How To Clean Unfinished Wood Floors

August 25, 2016

Hardwood floors are a natural-looking and modern solution.

This type of flooring is durable and pretty easy to maintain as well as being kid-friendly. It’s great if you have pets, too.

Wooden flooring is a warm and striking way to set off your home décor but stains can be a serious issue. Moisture dropping on to the wood leaves unsightly marks so many people understandably want to know how to clean unfinished wood floors.

The one method that crops up time and again is to use mineral spirits to restore that aged wood to its former glory.

What are mineral spirits?

They are a simple type of solvent used by painters and decorators for cleaning brushes. In the UK they are known as white spirits. Mineral spirits are also widely used in the machinery and manufacturing industries.

Mineral spirits are far safer than turpentine or other petroleum distillates but they can also present danger so take sensible precautions by using gloves, eye protection and a respirator.

So…

How do you go about this task and how do you maintain unfinished wood floors generally?

Preparation

Getting things planned and prepared is key to any successful endeavor.

First, get rid of as much dirt and dust as possible. Either a regular static dust mop or a broom make perfect weapons against grime.

Feel free to use your vacuum cleaner but only if it has a dedicated hardwood floor setting. The last thing you want is unsightly scratches before you even start cleaning.

Next up, once all the dust is history, it’s time to get some supplies together. Here’s what you’ll need…

  • Mineral spirits
  • Eye protection
  • Soft cloths or scrubbing pads
  • Clean white cloths for mopping up
  • Paint mask/respirator
  • Gloves
  • Knee pads (optional)

Safety At All Costs

One of the drawbacks of mineral spirits is that they tend to make you light headed and they are also toxic.

Make absolutely certain that the room is properly ventilated. Open all the windows and turn on any ventilation system you have.

Mineral spirits can cause skin irritation so get yourself some heavy-duty gloves. In the event of any of the liquid contacting your skin, simply wash well with soap and water. At any sign of nausea or dizziness, leave the area immediately.

Knee pads are a good idea as you will be crawling around on the floor.

Take note: mineral spirits are highly flammable. Under no circumstances smoke and keep all naked flames and sparks well away while you are cleaning your floor.

Cleaning The Floor With Mineral Spirits

Once you’ve taken care of the safety side of things and got all your equipment lined up, the actual cleaning is a walk in the park.

One option is to spray the mineral spirits directly onto the floor. Alternatively, dampen your cloth with the liquid.

Rub the white spirit into your wooden floor. You must, of course, check that the cloth or pad you have chosen is not too abrasive.

You should see any stains start to disappear rapidly.

Once you’re done, mop up any excess mineral spirits with a clean cloth.

It’s best to let the area dry naturally while the fumes also escape out of the windows.

Be aware that the used cloths will be doused in a flammable solution. One answer is to pop them inside a metal container – a paint can is ideal – and then top it up with water. You then safely dispose of this at your local hazardous waste facility.

If you intend to keep the cloths then hang them up somewhere to dry. The chemicals will swiftly evaporate. Wash them with some detergent and the danger is gone.

It always pays to be super-safe with solvents.

Is There A Natural Alternative To Cleaning My Wood Floor?

If you dislike the idea of using solvents like mineral spirits, the good news is that you can opt for a more natural solution.

Cleaning with vinegar is one of the safest and most cost-effective methods of cleaning.

You must always dilute vinegar when cleaning wooden floors.

What are some of the advantages of using vinegar?

  • It’s very cheap
  • Vinegar is anti-bacterial
  • Although natural, vinegar is acidic so cleans powerfully
  • Vinegar is non-toxic and organic so it’s safe and also eco-friendly

Cleaning The Floor With Vinegar

Prepare your floors in the same way as if you planned to use mineral spirits by getting rid of all the dust.

Fill up a clean bucket with a ratio of warm water (1 gallon) to white vinegar (1/2 cup). Make sure that the bucket is nice and clean to avoid introducing dirt to the floor.

Pop a clean mop into the bucket of natural cleaning solution. Wring it out completely then mop away the dirt and stains.

It’s a smart move to follow the direction of the floor boards. As the water dries it can leave streaks and if you follow this advice it will be less visible.

While you’re cleaning, if the water starts to look murky or dirty then change it.

If you prefer, fill a spray bottle with the water/vinegar mixture rather than using a bucket.

Handy hint: If you want to add a delicious smell to your cleaning routine, try popping in 15 drops of essential oil. Lavender, lemon grass or tea tree are wonderful and completely natural fragrances.

Air drying, as with mineral spirits, is the sensible choice. Feel free to mop up any excess with a cloth or towel.

Keep your kids and pets away from the floor until it’s completely dry for a shiny, smudge-free and sparkling finish.

Conclusion

Whichever method you think suits you best, cleaning in this fashion once every two months should be adequate for your unfinished wood floor to remain looking its best.

Remember, too, that when any liquid or damp solid comes into contact with your unfinished floor, it will soak straight into the wood. Make sure to clean this up immediately.

In the event of a more damaging spill such as wine or pet urine, a very fine-grained piece of sandpaper will clear the offending area without wreaking havoc on your floor.

Cleaning unfinished wood floors is a straightforward, fuss-free process. Keep on top of it and, like with any “little and often” maintenance, it will never require too much work.

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