how to clean unfinished wood floors

How to Clean Unfinished Wood Floors and Care for Them

Unfinished wood floors are common in old houses for obvious reasons. To start with, there were no numerous finish options to choose from.  Secondly, it was the trend back then. Today, although not a common trend, lovers of the natural touch of wood still find themselves inclined to this choice.

Undoubtedly, it has much to offer in terms of feel and appearance, but these benefits are not without challenges. Of all hardwood floors, unfinished wood is the most difficult to clean and maintain.

The challenges of Unfinished Wooden Floors

Since the floor is left unsanded and bare, spills from food, beverages and water can have serious and long lasting negative implications.

Firstly, wood is porous material that quickly absorbs substances. Even though the degree of porosity might vary with the type of wood, this is a challenge that all wooden floors owners have to deal with.

Unlike sealed wooden floors, unfinished floors are more prone to soaking moisture because they lack coatings that act as barriers. Further, spillages from large amounts of water or fluids penetrate quickly into the subfloor through the open seams. Ultimately, this leads to darkening along the seams, and warping issues.

Secondly, wooden floors develop scratches easily. Scratches can result from pets, pulling of heaving objects, use of high heeled shoes in the house, among other every day activities that go unnoticed, or just normal wear and tear.

Whatsoever the case, scratches are not beautiful to look at, and they can make your floor appear older than it really is. It is also not uncommon for dirt and grime to stick into the scratches and cause discoloration.

Lastly, unfished wooden floors are unfriendly to detergents and products used to clean finished hardwood floors.

How to Clean Unfinished Wood Floors and Care for Them

 Depending on your information sources, there are multiple methods for cleaning unfinished wooden floors. Below are some of the most practical and effective. But before that, begin by sweeping and vacuuming your floor before proceeding with any other cleaning procedure.


Sweeping as regularly as everyday keeps your floor looking neat and reduces the incidences of scratching. Dirt that requires regular sweeping can be a common problem especially for people with kids and pets.

Depending on how heavy your traffic is, you obviously have to deal with grit from the outside. Adults, kids and pets all can play a big part in bringing this kind of dirt into the house. The challenge is more pronounced if using shoes in the house is the norm.

Although sweeping helps, the best way to deal with this kind of a problem is to leave shoes at the door, or wear indoor shoes, right at the door. A second remedy is to place doormats at all entry points of the house.

Sweeping also helps remove debris from food particles and other forms of waste. As long as your house is in use, there will be refuse to be cleaned. Some parts like the dining area and kitchen might be dirtier as compared to the rest of the flooring. This creates the need for using area rugs and other types of floor coverings strategically.


Vacuuming is more like sweeping to some extent. Even so, the former captures more dirt, and it is also the way to go for fine dust particles. Vacuum bare hardwood floors every day. If possible, vacuum several times a day if the level of activity in your house is high.

When vacuuming your floors, the most important thing to consider is the type of vacuum. In our detailed buying guide, we offer advice on how to choose a good vacuum depending on the kind of floor that you intend to clean.

In general, sweeping and vacuuming are the only suitable methods for cleaning unfinished wooden floors. If you have to proceed with damp moping or any other cleaning procedure, do it every once in a few months. Cleaning methods that bring your floor into contact with moisture or other cleaning products can quickly lead discoloration, staining and warping.

Water and Vinegar

Although it is common knowledge that water and other liquids are not good for your floor, this method is a firm favorite for many because you do not need to soak your floor with the solution.

Before proceeding with the cleaning, the first step is to prepare the solution. Mix a ¼ cup of vinegar or slightly more with a gallon of water.

Next, whether using a rag or a mop, ensure that it is not soaked with water. Dip it into the solution and wring out excess liquid. The goal is not to wet clean but damp mop your floor.

You might need a steel wool or powdered pumice to scour stained sections.

Go over the floor with the mop. Dip the mop into the cleaning solution as regularly as need be and wring it thoroughly every time. This helps remove as much dirt as possible from the floor.

Water and Mild Soap

A solution of water and mild soap works in the same way as the water and vinegar solution. Preferably, use liquid soap because it is easier to measure and mix with water.

Mix a ¼ cup of liquid soap with water and damp mop the entire floor.

Scrub stained sections with a steel wool, pumice powder or clean beach sand and go over the sections with a damp mop or rag.

Water and Tri-sodium Phosphate

This is one of the oldest methods for cleaning unfinished wooden floors. Besides cleaning well like the above solutions, the State of Washington notes that it has the added advantage of removing greasy dirt more effectively.

Firstly, prepare a cleaning solution by mixing a ½ ounce of tri-sodium phosphate with a gallon of warm water. Remember to handle tri-phosphate sodium powder with care because it is considered hazardous especially for the kidneys.

Proceed to the actual cleaning by using a mop with a bucket that has a strainer. Dip the mop into the solution and strain out excess liquid. Damp mot the entire floor.

Just like with the other methods, scrub stains with clean beach sand, pumice powder or a steel wool and finish up by damp moping the section. Tri-sodium phosphate powder can as well clean stains effectively. Even so, it is best to use the alternative methods if you do not have gloves and other protective gear.

Additional Cleaning Methods

The government of Canada through the Canadian Conservation Institute provides a list of methods that can be useful for cleaning unfinished wooden floors. Among them is the use of a chemical sponge, the use of adhesive rubber and erasers.

Chemical or soot sponges are rubber sponges that pick dirt from surfaces. They come treated with small amounts of detergent to increase their effectiveness. Simply work with small sections by pressing the soot sponge onto the surface so that it can pick dirt and debris. Cut off the surface of the sponge when it becomes dirty and work with the newly reveled clean surface.

Erasers are substances that are worked into the surface using a cotton wool. They are worked gently and begin to change in color after absorbing dirt. After cleaning, you can use a soft brush to remove them from the floor. A vacuum cleaner nozzle with a mesh is also a great option for picking an eraser.

Adhesive rubber is a sticky natural rubber product that attracts dirt. Since it is kneadable, you press it and roll it on to the surface and dirt sticks around it. The rubber changes in color as it absorbs dirt but you can cut or knead it to reveal cleaner sections. Cleaning with rubber is high efficient but time consuming.

Leave a Reply