Unfinished wood floors have a unique charm because they are as natural as flooring can get. The wood is not sealed with wax or any other finishing. But natural untreated wood can be damaged by most detergents, so one must be very cautious with how they choose to clean their floors.

To clean unfinished wood floors, you will need to dilute a cup of vinegar in one gallon of water, dip a mop in the diluted vinegar, and mop the floor while drying off excess water. To spot-clean any stains, you can use trisodium phosphate.

There are three prominent ways to clean unfinished wood floors, and this article covers all of them. In detail, you will learn how to use vinegar, trisodium phosphate, and mineral spirits to clean your floors. Furthermore, you will learn about how you can shine unfinished wood floors and how to maintain them.

Method #1: Clean Unfinished Floors With Vinegar

One reason many homeowners opt for unfinished wood floors is to preserve a natural look. and what better way to clean natural wood if not a natural cleaning solution. Vinegar is effective at combating deep-seated dirt that is wedged in the creases and crevices of the plants. It also keeps mold spores and mildew from harming unfinished wood. Follow the steps below to clean your unfinished wood floors with vinegar.

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Prepare the Cleaning Solution

This is a crucial step in the cleaning process as a solution too diluted will not be effective enough to deep clean the floor, and while vinegar isn’t toxic, a very concentrated solution can leave behind an unpleasant odor. Follow these steps below:

  1. Pour one cup of vinegar into an empty bucket (make sure the bucket is free of dirt or dust).
  2. Add one gallon of water and mix well. You can scale the solution as long as you keep the ratio. So you can have two, three, or four cups of vinegar as long as you match with two, three, or four gallons of water, respectively.
  3. Do not fill the bucket to its rim as it will spill every time you dip a mop in it. Since this step takes less than a minute, it is advisable just to make enough to fill half the bucket and make more cleaning solution if it runs out.

Prepare the Floor

Before you start cleaning, you need to prepare the floor by removing any furniture, objects, or rugs covering the unfinished wood. It is also advisable to block out the room so no one can come in and leave fresh footsteps while you are cleaning.

Clean the Surface

Dry-mop the floor and make sure it is free of dust and surface-dirt. While the vinegar cleaning solution will help clean most of the dirt and stains on your floor, it is ideal to remove the surface layers with a broom or a dry mop first to allow the vinegar solution to impact the layers underneath.

Vacuum the Floor

While this step is not obligatory, it is highly advisable as it reduces how often you have to deep clean. When you use a vacuum cleaner to remove the remainder of dust on the floor, you allow the vinegar to work its magic at depth. So vacuum the floor from end to end and hover longer with each stroke.

Mop With the Vinegar Cleaning Solution

The solution made in the first step is required here. Dip a mop into the bucket and then use a strainer to get rid of excess liquid. Use the wet mop to cover the surface. It is worth noting that a strainer is unnecessary but will help you use less of the solution to clean a larger area.

Since unfinished wood is not polished, the liquid cannot be spread across a large area as it seeps into the surface too quickly. Therefore, you should strain the excess liquid into the bucket and use it as little as possible on each application.

Let the Floor Dry

While detergents can stain a floor and require an extra step of cleaning with water, you can move forward with the drying stage right after cleaning with the vinegar cleaning method. At this stage, you just have to make sure not to place any furniture over the floor or let anyone step on the floor while it is wet.

As you know, liquids can be very conducive to dust, and having footsteps leave dirt deposits at this stage defeats the purpose of cleaning.

Method #2: Spot-Clean Stains on Unfinished Wood Floors

Often, people searching for ways to clean wood floors have a certain spot in mind. While cleaning with vinegar is a great, healthy way of cleaning the entire floor, you should use a much more potent cleaning solution for stains. For this, we recommend trisodium phosphate (TSP) like the Sunnyside TSP. It is also possible to use TSP over the entire floor (it does not harm wood). Follow the steps below to spot-clean your wood floors using TSP.

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Prepare the TSP Cleaning Solution

If you are using a trisodium phosphate cleaning liquid, then you can skip this step. But TSP usually comes in its powder form. You must dissolve half a cup of TSP in2 gallons of preferably hot water. With hot water, you can dissolve more TSP and make sure the water evaporates quicker upon application. You do not want excess water on your unfinished floors.

Prepare the Floor

If you are spot cleaning a stain, you can skip this step. If you are using the TSP cleaner to deep clean your entire floor, you should make sure all the objects covering the unfinished wood are properly removed and that no one can walk while you are cleaning.

Apply the TSP Cleaner

While the vinegar cleaning method requires dry-mopping, brooming, and vacuuming before application, those steps are entirely optional with trisodium phosphate as it is a heavy-duty cleaner. It can combat the stains regardless of whether there is dust or not.

  • For smaller stain spots, use a teaspoon to apply the liquid and a toothbrush to scrub out the stain.
  • You must use a shoe polish brush for relatively larger stains to scrub out the stain after applying tsp liquid with a sponge.
  • If you arecleaning the entire floor with no specific stains to address, use a mop. When using a mop, you will need to strain the excess liquid before using the wet mop to clean the floor.

Dry the Floor

This step is necessary because while trisodium phosphate does not affect your floors adversely, excess waters can warp and destroy unfinished wood. After spot cleaning the stain, use an absorbent towel to dry the surface immediately.

When cleaning the entire floor with TSP, pause after every ten minutes of using the wet mop and use a fresh dry towel to dry the area you have covered. That is because if you are cleaning a large enough area, chances are the moisture has seeped into the wood before you have finished cleaning. If that is the case, drying does not help protect the floor.

Method #3: Cleaning Unfinished Wood Floors With Mineral Spirits

Cleaning unfinished floors with mineral spirits like Klean Strip can be very effective. However, it is not the preferred method of cleaning because of the spirits’ toxicity. The spirits, when inhaled, can pose a serious health risk. Do not use this method if you do not have a respirator and adequate ventilation. If you do, then follow the steps below.

  1. Prepare for Mineral spirits use. Open all the doors and windows so there is adequate ventilation. Wear a respirator to keep yourself from inhaling the spirits.
  2. Apply the cleaner. Mineral spirits often come in spray bottles. At this stage, you spray the spirits on the stain and use a smooth cloth to rub the spirits until the stain has lost hold. Because the spirits are high-impact, you do not want to use coarse rags or bristle brushes to rub the stains as you may damage the wood.
  3. Remove the excess cleaner (if any). If there is any cleaner left on the floor, use a dry absorbent cloth to absorb the excess. What cannot be absorbed by the cloth should be left to air dry.

How to Protect Unfinished Wood Floors

While unfinished wood floors have the advantage of a natural aesthetic appeal, they require great care. Follow the tips below to maintain your unfinished wood floors’ health and visual appeal.

  • Broom weekly, vacuum bi-weekly. As a rule of thumb, the more often you can get your floor clean without getting it wet, the better it is for the unfinished wood. The most common way homeowners ruin unfinished wood is by getting it wet. The wood gets warped by moisture, and sometimes even molding can occur underneath without the owner noticing.
  • Use doormats. Keeping unfinished wood floors from staining is better than removing stains. Therefore, you should invest in doormats for all entrances to rooms and spaces with unfinished wood floors.
  • Spot clean wherever possible. Never resort to full-floor cleaning with liquids detergents when you can spot clean a stain. Use vacuuming to address the floor in general. This is besides deep cleaning, which you must do on occasion. But generally, it is advisable to avoid getting the floor wet.

Making Unfinished Wood Floors Shine

While unfinished wood floors look more natural than the waxy looks of the alternative options, you may still want to make your floors pop. To make duller floors look more appealing, use the following solution to bring a natural shine to your unfinished wood floors.

  • Make your natural wood shiner. This solution is made by taking shine-inducing ingredients that do not harm untreated wood and combining them in hot water (so it evaporates quicker upon application). Take a quarter cup of olive oil and pour it into a small pot. Add one-third of a cup of white vinegar to the pot. Stir the liquid with a spoon. This is your cleaning solution.
  • Dilute the wood shiner for your hardwood floor. At this stage, the shiner is in a concentrated form and can leave stains. So you should dilute it in five cups of hot water. Use hot water so the excess water can evaporate quicker. It is worth noting that the proportions listed above are a ratio that can be multiplied up or down depending on the area you wish to polish.
  • Mop the floor with the diluted shiner. You should pour the diluted shiner into a bucket and use a mop to start polishing the floor. Use circular motions to apply multiple layers over each area. Do not move to the next area until the place you are covering has the desired shine. Using this strategy, cover the entire floor while staying cautious of the possibility of slipping.
  • Clean the excess shine. This step is only applicable if, after cleaning, you notice that the floor is slippery. Use a dry rag or mop to remove excess oil.

Things to Keep in Mind When Cleaning Unfinished Wood Floors

While each cleaning method has its own precautions and instructions, the following ones apply to all cleaning methods.

  • Use hot water instead of cold water for dilution. Warm water allows you to make a more cleaner-concentrated solution, which leaves behind little water for the wood to absorb.
  • Don’t use detergents for what vacuum cleaners can do. Untreated wood is not conducive to liquids, so aside from removing stains and deep-dirt, a vacuum cleaner is always the preferable alternative.
  • The more often you clean with a low-impact method, the easier your deep-cleaning becomes. If you vacuum, broom, and dry-mop often, you do not have to opt for TSP or mineral spirits and can use vinegar to get the deeper dirt out of your unfinished wood floors.
  • Always test the cleaner. Regardless of the method you are going with, first use the solution on a small, less visible area and observe the cleaner’s impact. Better safe than sorry.

Final Thoughts

Unfinished wood floors come with all the vulnerabilities of natural untreated wood. Therefore, it is advisable to broom and vacuum your floor often so you can rely on vinegar to deep clean the floors instead of resorting to trisodium phosphate or mineral spirits, both of which are excellent at spot-cleaning stubborn stains.

Related: The Pros and Cons of Painted Wood Floors

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