The Best Way to Clean your Unfinished Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are beautiful when maintained well but cleaning it can cause irreparable damages if not done correctly. Unfinished or unsealed hardwood floors are trickier to clean compared to finished ones, and you can easily damage them if you try to clean them the same way you clean finished or sealed hardwood floors.

So how do you clean unfinished hardwood floors? Here are the quick steps, but I’ll explain more about this in detail later:

  1. Make sure that you really do have an unfinished hardwood floor.
  2. Dry clean your unfinished hardwood floor using a dust mop, broom, or vacuum. Most of the time, cleaning ends here, but if you have stains you want to be removed, or if you want to make the surface shiny, proceed to the next steps.
  3. To remove stains, use mineral spirits, ammonia, or trisodium phosphate. Try to avoid soaking the wood with any type of liquid.
  4. To give it a shine, you can rub in wax or oil.

Cleaning unfinished hardwood floors are somewhat the same as how you clean finished or sealed hardwood floors, the only difference is that we try to limit, if not totally avoid, the use of any liquid products on it.

If you’re looking for the best floor cleaning tools and materials, check out the best-rated products here on Amazon.

Let me explain it to you in more detail the steps in cleaning your unfinished hardwood floors.

1. Find Out If You Have a Finished or Unfinished Hardwood Floor

The way you clean a finished hardwood floor is much different from how you clean an unfinished hardwood floor. So before you begin taking out all the cleaning tools and solutions you will need, you need to make sure first that you really do have an unfinished hardwood floor.

The difference between a finished an an unfinished hardwood floor is that the finished type is sealed while the unfinished type is unsealed. This only means that water won’t be able to penetrate the sealed hardwood floor while the unsealed floor will absorb water like a sponge.

So to test your floor, pick an inconspicuous area of your floor, and you just drop a little bit of water. If the water beads on the surface, then you have a sealed floor or a finished hardwood floor. On the other hand, if the water gets absorbed by your floor, then you do have an unfinished or unsealed hardwood floor.

If by any chance you have a finished or sealed hardwood floor, go follow the steps on how to clean a hardwood floor in my other article instead, here’s the link.

If you did confirm that you really have an unfinished hardwood floor, then proceed to the next steps.

2. Dry Clean Your Unfinished Hardwood Floor with a Broom or Dust Mop

In most cases, the only thing you can do to clean your unfinished hardwood floor is to sweep it using a broom, or microfiber dust mop. You can also use a vacuum, designed for hard floors, to clean your floor.

Cleaning unfinished hardwood floors need great care. Since they are not sealed, they could easily absorb water or any type of liquid which will lead it to warp, expand, split, and get damaged beyond repair. So as much as possible, never use any type of liquid cleaners to mop or clean your unfinished hardwood floors. This includes water.

Using a soft-bristled broom or a good microfiber dust mop to pick up dust, dirt, any lint or pet hair is the best thing you can do to clean the floor.

Here are some good brooms and dust mops you can use:

LandHope Rubber BroomThis is a broom with rubber bristles that could easily pick-up dust, dirt, and even pet hairs more efficiently than ordinary brooms.
It has an adjustable handle and it’s easy to clean just by washing under a tap.
Check in Amazon
Superio Kitchen and Home Horsehair BroomA broom with bristles made from soft horsehair and polypropylene good to use for hardwood floors.
It can easily gather dust, dirt, and debris.
Check in Amazon
O-Cedar Dual-Action Microfiber Sweeper Dust MopThis is a sweeper dust mop that comes with a flexible microfiber head.
The microfiber is dense and can pick-up dust, dirt, and hair.
The microfiber is washable up to 50x. Refills are also available if needed.
Check in Amazon

Using Vacuum Cleaners

Vacuum cleaners are also great to use to pick up dirt and dust from your unfinished hardwood floors. Brooms and dust mops sometimes are not enough to clean and reach some area of the floor, like the crevices in between the boards or on wall corners. And so, a good vacuum cleaner can really augment the cleaning process.

When using a vacuum, just make sure that it has a hardwood floor setting or that it has also been designed safely to use for hardwood floor cleaning as well. Some vacuums have brush rolls installed which rotates and are mainly used for cleaning carpets. These brush rolls, also called beater bar, can cause unnecessary scratches to your hardwood floors. Look for vacuums with a setting to lift these brush rolls to avoid scratching your hardwood floors when you use it.

Check the wheels and bottom part of your vacuum as well. Make sure the wheels are clean and there are no elements protruding out that may also cause scratches to your floor.

Here are good vacuum cleaners to use for your hardwood floors:

Bissell Cleanview Upright Bagless Vacuum CleanerThis vacuum has a powerful multi cyclonic suction system that sucks in dirt easily.
Also has multi-level filtration and can be used on various floor surfaces including hardwood floors.
Check in Amazon
MOOSOO Cordless Vacuum 4 in 1It has a 20-35 mins. cordless running time with a very powerful suction power.
Works well with multiple types of surfaces including hardwood floors.
A very light weight vacuum at only 3.3 lbs.
Check in Amazon
Shark Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe NV360 Upright VacuumThis vacuum has an upright mode and a lift-away mode where in you can separate the cleaning pod to use for awkward areas.
You can use this in most surfaces including hardwood floors, and carpets.
Lightweight, weighs 13lbs.
Check in Amazon

At this point, if you’ve fully swept or vacuumed your unfinished hardwood floors, then you’re practically done with the cleaning. Since we’re trying to avoid using any liquid products on your floor, dry cleaning methods are the only thing we could do without risking damaging the floor.

If there are stains or sticky substances that can’t be removed by sweeping or vacuuming alone, then proceed to the next step. Just keep in mind though that the 3rd step will require some cleaning products that would help with deeper cleaning but may cause damage to your floor if not used with care.

3. Remove Stains on your Unfinished Hardwood Floors Using Mineral Spirits or Other Stain Removing Solutions

With unfinished hardwood floors, it’s easier to acquire stains since it is not sealed, any liquid it is exposed to gets easily absorbed by the wood. This is why every precaution should be done to avoid the floor from getting wet.

Stains can come from coffee or juice spills, sauces from the food you’re eating, or pet urine. If spills are left unattended, it dries up and sips into the wood causing the ugly stains.

There are remedies you can do to remove stains but not all work and not all stains are easily and completely removed.

Using Mineral Spirits

One common method is by using mineral spirits. Mineral spirits are commonly available in hardware or home improvement stores. They are mostly used as paint thinners but they can also be used to clean and remove stains on your floors.

Build-up sticky substances and scuff marks, that can’t be removed by sweeping or dust mopping alone, can also be removed using mineral spirits.

The way you use it is by first putting a few drops of it on a clean cloth, and then working in small sections of the floor at a time, you rub the cloth with mineral spirit on to the stained or dirty area of the floor you want to be removed. Go in a circular motion, and be careful about not adding damage to the floor.

Scuff marks and sticky substances usually go away using mineral spirits as they are only on the surface of the floor and didn’t penetrate within the wood. Stains, on the other hand, can be quite tricky. If the stains penetrated deep within the wood, the only thing the mineral spirits can do is to lighten the shade of the stain so that it’s less discernible.

Mineral spirits have a very strong odor and so if you’re planning to clean a bigger area of your unfinished hardwood floor, it’s better to use an odorless mineral spirit instead. You can fill a spray bottle and use a microfiber mop to spread the solution.

Don’t get too excited spraying too much though as you still don’t want to soak up your unfinished hardwood floor with any liquid. Make sure to mop dry your hardwood every spray, and to not let it dry on its own.

Other Liquid Solutions You Can Use For Removing Stains

Other chemicals and cleaning solutions you can try using include:

  • Ammonia
  • Trisodium phosphate mixed in water
  • Murphy’s oil soap mixed in water
  • Natural cleaning solutions such as vinegar in water, or lemon in water. If you’re into natural cleaning solutions you can make to clean your hardwood floors, check out my article about it through this link.

The way you use them is similar to how you use mineral spirit. The difference with these other solutions is that they tend to be more wet when being used so be cautious not to soak up your cleaning cloth with the cleaning solutions. Always wring your microfiber cloth or mop, making it just damp to the touch, before wiping your unfinished hardwood floors.

For hard to remove stains, you might need to consider sanding the stains away. You can do this yourself or hire a professional. You can also consider having the floor sealed or finished to give it protection.

4. Rub in Wax or Wood Oils to Give Your Unfinished Hardwood Floors Some Shine

After cleaning your unfinished hardwood floors, you can add shine to the surface by rubbing in wax or wood oil. Take note though that if you are intending to seal or to have the floor finished in the future, never add any type of oil or wax to your wood. Oils and wax will penetrate the surface of the wood and sealing compounds used for finishing will not adhere to your hardwood floor.

Oils you can use can be linseed or jojoba. You apply oil or wax to the floor’s surface with a clean soft cloth. Leave it to dry for 15 mins. then dry mop it to buff the surface and to give it a little shine. Be careful though as oil or wax may make your floors very slippery.

You can use a buffing machine for large areas to save you some effort and time.

Can You Mop Your Unfinished Hardwood Floors?

As much as possible, avoid mopping your unfinished hardwood floors with any type of liquid solution, even if it’s just water. Any liquid can easily be absorbed into the wood which can make it swell, warp, or damaged beyond repair.

If you really can’t avoid mopping it with a cleaning solution to remove a stubborn sticky substance, then do it sparingly and cautiously. Wring your mop dry, just making it a little damp to the touch before wiping the floor. Then follow it immediately with a dry mop to absorb any excess liquid.

How Often Do You Need To Clean Your Unfinished Hardwood Floors?

How often you need to clean your unfinished hardwood floors really depend on how often the floor gets used or how exposed it is to dust and dirt.

For low-level traffic, you can sweep or dust mop it probably 2 or 3 times a week. While for high-level traffic, sweep or dust mop it everyday or as many times as you think is necessary.

Since unfinished hardwood floors are harder to clean than finished hardwood floors because of its issue with liquid cleaners, we want to avoid any build-up of dirt or dust to the surface that could eventually become sticky and hard to remove by sweeping alone.

How to Maintain Unfinished Hardwood Floors?

Here are some tips you can do to maintain your unfinished hardwood floors.

  1. Use protective furniture pads, that you can stick under your furniture’s legs, to protect your hardwood floors from scratches when you’re moving things around.
  2. Place floor or door mats just outside your exterior doors to trap dirt and dust from your shoes before you enter the house. Minimizing outside dirt from entering the house will reduce your efforts in cleaning the floor. A boot removal area and a shoe shelf near the door is also a good idea to have.
  3. Paw wipes or portable paw cleaning devices are also good to have around if you have pets. You can clean your pet’s paws before you have them enter the house.
  4. Never use cleaners specifically designed for finished hardwood floors on your unfinished hardwood floors.
  5. Never use steam cleaners to clean your unfinished hardwood floors. You will damage the floor since steam is wet and the floor has no protection against this.
  6. Sweep regularly. Only use soft-bristled brushes or brooms to avoid scratching the floor.

Here are some of my recommended products:

X-PROTECTORFurniture felt pads for wood floor protection.Check in Amazon
LuxUrux Durable Rubber Door MatGreat heavy-duty outdoor mat that captures mud, dirt, and moisture from your shoes.Check in Amazon
Dog Paw CleanerA nice portable pet paw cleaner you can use to clean your pet’s paws before they enter the house.Check in Amazon


He is an architect for more than 20 years. He is passionate about design and architecture and enjoys sharing his knowledge and information with people as well.

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