If you have a hardwood floor in your home, it is important to know if the surface is sealed or unsealed. This will help you make the right choice regarding the best method of cleaning, as well as proper care and maintenance.
Floors that are sealed have a treated surface with synthetic resins such as urethane or polyurethane.
The surface sealants either cover the surface or penetrate into wood to form a protective barrier. Water-based, oil-based, and hard wax are the common types of wood sealants used.
Sealed hardwood floors are considered finished. The sealant usually protects the wood against moisture, humidity, scratches, and daily wear and tear.
Unsealed hardwood floors do not have a protective coating and thus are vulnerable to environmental conditions.
Unlike modern homes that have finished hardwood floors, many older homes have unsealed hardwood floors. These require great care to remain beautiful and last long. This care mainly involves protecting the floor from any contact with water.
Finished hardwood floors with damaged seals, scratches, dents, marks, and openings can also allow moisture to penetrate into the wood and damage it. They also require attention, especially when dealing with water or liquids.
Water, moisture, or any liquid has detrimental effects on unfinished or hardwood floor with a broken seal. When exposed, the wood absorbs water or solutions and begins to warp or stain.
Mopping unsealed hardwood floors with water or liquid cleaners is highly discouraged. Therefore, it is important to determine if your hardwood floor is sealed or unsealed before cleaning.
How Do I know if Hardwood Floors are Sealed?
There are various ways to tell if your hardwood is properly sealed or not.
- Place a few drops of water on a hidden area of your floor and watch. If it bead up (sits there) it implies that the surface is sealed (properly finished). If it gets absorbed then the floor is not sealed or the seal is damaged.
- Take some fine steel wool and rub a small hidden area of your floor. If the floor is sealed with wax, you will see a grey film on the steel wool.
- Contact a professional wood floor expert or the installation company and they will fill you in on your hardwood floor.
Generally, before trying out a new cleaning technique or product, try it out in a small hidden area where not everyone can see.
If all goes well, then you can use it on your entire floor comfortably. But be sure to follow the manufacturer’s advice.
How Do You Clean Unsealed Hardwood Floors?
Dusting is a common cleaning method used in most homes. It is the safest as long as you are using the right device.
Brooms with soft bristles or microfiber dust mops are the best to use for dusting both sealed and the unsealed hardwood floors.
Soft bristles are gentle on the surface and won't scratch your floor. Sweeping or dusting should be done on a regular basis.
This removes dirt, debris, and hair, thus adding life to your floor.
Using a suitable vacuum for a hardwood floor on a weekly basis can keep your unsealed hardwood floors sparkling.
However, you should be mindful as to how you use your vacuum to avoid scratching your floor.
Do not use a vacuum with a beater bar, which can damage your floor. A canister vacuum with a hardwood attachment is the best.
Dirt, oil, and grime will still form a residue on the surface, even after regular sweeping or vacuuming.
You can use a dry to damp mop and a natural cleaner to clean your unsealed hardwood floor with care. Ensure there is no moisture film or excess water left standing on the surface.
Completely wring out the mop or cloth you are using to mop and immediately follow with a dry towel to remove any moisture.
- Sweep your floor to remove debris and dirt particles.
- Fill a bucket with one gallon of warm water and add ¼ cup of white vinegar and mix.
- Submerge a mop or a cloth into the solution and completely wring it out to get rid of excess solution.
- With your dry-damp mop, start mopping from the far end of the room as you move towards the entrance.
- Immediately follow with a dry towel to ensure that no film of water or moisture is left behind.
- Let the floor dry completely before walking in.
White vinegar is a natural cleaner that is tough on dirt and odor. The solution does not contain harsh ingredients that can dull your floor.
Do not use commercial liquid cleaners such as Swiffer Wet Jet or Murphy Oil Soap that can penetrate into the wood or leave a sticky dull residue.
How to Shine Unsealed Wood Floors
If you don’t intend to seal or refinish your hardwood floor in the future, you can treat it with oil or wax to make it shiny and also remove a residue layer of dirt and grime.
- Treating with oil: Use a soft rag to apply a natural oil such as linseed or jojoba on the floor and let it stay for 15 minutes. Use a dry mop to buff the oil on the surface and remove any dirt and grime.
- Waxing: Use a soft rag and apply a petroleum based, waterless wax on your floor. Let the wax dry for half an hour and buff it using a clean cloth. If the area is large, you may want to use a buffing machine to save on time.
Note: Any future sealing or coating will not adhere to a hardwood that has been waxed or oil treated.
Therefore, use this method only if you have no plan for future coating or refinishing.
Tips for Caring for and Maintaining Unsealed Hardwood
- Protect the floor with area rugs and runners in areas with high traffic.
- Place mats at entrance to avoid carrying in soils under your soles.
- Immediately mop any spills of water or liquids.
- Do not use a steam cleaner on unsealed wood floor.
- Sweep regularly to remove dirt particles that can scratch and sand the wood.
Unsealed hardwood floors are highly vulnerable.
It is good to have them sealed or refinished as a way of protecting them.
But if you choose to keep them unsealed, ensure you take proper care of them to retain their aesthetic value, beauty and durability.