Unfinished hardwood floors add an elegant and rustic touch to your home. As beautiful as they are, though, they also present some significant challenges when it comes to cleaning, especially if they’re in high-traffic areas. Putting down area rugs can help to protect the unfinished wood, but you eventually still will need to figure out how to clean unfinished wood floor.
Because it hasn’t been stained or sealed, unfinished wood floors are more susceptible to staining and water damage than treated hardwood, and can also be more likely to harbor bacteria. The most important thing is not to let them get wet—or if they do, to not let them stay wet long. Moisture can seep into the wood and cause it to warp if left uncleaned.
So how should you clean unfinished wood floor? The right answer depends on what kind of mess you’re dealing with.
For dust and dirt: Vacuum
For large particles and basic cleaning, a high-quality canister vacuum is your ideal tool, since they’re less likely to simply push dirt around. Even high-end vacuums can sometimes struggle with hardwood floors; the two options below are great options designed to work with flat, hard surfaces.
Dyson V8 Absolute
The V8 is an update of the previous Dyson V6 model, which was praised for its power but criticized for having a short battery life and being difficult to empty. With the V8, Dyson addressed these complaints, giving their customers an incredibly powerful cleaning machine that can handle almost any surface with ease.
What makes the Dyson V8 an especially powerful tool for untreated wood floors is the Soft Roller, a head specifically designed for hard floors. Its rotating bar has both carbon bristles and soft fibers, meaning it’s gentle enough it won’t scratch your floors but still strong enough to give you a thorough clean.
There are a plethora of other useful features on the V8, as well. Along with the Soft Roller, it comes with a Direct Drive powered head for carpets and a Mini Motorized tool for upholstery and stairs, as well as specialized tools for crevices and corners.
Regardless of what tool you’re using, it gives you up to 40 minutes of continuous cordless operation, with a surprisingly quiet operation even at full power. It can also be easily converted to a handheld vacuum, giving it even more versatility.
The expanded battery life and power makes the V8 a bit heavier than the V6 was, though at 6 pounds it’s still light enough for most people to use easily. All-told, it is easily the best vacuum for untreated hardwood, and is arguably the best cordless canister model on the market.
If you’re looking for something that’s a bit smaller (and carries a smaller price tag), the Easy Clean from Eureka is an excellent hand-held option, giving you both great value and the power you’ll need for effective cleaning of hardwood.
Like with the model above, there is one particular feature of the Eureka EasyClean that will be of most interest to those with hardwood floors: the Riser Visor nozzle cover. This is a plastic shield that comes down over the brush to adjust the level of contact of the brush roll. Keep the cover down for cleaning flat surfaces, and simply lift it up when you need to shift gears and clean your carpets.
The EasyClean is generally designed for convenience. It’s lightweight and compact, making it easy to carry, and has fingertip controls for the power switch so you can use it with ease. The power of the suction is impressive, especially considering the low price. This means no going back and forth over the same area, no matter what the nature of your mess.
If there’s one disadvantage to the EasyClean, it’s the fact that it’s a corded vacuum, which does limit its versatility somewhat. The cord is 20 feet long, giving you plenty of reach for indoor applications, but making it less useful for cars and patios.
It is also not quite as durable as a vacuum like the Dyson above. It will burn out quickly if you try to use it for frequent extended use (e.g. multiple entire rooms on a regular basis). If you’re just looking for something that can spot-clean messes on a hardwood floor, however, the EasyClean is the best value.
For stuck-on messes: Murphy’s Oil Soap
Murphy’s oil soap has long been the go-to cleaner for wood surfaces. With their Squirt and Mop Floor Cleaner they make it even easier to use. Simply squirt a bit of the liquid on the stained or dirty area and go over the area with a rag or mop. It will not only remove the mess, it will also leave your floors with an attractive sheen.
Some people find this leaves a slightly sticky residue on certain kinds of floor; if this is the case, you can simply go over it with the vinegar solution described above.
For Sanitizing: White vinegar
While you don’t want to get unfinished hardwood very wet for very long, an occasional treatment with a small amount of moisture. To kill the bacteria that can grow in unfinished wood, dilute 1 cup of distilled white vinegar in 1 gallon of water. Apply it in a thin layer to the entire floor and allow it to air dry.
While you can use a standard mop for this process, you’ll find it a lot easier to get an even distribution and avoid pools of water if you use a tool like the Swiffer Sweeper. The flat cleaning area of a Swiffer will help you make sure the entire floor is covered but no one area gets too wet.
Figuring out how to clean unfinished wood floor can be trickier than with other hardwood floors because they are more susceptible to water damage. If you have the right tools, though, you can get them as clean as new without a whole lot of extra effort.
If you’re doing routine cleaning of an entire room, follow the three steps outlined above in order: start with the vacuum to remove loose dust and debris, apply Murphy’s floor cleaner to tough areas, then go over the entire floor with a layer of the vinegar mixture. This will not only clean up any mess you have right now but also prevent any unseen mold or bacteria growth within the wood.