gather in the bristles and leave scratches.

    When it’s time to mop your unfinished wood, use liquids sparingly. Use a damp mop, there’s no need to flood the floors. Excess water will soak into unfinished boards, and leave behind stains.

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    Suggested Cleaners

    When choosing a cleaner for your unfinished wood, look no further than your pantry. That’s right, good ol’ vinegar is the weapon of choice for many cleaning professionals. Besides being cost-effective, vinegar is an all natural product that’s safe to use in your home.

    Vinegar is acidic and can be potent if not diluted in water. Most solutions call for 1 gallon of water for every ½ cup of vinegar. To cut down on streaks, mop in the direction of the floorboards and use long strokes.

    One drawback of vinegar is the smell. It will dissipate over time, but the fumes can be overpowering. Experts suggest buying odorless vinegar or adding a few drops of essential oil to the mixture.

    Another famous cleansing cocktail uses a mixture of water and Murphy’s Oil. To make the solution, add 1 tablespoon of soap to a ½ gallon of warm water. Rinse your floors afterward, to avoid residue build up.

    Rather than letting your floors air dry, use a clean cloth to hand dry each section.

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    Deep Cleaning Unfinished Wood Floors

    Two chemicals effective at removing stains from unfinished wood are denatured alcohol, and trisodium phosphate. Both of these agent’s will deep clean your floors while leaving behind a natural shine.

    Mineral spirits is a petroleum based liquid, often used to remove paint from brushes and other tools. When used as a cleaning agent, it can eradicate stains without damaging your floors. Rub the product into the boards with either a soft pad or lint-free cloth.

    Finish by wiping up any excess with a clean towel or rag. If you’re not sold on mineral spirits, there’s another option.

    Trisodium phosphate is a crystallized powder that’s available at your local home improvement or hardware store. Use a scrub brush to work the chemical into the stain and follow with a warm water rinse. Absorb any excess liquid to prevent permanent water damage.

    Remember when using either of these methods, preparation is critical. For the best results, your floors must be clean and free of dust and debris.

    As with any cleanser, be sure to conduct a spot test before working in a noticeable area.

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    Necessary Safety Precautions

    Both of these chemicals are volatile and pose health risks. They are highly flammable and shouldn’t be stored or used near sparks or open flames. Use extreme caution when working with either of these products.

    Always wear a respirator when working with toxic products. Make sure your area is well ventilated to prevent exposure to noxious fumes. Never use these solvents in the presence of children or anyone with known respiratory problems.

    These substances can irritate your skin and cause painful reactions. Protect yourself by wearing thick gloves designed for chemical applications.

    Always read all directions before use, and if you have any questions consult the manufacturer. You can find out more information by visiting the EPA’s website. Remember, these products pose significant risks – make sure to dispose of all rags and gloves responsibly and legally.

    In the event of exposure or adverse reaction, seek medical help immediately.

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    How do you clean unsealed wood floors?

    You have to be very gentle when picking tools and solutions to clean your unsealed wood floors. Opt for soft-bristled brushes and vacuum cleaners with a bare floor setting for everyday cleaning. You’ll have to sweep and vacuum these floors almost every day to prevent damage and scratches from dust and dirt.
    You can also use a damp mop and a solution made of water and a little vinegar. For deep cleaning sessions, we recommend mineral spirits or trisodium phosphate. 

    How do you get black stains out of unfinished wood?

    Dark stains on unfinished wood are usually from water and liquid spills that you didn’t take care of immediately. If you notice that your floors have such stains, you can try several methods. The first one is to mix water and salt, apply it on top of the stain, and rub gently until the stain is gone.
    You can also try a thick paste made of baking soda and water. Apply it to the stain, and wait for a few hours. When the time is up, you can remove the paste, check the stain, and clean the wood

    How to clean old unfinished wood floors?

    You can clean old unfinished wood floors the same way you clean new unfinished wood floors. For daily upkeep, you need a soft-bristled broom and a vacuum with a bare floor setting. When you want to deep clean the floors, employ a damp mop, water, and a little vinegar.
    If your unfinished wood floors start looking dull, you can add a little mineral oil on a clean cloth and bring back their old glow. Then go over the floors with the cloth, ensuring that you’re not using too much oil.

    What is the best stain remover for wood?

    We love using two chemicals for stains on unfinished wood floors: mineral spirits and trisodium phosphate. The first one comes in a liquid form, and it will quickly take care of stains. All you need to do is add a little to the stained area after you’ve swept or vacuumed the floors.
    Trisodium phosphate is a powder, and you can get it almost in all home improvement stores and online. Add a little of the paste to a scrub brush, work it into the stain, and then wipe it with warm water.

    Will vinegar remove wood stain?

    Yes, vinegar can remove stains on your wood floors, but since this is an acidic chemical it should only be used in small amounts and never directly on the floors without diluting it with water or another liquid. Vinegar is a natural cleaning solution; therefore, it’s a go-to for many homeowners who prefer to stay away from chemicals.
    To remove wood stains, mix equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Cover the stain with the solution and rub it with a clean cloth. When you can’t see the stain anymore, remove it with a clean damp cloth.

    The Verdict

    Cleaning your unfinished hardwood floors takes a bit of elbow grease and some research, but it’s not impossible. If you do make a mistake, all is not lost. The beauty of unfinished wood is that it can always be sanded down to its original state.

    Daily cleaning isn’t complicated and doesn’t require a ton of preparation or special tools. For bigger jobs, be sure to consider your options and refrain from taking unnecessary risks.

    When working with hazardous chemicals, always consult the manufacturer and follow guidelines to the letter. If you’re hesitant to perform the work yourself, ask a professional cleaning company for rates.

    Unfinished wood floors offer a natural elegance. They’re an excellent choice for anyone seeking to create an environment that exudes charm and character.

    Do you have unfinished wood floors in your home? How often do you clean them?

    About Maria Hernandez

    Senior Floor Critic, 25 years of experience in residential and commercial cleaning

    Maria Hernandez has 25 years of experience in residential and commercial janitorial and cleaning services. From hardwood to carpet to marble floors, Maria has developed a deep expertise in cleaning and maintaining many different flooring types. Visit Website.

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    7 thoughts on “Best Ways to Clean Unfinished Wood Flooring”

    1. Paulette P Parrino

      I have stairs that are unfinished and stained. How can I clean them and what should I do after I get the dirt and stains out?

    2. I have oiled finished hardwood floors. I want to remove Bona satin wax from the wood. If water drips on floors now it leaves white spots. How can I clean wax off with removing color finish

    3. Hi,

      I have solid hardwood flooring and have a oil spill on it (Chinese food). What can I use on the floor to get rid of stain?



    4. I need to clean my barn’s softwood floor that has probably only ever been swept for 150 years. Is mopping with the vinegar solution the right idea?

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