How to clean unfinished wood

Updated July 20, 2017

Once wood furniture, floors or decorative items have been created, it is time to preserve the wood by painting, staining or sealing it. Although leaving wood unfinished has a certain charm, it creates more opportunities for furniture or floors to become damaged. Whether they'll be used inside or outside, wood items must be properly prepared for finishing. The first step is carefully cleaning the unfinished wood.

Vacuum the unfinished wood. It is best to use a soft brush attachment when vacuuming so that you don't damage the wood; this is especially important when cleaning unfinished soft wood.

Sand the unfinished wood using a sanding block, a piece of sandpaper or an electric sander, depending on the size of your job. Start with a medium-grade sandpaper and switch to a finer grade to get a smooth surface.

Use sandpaper around joints to make sure you clean away any glue or residue.

Vacuum up the dust from the sanding, using the brush attachment.

Wipe the unfinished wood with a damp cloth to remove any additional dust. If your cloth gets snagged on any rough areas or splinters in the wood, sand that area and remove the dust again to get a clean, smooth surface.


You can use a small, dry paintbrush to get into crevices and remove loose wood dust that the vacuum and damp cloth may have missed.


Do not use running water or sopping wet cloths when cleaning unfinished wood. This can raise the wood grain and result in an uneven finish.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Sandpaper
  • Damp cloth
  • Dry paintbrush
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About the Author

Amy Dunay graduated from the University of Delaware with a major in business and technical writing. She has been a professional writer for 10 years and currently works as an editor and freelance writer. Dunay has had articles published on, and several other online informational sites.