how to clean unsealed wood floors?

fausonkMarch 26, 2008

We have very old hardwood floors in our house, however we do not believe they have ever been sealed. We can't refinish the floors (most of them have their nails so close to the surface we can't refinish them, or the nail heads would be sticking out). So how do we best clean them? All the stuff sold in stores is for sealed hardwood. I know they're not supposed to get wet and stay wet, but could we use any of the wood floor cleaners and as long as we dry it by hand we'd be okay?



Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

you could use a damp mop. I would real than once they are clean. Since they are older, a wax finish may be the most appropriate.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 4:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oops --- seal, not real the floors.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 4:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Unfortunately, we're not in a position to seal the floors right now. We don't really know what we would want to seal them with anyway, and it probably doesn't make sense to seal them before we figure out a way to sand them. I thought briefly about wax, but my when I told my mom about that she was horrified and said that her mother used to wax her floors, and the effort and build up and needing to take it all off as it built up was just horrendous and that's why everyone though wall-to-wall carpeting was such a god-send!

If we use a wood-floor cleaner, is it really going to hurt our wood? Especially if we plan on refinishing the floors anyway at some point in the future?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 11:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have very old un-sealed hardwood [under my carpet now] but when I cared for them I would use vinegar and a well wrung mop. I also used paste wax and a buffer but if you ever intend on sealing them I would NOT use wax on them.
The nails and such should not be a problem for a professional floor company.
If you do it yourself you rent a walk behind sander that takes most of the guess work out of a nice level sanding.
I checked into having ours done and the price was well below the cost of carpet but carpet thru the house won out. [husband won]

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 12:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

:) 'seal' is a modern term...

wood floors in fine homes were cleaned with a damp rag, stains buffed out with pumice (rottenstone) or fine sand and oil, and over the generations, were burnished to a shine that plastic coatings will never match.

you can clean wood floors with plain old water most of the time, a mild solvent (vinegar, 1/4 the recommended amount of your favorite cleaner) at most.

my floors relatively new, about a hundred years old, and the powder/laundry room gets butcher-waxed twice a year (it's 7ft square, less the washer and dryer footprints, so it doesn't take much) but everything else? gets rubbed down with a combination of olive oil, lemon essential oil (which the furniture-grade 'lemon oil' has very little of) and bees wax, melted together and applied warm (sparingly) then buffed (I've got my dad's old bonnet polisher from his car-buff days) and even my husband has to admit that there is a difference between walking on wood, and walking on poly-cryl sealant.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 2:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Save your money and don't buy the fancy/schmancy products. I, too, would use the vinegar/water mix or I would use mineral spirits (rag and wipe) for cleaning. I would not use products unless I was 6 zillion percent sure that there wasn't wax in them...assuming you don't go the paste wax route.

Can you counter sink the culprit nails?

One way to check how thick your flooring is - remove a floor register if you have one or take off a small piece of quarter round and see the height difference. You can see how much sanding has occurred in the past.

I'd just use area rugs until you know how you want to finish the floors.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 6:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Would love to countersink the nails... we have a parquet floors, though. Each 12x12 parquet square is made of six individual slats, and each slat has six nails in it. So 36 nails per square foot of flooring covering about 500 square feet. Countersinking just ain't gonna happen!

I will use a barely damp vinegar/water mix from here on out.

Thanks for everyone's input!


    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 8:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My son is renting a large apartment about a building that is about 80 years old. He has wood floors in every room except the bathroom. They are very dull and need a good cleaning. Thanks for the tips about the vinegar and water. I think that would be the way to go. Since he's just renting I don't think he wants to invest in sanding and or sealing. But it would be nice to have it look "fresh" while he lives there.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 11:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm replying to this old thread instead of starting a new one with the hopes that someone can clarify things for me on this topic.

We're renting a house built in the early 1800s; well, part of it was. One room I know has the original wood floor because of the unevenly-sized very wide boards used. But in the living room and dining room it is newer, relatively. Thinner boards that have more consistent sizing. We were told that most tenants put in carpeting (either an oriental room-sized rug or a carpet remnant) in the living room and perhaps that has led to the wood floor in there appearing to be even more dull and almost dirty. We'll be here another 15 months at least but I'm not sure about buying carpet pieces yet.

Either way, I gotta clean this. Cat puke that we didn't find til morning; husband dropping a greasy piece of food; a bunch of things have happened that have left stains that just look like it's wet but it's not. I tried to cover the grease spots with salt right after it happened, I read that that might draw it out of the wood but it didn't work. I tried the Swiffer wet jet for wood floors on part of the living room - it didn't do anything bad but I don't think it did anything good, either.

So what can we do to :
1. Remove the stains
2. Make it shinier (bc the way it is now, it looks dusty & dirty even during the short time it's not!!)
3. Make it easier to prevent/clean up stains in the future

Thank you!!!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 12:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

use baking soda and vinager to remove stains. it makes a bubbling action that you leave down for a few min then use a bristle brush and wipe up with a damp rag. you have to wait til it dries to see if you got it all

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 12:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Boy, am I glad to find this post! Could you share the ratio of olive and lemon oils to wax? And where do you find the bees wax?

I can't wait to do this to my floors!


    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 10:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You will be very lucky if chinacat_sunflower reads this thread, given that she posted that in 2008.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 9:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

LOL. You got me there. I looked at the month, but not the year. . . Let's hope she recognizes my need for her knowledge! Thanks for the heads-up.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 9:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

back in late 50's we had a family friend who had unsealed hardwood. her floors gleamed! she used a cotton mop pad and the old red furniture oil to give it an occasional once over. i have unfinished hardwood also and i mop it with water and a little mr clean. been doing that for 30 years. i oil on occasion..

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 2:41PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Carpet Cleaning: Can it Ruin the Carpet?
I've never had a professional carpet cleaning, but...
Need Suggestions: How Do I Get Smell Out Of Pet Bed?
Not sure where to post this. Needs suggestions. Got...
Dirty Coffeemaker Sickness!
Warning: This Is NASTY! So I make a pot of coffee everyday...
Can you steam clean procelain tiles?
I would like to steam clean the procelain tiles in...
Cat Urine in Carpet
What is the best product and method for removing cat...
Sponsored Products
Screw In Faceted Glass Pendant Light for Home Decoration
Safavieh Area Rug: Anatolia Ivory/Gold 8' x 10'
Home Depot
Holtkoetter | Fabric Shaded Swing-Arm Floor Lamp No. 2541/2
$658.00 | YLighting
Chilton Oushak Rug 9' x 12' - BROWN / RUST
$3,400.00 | Horchow
Melrose Floor Lamp
Moss Alfresco Indoor/Outdoor Rug
$19.99 | zulily
Area Rug: Presidential Picks Cooks Landing Celery 5' 3" x 8'
Home Depot
Sasha Floor Lamp
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™