If you have a hardwood floor in your home, it is important to know if the surface is sealed or unsealed or in other words, unfinished wood. This will help you make the right choice regarding the best method of cleaning, as well as proper care and maintenance of your wood floors. In order to clean unfinished wood floors or fix a stained area, you need to double check if they’re sealed or not.
Floors that are sealed have a treated surface with synthetic resins such as urethane or polyurethane.
The surface sealants or an oil stain will 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. You don’t need to use harsh chemicals when you clean unfinished wood.
Sealed hardwood floors are considered finished. The sealant usually protects the wood against moisture, humidity, scratches, and daily wear and tear. This should also act as a barrier when it comes to tough stains forming.
Unsealed hardwood floors do not have a protective coating and thus are vulnerable to environmental conditions. These wood surfaces and untreated floors may have dirt trapped and will need to be properly cleaned before being sealed. So it’s really important to clean unfinished wood floors thoroughly with a clean cloth first and foremost and wipe away any dirt. Let’s dig into how to clean old unfinished wood flooring below.
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. Always mop up any liquid with a dry cloth.
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. Do not use any wet cleaning methods until you know for certain about your wooden floor.
How Do I know if Hardwood Floors are Sealed or if it’s Unfinished Wood?
There are various ways to tell if your hardwood is properly sealed or not.
- Place a few drops of water with a damp cloth on a hidden area of your floor and watch. If it beads 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. These are untreated wood floors.
- 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 an inconspicuous area where not everyone can see just in case it is unfinished wood floors.
If all goes well, then you can use it on your entire floor comfortably without an adverse reaction. But be sure to follow the manufacturer’s advice and only test a small amount.
How Do You Clean Unsealed Hardwood Floors?
Dusting is a common cleaning method used in most homes – even on unfinished floors. 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. A soft bristled brush won’t damage anything whilst cleaning unfinished wood and won’t cause any scratches either.
This removes dirt, debris, and hair, thus adding life to your floor and in those hard to reach areas. You can also use a feather duster to gather other debris and dust too.
Another option to gather up any dust is using adhesive rubber. It can be one of the best things to use on unfinished wood as everything will stick. You can then sweep any excess with a soft bristled brush or a microfiber cloth.
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. Even on finished floors you will want to avoid it being marked but use the dedicated hard floor setting on the vacuum cleaner to assist you with this.
Do not use a vacuum with a beater bar, which can damage your floor. A canister vacuum with a hardwood attachment is the best to keep wood clean. Some vacuums will also come with a soft brush attachment.
Dirt, oil, and grime will still form a residue on the surface, even after regular sweeping or vacuuming. Cleaning unfinished wood is important!
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 lukewarm water left standing on the surface. You can also buy a static dust mop to help gather it up as well.
Completely wring out the microfiber mop or soft cloth you are using to mop and immediately follow with a dry towel to remove any moisture. Make sure you clean up any excess liquid – even on finished wood to prevent any permanent damage.
Vinegar solution cleaning procedure
- Sweep your floor to remove debris and dirt particles well as it can become deeply ingrained.
- For cleaning unfinished wood floors with vinegar, fill a bucket with one gallon of warm water and add ¼ cup of white vinegar and mix. Make sure to wear gloves and eye protection. Alternatively, you could add some of the vinegar solution to a spray bottle and buff the floor this was too.
- 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 and gently scrub when removing stains..
- 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 on the wood.
- 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 Unfinished Wood Floors
- 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 to avoid any stains – preferably with a microfiber cloth.
- Do not use a steam cleaner on unsealed unfinished wood flooring.
- Sweep regularly to remove dirt particles that can scratch and sand the wood.
Conclusion on how to clean old Wood Floors
Unsealed hardwood floors are highly vulnerable and you need to properly know how to clean old unfinished floors.
You also have the option of using mineral spirits for deep clean unfinished, untreated wood. However, if you aren’t fond of these, you could always use trisodium phosphate which is a crystallized powder. You just need to work the chemicals into a stain to protect your flooring.
But if you choose to keep them unsealed, ensure you take proper care of them to retain their aesthetic value, beauty and durability. Don’t leave dust and debris on the untreated wood. Make sure you brush up any mess and you can always use a cloth to remove any excess dirt or stains on the wood. Unfinished wooden floors need to be kept tidy so they look their best!