Unfinished wood floors lend a rustic charm to your home, but they can be challenging to clean. Since they don’t have a protective coating or sealant, you’ll need to sweep them regularly with a soft cloth, choose your cleaning products carefully, and use water sparingly to avoid damaging the wood.
In this article, we’ll explain the difference between finished and unfinished wood floors. We’ll also give you the lowdown on how to clean them without damaging them.
If you’re unsure if you have unfinished wood floors, you can test your flooring by dripping a small amount of water onto it. If it beads up, your floors are finished. If it soaks into the floor instead, you have unfinished floors.
Unfinished Vs. Finished Wood Floors: What’s The Difference?
Unfinished wood floors, also known as raw wood floors, have wooden planks that haven’t been sanded, stained, or sealed. T
hese floors will have an antiques look over time, complete with the stains and imperfections of everyday life. They will give your home the rustic look and feel of floors that were placed before builders had access to the stains and sealants available today.
On the other hand, finished wood floors can either be prefinished or site-finished. If you buy prefinished wood planks, you’ll only need to set them by clicking or nailing them into place.
There’s significantly less work and mess involved than with site-finished flooring, and you can walk on them immediately after installation.
Site-finished wood flooring is what most people think of when they consider putting hardwood floors in their homes. You purchase the unfinished wood planks and put them in place, then sand, stain, and seal them.
Though there’s more work involved, there are also a lot more options available to help them match the rest of your home’s decor precisely.
How To Clean Unfinished Wood Floors
Now that you understand the differences between finished and unfinished wood floors, let’s take a look at the best ways to clean your unfinished floors.
1. Prepare Your Floor
Remove all furniture and area rugs to prepare your floors for mopping. You should also block off access to the room you plan to clean first, so no one walks on the floor before it’s dry.
2. Sweep or Vacuum
When you have unfinished wood floors, dry sweeping or vacuuming your floor every day is essential to increase the longevity of the wood.
Dry sweeping with a microfiber cloth is the safest way to remove debris from these floors, but if you need to use a vacuum, keep the roller bar off. Using the roller bar or a stiff bristled broom can leave scratches on your floor.
3. Mix Up A Vinegar Solution
Unfinished wood floors are too delicate for most commercial cleaners and will really benefit from being cleaned with a vinegar solution.
The slight acidity in the vinegar will remove dirt and oil without ruining the wood. To make the solution, fill a bucket with a gallon of warm water and add a cup of vinegar.
Stir this solution to thoroughly distribute the vinegar throughout, then put the solution into a spray bottle to apply it to your floor.
4. Use A Damp Microfiber Mop
When you clean unfinished wood floors, using as little water as possible is essential. Unfinished wood is porous, so excess water can seep into the cracks and crevices in the surface and make it expand. If the wood expands too much, it can crack and split.
Since this type of flooring is so delicate, you should use a microfiber mop when you clean your floors to avoid getting them too wet.
Spray your vinegar solution on a 2-foot section of your floor, then go over the area with your mop. Continue this process until the entire room is clean.
If you notice that your mop head is too dirty to keep cleaning, replace it to avoid leaving streaks on the floor.
5. Dry the Floor
If you’ve used a damp mop rather than a wet one and you’re not pressed for time, you can allow your floors to air dry naturally.
If you’ve used a fair amount of liquid, you may want to use a dry microfiber cloth to speed up the process and avoid damage to your floors. If you have a ceiling fan, you can also turn that on to reduce drying time.
How To Remove Stains From Unfinished Wood Floors
Removing stains from unfinished wood floors is difficult, if not impossible. If you’re concerned about how your floors will look if they become stained, you should probably stain and seal them to protect them.
Nevertheless, sometimes accidents occur no matter how careful we are. Here are some of the best ways to try to remove stains from your unfinished floors.
- Mineral spirits: If you stain your unfinished wood floor, you can try to remove it with mineral spirits. Just apply a bit of mineral spirits to a clean rag and rub it on the stain. Allow it to soak for a few minutes, then wipe it off with a fresh rag. Be sure to wear gloves when using mineral spirits, as it can cause skin irritation.
- Hydrogen peroxide: You can use hydrogen peroxide to remove stains using the same cleaning method as mineral spirits. Apply the peroxide to a clean rag and blot the stain with it. When the stain is gone, use a fresh rag to absorb the remaining liquid (you can also use this for carpets).
- TSP (Tri-Sodium Phosphate): TSP comes in both powdered and liquid forms. One is no better than the other, but I prefer to use the liquid for simplicity. All you need to do is dip a clean cloth in the liquid TSP and dab it on the stain. If the stain is stubborn, you may need to rub in the TSP and let it soak for a bit. When you’re satisfied that the stain is gone or you’ve decided this method isn’t going to work for you, just wipe the TSP off with a clean, damp cloth.
- Fine-grit sandpaper: If you’ve tried other cleaning solutions, but they just don’t remove the stain, you can lightly sand the area with fine-grit sandpaper. Use light pressure and sand with the grain of the wood. Wipe the dust away often to check your progress, and watch the area closely, so you don’t create a divot in the wood.
How To Make Your Unfinished Wood Floor Shine
Over time, dirt and grime can build up on your unfinished wood floors and leave them looking dull. If a vinegar solution alone doesn’t remove all the dirt, here are a few products you can try to restore the shine.
- Mineral spirits: We’ve talked about using mineral spirits to remove stains from your unfinished floors, so it should be no surprise that the same product can remove stubborn dirt and grime from the entire floor when it needs to be refreshed. All you need to do is soak a clean cloth with mineral spirits and wipe down the wood. Rub the wood until no more residue comes off, adding more spirits to your cloth as necessary. If it’s been a while since you’ve deep cleaned your floors, you may need to use 2-3 cloths per room to remove all the stuck-on gunk.
- Linseed oil: Shining your floors with linseed oil is a relatively involved process, but it will leave your unfinished wood looking shiny and offers a bit of protection against stains, so we think it’s worth it if you have the time to do it.
- Sand your floor with 120-grit sandpaper, then use a microfiber cloth to remove the dust.
- Mix the first coat of oil with a citrus solvent to improve penetration.
- Apply the first coat with a clean cloth, brush, or roller and allow it to dry for 10-15 minutes.
- Wipe the surface to remove excess oil. This will keep your floor from getting sticky.
- Wait for 12-24 hours as directed on the bottle of oil you’re using, then apply a second coat. Wait the same amount of time and apply a third coat.
- For a softer finish, you can sand your floor with 600 or 800-grit sandpaper 24 hours after applying your final coat of oil.
- For best results, repeat this process twice a year.
Tips To Protect Your Unfinished Wooden Floors
Getting your unfinished wood floors clean and shiny is quite the process, so you should try to protect your flooring as much as possible.
Here are a few ways to cut down on dirt, stains, and scratches.
- Learn what to avoid: Unfinished wood floors are more delicate than sealed hardwood floors. To keep them looking their best, you should avoid using any kind of abrasive tools to clean the floors. Some of these tools include stiff bristled brooms and brushes and steel wool. You should also make sure you only use cleaning products specially formulated for unfinished wood and use as little liquid as possible to avoid damaging your floors.
- Be consistent: The best way to keep your floors looking great is to get into a daily, weekly, and annual cleaning routine. Dry sweep or vacuum floors daily to remove large pieces of dirt and debris. Use a damp mop and vinegar solution weekly to remove most of the grime and residue from your floor. Once or twice per year, use mineral spirits or linseed oil to make your unfinished wood floors shine like new.
- Use the right mop: Using too much water on unfinished wood floors can cause the planks to swell and crack. As such, using a flat microfiber mop and a spray-on cleaning solution is vital to maintain the look and integrity of your floor.
- Clean spills immediately: Since there are no protective sealants on unfinished wood floors, you should clean up any spills as soon as they happen to avoid staining.
- Use door mats and area rugs: You should keep a mat at each door to avoid bringing dirt in on your shoes. Place area rugs in high-traffic areas like the living room or hallway to avoid wear and tear on your floor.
- Remove shoes: Unfinished wood floors are delicate, and removing your shoes when you enter your home will go a long way in protecting them from scratches from pebbles that may get stuck in the tread. It will also allow you to go longer between wet cleanings if you’re not dragging dirt from outside all around your home.
- Use furniture pads: To avoid scratching your floors, you should apply furniture pads to the feet of your chairs and sofas. If you plan to rearrange your furniture, invest in moving pads to keep from gouging your unfinished wood in the process.
Unfinished wood floors can lend a rustic, antique look to your home that you can’t get with any other type of flooring.
Since there’s no stain or sealant on these floors to protect them, they can be harder to maintain than finished wood floors. Be sure to sweep them with a microfiber dust mop or vacuum every day to keep them free from debris that could damage them.
When it’s time to clean your unfinished wood floors, spray them with a vinegar solution and go over them with a damp microfiber mop. Avoid using a lot of water when you mop because it can make the wood swell and crack, and be sure to clean spills right away to avoid permanent stains.
To increase the longevity of your unfinished wood floors, you can protect them by using area rugs in heavy traffic areas and using furniture pads when you redecorate your home.