How to clean unfinished wood before staining

Unfinished Plywood Background image by Gary Chorpenning from

Whether you've just installed a wood floor or added some fresh trim to your windows or doorways, or even built a craft or furniture piece from scratch, you may find yourself in a situation where the unfinished wood needs cleaning, but you want to use something that won't affect the wood stain you plan to use in the near future. This means you have to use a type of cleaning solution that gets rid of build-up without leaving any residue behind, as the stain won't properly absorb otherwise.

Fill a spray bottle with 2 cups water. Add 2 tbsp white vinegar for heavily soiled, unfinished wood that has sticky residue or similar film build-up.

Mist a lint-free cleaning rag with the spray. Don't use paper towels, as this will leave behind paper particles that may affect the staining of the wood in the future.

Rub the damp cloth over the unfinished wood, rubbing with the direction of the wood grain to prevent splintering.

Let the wood air dry fully before staining.