What to use to clean unfinished wood floors

Updated February 21, 2017

Hardwood floors are common in homes. If kept in good repair, wood floors add a pleasing aesthetic design to most homes. They do, however, need to be cleaned on occasion. If you have unfinished floors, finding a cleaning product is sometimes frustrating as almost all wood-floor cleaners are only to be used on finished floors. Fortunately, there are ways to clean your unfinished floors, but there are some things to know and consider first.


Most hardwood floors are finished with a protective seal. Some floors may look unfinished when in fact they are finished. To double-check, in an inconspicuous spot, place a drop of water to see if it's repelled (forms a tiny ball on the floor's surface). If the water is repelled, your floors are finished; they are just dull and look unfinished. If the water seeps into the wood, your floors are unfinished and need special care.


You should really consider finishing your floor. It will last longer, be easier to clean, and will be less likely to sustain damage from spills. Professionals can finish your floors for you, or you can attempt to do it yourself, which is a difficult task but can be completed by most average homeowners. Expect to sand your floors several times with different grades of sandpaper, fix any broken wood planks, fill in holes, stain if desired and then apply several layers of sealant (finishers), such as polyurethane.


Many kinds of wood, both domestic and exotic, are used for hardwood floors. Examples include beech, oak, maple, walnut, cherry, boire, cypress and leopardwood. Whatever type of wood floor you have, cleaning an unfinished floor needs careful attention as most wood cleaners will damage your floor.


The best way to clean your unfinished floors is to sweep and vacuum. You may want to place area rugs in high-traffic areas to help keep your floors clean. They will absorb a lot of the dirt and dust that is common in most homes. If you have a spill of any kind, blot it up immediately to help minimise the damage on an unfinished floor.

Cleaning Products

Many people say that you can use Murphy's Oil Soap on unfinished floors; however, the product's website strictly says it should not be used on unfinished wood products. Therefore, if you decide to use this or any kind of oil soap, test it in an inconspicuous spot first before using it all over your floors. Orange Glo is another product used by many people on unfinished floors. While the directions state that it is only for finished wood products, some of their distributors and floor specialists say it is safe to use on unfinished wood. Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) is also a product that is used to clean hardwood floors. It is generally safe on unfinished floors. Use a small amount and a natural bristle brush to gently scrub your floor in the same direction as the wood's grain. White spirit can also be used to clean unfinished hardwood floors and works well to clean up stains such as marker. Apply it to a rag and wipe in the direction of the grain. Be sure to always read the manufacturer's directions before using any product, and again, test any cleaner in an inconspicuous spot before using.

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About the Author

Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.