How-to's Woodworking Ideas

How To Clean An Unfinished Wood Floor

Unfinished wood features a rustic look that delivers a natural aesthetic to any flooring. However, since it lacks a protective finish, cleaning an unfinished wood floor requires extra caution and diligence. Otherwise, you risk damaging your floorboard.

Fortunately, you needn’t fret about this, especially if you’re a new homeowner. In this post, we’ll discuss how to clean an unfinished wood floor using the appropriate products.

How To Clean An Unfinished Wood Floor

The easiest way is to just sweep it with a broom or vacuum it with attachments. You can also go over it with a dry mop or dust cloth. If you really want to get it clean, you can use a mild soap and water solution, but make sure you dry it afterwards with a soft cloth or towel.

What is Unfinished Wood Flooring?

Unfinished wood flooring doesn’t include a protective sealer, stain, or laminates- and has been stripped of all the natural oils into the bargain. Also known as untreated wood floors, unfinished flooring is more susceptible to damage.

They typically come in a myriad of species, textures, and colors. So, you can use an unfinished flooring that matches your current home décor.

Additionally, unfinished wood floors could consist of either softwood or hardwood. Also, they cost far less than finished wood floors. Being affordable, they’re an attractive option for those working within a budget.

How to Clean An Unfinished Wood Floor – 4 Methods

Without the protective coating, unfinished wood requires a different cleaning approach. Here’s how to clean an unfinished wood floor correctly.

Method 1: Cleaning Unfinished Wood Floors With Vinegar

Unfinished wood floors have a natural look. Subsequently, there isn’t a better way to clean natural wood than using a natural cleaning solution such as vinegar. Besides combating dirt, vinegar also prevents the growth of mold and mildew.

Here are the steps to clean your unfinished wood floors with vinegar;

Supplies Needed

  • A broom and scoop/ static dust mop
  • Vinegar solution
  • vacuum cleaner
  • Clean mop

Step bystep procedure

Step 1: Prepare the unfinished wood floor cleaner

When preparing the cleaning solution, avoid diluting it too much to increase its effectiveness. At the same time, although vinegar isn’t toxic, using a highly concentrated solution to deep clean the floor could leave an unpleasant odor behind.

Follow the procedure below to achieve a suitable solution;

  • Pour one cup of vinegar into a clean empty bucket.
  • Add one gallon of water and mix well. You could scale the ratio depending on the size of your floor. However, ensure that you maintain the ratio. For instance, use two gallons of water for every two cups of vinegar.
  • Don’t fill the bucket to the brim to avoid spilling the solution whenever you dip a mop in it. Since this process is rather simple, I recommend filling half the bucket and making more solutions when necessary.

Step 2: Prepare the Floor

Before cleaning, prepare the floor by removing any objects, rugs, or furniture covering the unfinished wood floor. You could also limit access to the room when you’re cleaning.

Step 3: Clean the Surface

Use the broom and scoop to remove surface dirt and dust on the floor. While the vinegar solution can help to eliminate stubborn dirt and stains, remove the dirt using a broom or static dust.

This way, the vinegar cleaning solution can penetrate to the underneath layers.

Step 4: Vacuum the Floor

Removing all the dust and dirt on the floor allows the vinegar to work at depth. So, you’ll want to vacuum the entire floorboard, hovering longer with each stroke.

Step 5: Mop With the Vinegar Cleaning Solution

Dip a mop into the bucket containing the cleaning solution and strain it to get rid of excess liquid. Next, use the wet mop to wipe the unfinished floorboard. While the strainer is optional, it allows you to use less amount of the solution to cover a large area.

Since unfinished wood isn’t polished, the liquid cannot spread across a larger area. Instead, it’ll seep into the surface almost readily.

Step 6: Let the Floor Dry

Unlike detergents, cleaning with vinegar allows you to proceed to the drying stage without rinsing with water.

During this stage, don’t let any object come into contact with the wet floor. Since wet floors attract more dust, footsteps may leave dirt deposits, defeating the purpose of cleaning.

Method 2: Spot-Clean Stains on Unfinished Wood Floors

While vinegar is great for cleaning the entire floor surface, you require more potent agents when cleaning stains from unfinished wood. In this case, I recommend using trisodium phosphate (TSP).

Still, you could use TSP to clean the entire surface since it doesn’t damage the wood. So here are the steps to spot-clean wood floors using TSP.

Supplies Needed

  • Trisodium Phosphate
  • Soft-bristled scrubbing brush
  • Microfiber cloth

Step by step procedure

Step 1: Prepare the TSP Cleaning Solution 

You could skip this step if you’re using a TSP cleaning liquid. But trisodium phosphate typically comes in its powder form. So, you must dissolve it in water, preferably hot water. When mixing, use 2 gallons of water for every half a cup of TSP.

Besides allowing you to dissolve more TSP, hot water evaporates quickly upon application, so you won’t have to deal with excess water on your unfinished floor.

Step 2: Prepare the Floor

This step is optional if you’re spot-cleaning the floor. However, remove all objects covering the unfinished wood if you’re using the TSP cleaning solution to deep clean the entire floor. Also, limit access to the room to avoid interference while you’re cleaning.

Step 3: Apply the TSP Cleaner

Unlike vinegar, you needn’t have to dry-mop, broom, or vacuum the floor before applying the TSP cleaner.

  • For small stains, use a teaspoon and toothbrush to apply and gently scrub out the stain.
  • For large stains, apply the TSP solution using a sponge and scrub gently with a shoe brush.
  • To clean the entire floorboard, use a mop. Remember to strain the excess liquid before wiping the wet mop on the floor.

Step 4: Dry the Floor

While trisodium phosphate doesn’t affect wood adversely, excess water can warp the unfinished floors. So you want to dry the surface immediately using an absorbent towel.

When cleaning the entire surface, break after every ten minutes of using the damp mop and dry the covered area with a fresh, dry towel.

Typically, if you’re cleaning a large area, the moisture will seep into the surface before you finish. In this case, drying afterward won’t help to protect the floor.

Method 3: Cleaning Unfinished Wood Floors With Mineral Spirits

Using mineral spirits such as the Klean Strip is an effective way to clean unsealed wood floors. However, I recommend it less since mineral spirits produce toxic fumes.

In addition, inhaling the fumes could have adverse effects on your health. So, before proceeding with this procedure, ensure that you access a respirator and adequate ventilation.

Supplies Needed

  • Mineral spirits
  • A non-abrasive, clean non-colored cloth
  • Protective gear (gloves, eye protection, mask/respirator,

Step by step procedure

Step 1: Prepare for your working area

Before using mineral spirits, you’ll want to open all the windows and doors to facilitate adequate ventilation. Moreover, wear a respirator to protect you from inhaling the fumes.

Step 2: Apply the cleaner

Often, mineral spirits come in spray bottles. Once you have the right working conditions, spray the spirits directly on the stain and rub them using a smooth cloth.

Continue rubbing the spirit until the stain loses hold. Mineral spirits are high-impact and effective. So, you don’t need to use bristle brushes or coarse rags to remove the stains. Doing so could damage the wood.

Step 3: Remove the excess cleaner (if any)

If excess cleaner remains on the floor, use a dry absorbent cloth to absorb it. Afterward, let the surface air dry.

Method 4: Cleaning Unfinished Wood Floors With Murphy’s Oil Soap and Water

Murphy’s oil is a mild oil-based cleaner that helps to restore some oil in unfinished wood floors. Here’s how to clean unfinished hardwood floors using water Murphy’s oil soap.

Supplies needed

  • Murphy’s oil Soap
  • Mop

Step by step procedure

  • Murphy’s oil formula makes floor cleaning a snap. To use it, squirt the liquid from the bottle to the target surface and wipe with a wet mop. If you’re in a hurry, use Murphy’s oil to remove tracked-in dirt or clean up spills.
  • But if you have all the time you need, use it for thorough cleaning- working on one section at a time. In this case, apply the cleaner on the unfinished wood floor and mop. 
  • Continue alternating between applying the product and mopping until you make it across the entire floor. Unlike other cleaning agents, you needn’t have to dilute Murphy’s oil soap.

How to Make Unfinished Wood Floors Shine?

Treat it with oil

You can use natural oils such as jojoba and linseed to add a natural shine to your wood floor . What’s more, the oils help to loosen up dirt and grime.

Use a microfiber cloth or soft rag to apply the oil on the floor, and spare 15 minutes for it to set. Then, buff the oil with a dry mop and remove the remaining dirt and grime.

Apply wax

  1. Use a petroleum-based, waterless wax to make your unfinished wood floor pop.
  2. Apply the wax using a soft rug and let it dry for about 30 minutes.
  3. Buff it using a clean cloth.
  4. Use a buffing machine to save time.

Bonus Methods:

  • Prepare your natural wood shiner: Mix a shine-inducing ingredient that doesn’t harm untreated wood with hot water. To create the cleaning solution, pour a quarter cup of olive oil into a small bucket and add 1/3 of a cup of white vinegar. Stir the liquid using a spoon.
  • Dilute the wood shiner: The shiner is concentrated and can form stains at this stage. So, you’ll want to dilute it in five cups of hot water. Hot water evaporates quickly. You could scale the ratio up depending on the size of the floor you’re polishing.
  • Mop the floor with diluted shiner:
    • Pour the diluted shiner into a bucket and use a mop to polish the floor.
    • Work in a circular motion, applying several layers over each area.
    • Work on that area until you achieve the desired shine.
    • Cover the entire floorboard, working with caution to avoid slipping.
  • Clean the excess shine: Apply this step only if you notice the floor slippery after cleaning. Use a dry rag or mop to remove the excess oil.

Best Ways to Clean Unsealed Hardwood Floors Based on Types

1. Bamboo

While bamboo is a good flooring material, I don’t recommend installing it in areas experiencing high humidity. You can use a mop and wood cleaner with a neutral PH to clean your bamboo wood floor. Clean the floor at least once a week.

2. Maple

Maple flooring features a subtle grain pattern, making it a popular wood choice for floors. This pattern enhances the beauty of smaller rooms as well as large ones. When cleaning maple wood floors, steer clear of all-purpose chemical cleaning products.

Instead, use a cleaning agent that your flooring manufacturer recommends. Sometimes, floor makers have their cleaning products.

3. Walnut

It’s one of the most durable woods, making it a good flooring option for homes full of pets or kids. Also, it features different tones, allowing immense versatility and elegance in the room.

To clean the walnut wood floor, I recommend using Bona. This is a safe cleaning agent that doesn’t harm unfinished wood. Apply Bona on the floor and get rid of excess moisture on the floor.

4. Rosewood

While Rosewood has dominated the furniture industry, it’s gaining more popularity as a flooring option. In addition to having a unique grain pattern, Rosewood exists in various shades, including purple and yellow.

Use a feather duster and a suitable cleaning agent to clean your rosewood floor. Feather dusters are gentle and won’t scratch the floor.

Things to Keep in Mind When Cleaning Unfinished Wood Floors

While each cleaning procedure features unique instructions and precautions, the following applies to all cleaning methods.

  • Use a damp cloth- Use damp clothes made from delicate fabric instead of wet ones. Excess water can easily damage unfinished wood.
  • Avoid wet-mopping- If you’re cleaning a large area, I recommend using a moist microfiber mop. Spray some water to mist your floor, and wipe it clean using the moist microfiber mop. Regular mops can save water on the floor. So, avoid wet mopping.
  • Lightly sand the stained area- when dealing with stubborn stains, you might want to sand the floor lightly. While sanding is suitable for removing stains, consider using it as a last resort.
  • Avoid floor soaking- If you need to remove deep stains, you may resort to wet moping. However, don’t soak the entire wood flooring at once. Consider working on the particular area with the stain.
  • Use the right wood care product- opt for cleaning solutions suitable for untreated floors. With myriad cleaning options saturating the market, you could easily settle for the wrong one. So, you’ll want to settle for brands with a proven track record to avoid staining your floor.
  • Dilute the mixture using hot water- You can achieve a concentrated solution with hot water. Similarly, warm water evaporates quickly; hence the wood absorbs minimal water.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner whenever possible- Since untreated wood isn’t compatible with most liquids, avoid using detergent where a vacuum cleaner could work. Vacuuming is a preferable alternative to remove stains and deep dirt.
  • Follow a low-impact method to make the deep cleaning process seamless. For instance, opt for vinegar to clean the floor instead of TSP or mineral spirits.
  • Always test the cleaning solution- Before applying it on the wood floor, consider testing it on a mock surface and observe its impact. The mock surface could be a less visible area.

How to Protect and Maintain Unfinished Wood Floors

  • Sweep and vacuum often- Mopping or deep cleaning an untreated wood floor could damage them over time. So, to get rid of dirt and dust, use a method that doesn’t wet the floor. For instance, you could sweep or vacuum the area daily for high-traffic locations. For low-traffic areas, clean it once or twice a week.
  • Use furniture pads- Moving furniture tends to scratch wood floorings, damaging them. So, use a furniture pad to limit the damage whenever you move the furniture across the floor.
  • Use door mats- Doormats absorb dirt and dust, keeping your wood floor cleaner for longer. They also trap soil and debris from shoes. Place the doormats in all entrances as well as high-traffic areas.
  • Clean up spills- Never leave sticky or wet spills on your wooden floor. Wipe the spills immediately using a damp rag and allow the area to dry.
  • Resort to spot-cleaning- I recommend spot cleaning instead of deep cleaning to protect your floor. It keeps the wood cleaner, eliminating the need for mopping.
  • Take rugs out regularly- You should take the rugs out often for cleaning. You should also dry them regularly whenever they get too wet.
  • Reposition the rugs- Move the rugs around different positions on your floor. Maintaining rags in the same position could result in color differences.
  • Mind the humidity- Solid hardwood floors might shrink in the presence of moisture, leaving gaps between the boards. So, use a dehumidifier to control the humidity in the house.
  • Trim your dog’s nails- Pets, particularly large dogs, can scratch the floor when walking on them. Trimming their nails will prevent damage whenever they run and jump around.
  • Avoid wearing shoes in the house- Avoid walking with shoes in the house. This way, you are less likely to introduce dirt to the floor.
  • Clean the floor before moving furniture- Rearranging furniture helps break your home’s monotony. Yet, moving the furniture around may damage your wooden floor. So, consider cleaning the floor to prevent scratches and dents caused by the grit trapped underneath your furniture.

FAQs

What Is The Best Way To Clean An Unfinished Wood Floor?

Use a damp microfiber cloth and natural cleaner. First, sweep or vacuum the floor’s surface to remove dust or debris. Next, mix water and the cleaner in a bucket, dip the microfibre cloth and wring it out, so it’s damp. Next, wipe the floor with the cloth, using circular motions, until it’s clean.

Can You Use Murphy’s Oil Soap On Unfinished Wood Floors?

Yes, you can use Murphy’s oil soap on unfinished wood floors. It’s perfect whether it’s only on a portion or the entire floor surface. The soap is also a popular choice among homeowners because it leaves a nice, protective finish that prevents the accumulation of dirt. Many homeowners recommend it for use on hardwood.

How To Clean Untreated Wood Floors

You can use a mop and cleaning agent like vinegar to clean untreated wood floors. However, pure water is unsafe as it will cause the wood to swell and damage. Also, make sure the cloth is damp and not dripping wet. Clean in circular motions and finish up by drying before moving to the next.

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How To Clean Unfinished Wood Floors Before Staining?

Sweep or vacuum the floor before staining unfinished wood floors. You can also mop the floor with a damp rag soaked and wrung in natural cleaner. These actions will remove any dirt or debris that could prevent the stain from adhering evenly to the wood. Finally, let the floor dry completely before staining.

Can You Use Wood Cleaner On Unfinished Wood?

No, you should not use wood cleaner on unfinished hardwood floors. This is because unfinished hardwood has no sealant on the surface; at the same time, it’s porous and sensitive, so the liquid may soak in the wood and make it warp. Instead, use a damp cloth with a natural cleaner to keep it clean.

Can You Mop Unfinished Hardwood Floor?

Yes, you can mop unfinished hardwood floor. However, it’s advisable to mop the surface less often. Remember also, cleaning unfinished surface involves more than just mopping or wiping it like any other surface. It is open and sensitive, so you must be keen to prevent moisture from damaging it.

Conclusion

Unfinished wood floors come with all the susceptibilities of untreated wood. Therefore, you’ll want to perform adequate care and maintenance to lengthen your floor’s lifespan.

While you may treat the floor by adding a finish, learning how to clean an unfinished wood floor is less costly.

If you’ve used any of our methods above, leave a comment telling us how your project went and what you’d do differently next time.