How do I clean untreated hardwood floors?
January 16, 2006 12:00 PM   Subscribe

How do I clean my untreated hardwood floor?

It doesn't have the shiny gloss of most hardwood floors (the color is sort of like the light tan of the unpolished, sharpened part of a pencil) and looks easily damaged. (If it makes a difference, this is in a newly converted loft.) I'm afraid it's particularly sensitive to water. I've bought a general all-purpose cleaner, Murphy's Wood Oil, a bucket, and a mop, but I'm a little wary about using them on this wood. In a few places, the wood has that sag and bend similar to wood flooring that's been damaged by water. What should I do? I've asked my landlord and she didn't have any recommendations.
posted by kensanway to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
I vacuum and swiffer. If you want to be really kind to it, use a mop and Murphy's Oil Soap.
posted by blogrrrl at 12:07 PM on January 16, 2006

I just had my wood floors redone and they don't look like they have 2 coats of poly-whatever, but they do. I opted for a satin/matte finish instead of gloss. You are probably OK. If it is untreated, the murphy's will do it good.
posted by blackkar at 12:12 PM on January 16, 2006

You should finish the floor. That will keep it from getting damaged and make it easier to clean.
posted by GuyZero at 12:12 PM on January 16, 2006

Thanks for the comments so far.

GuyZero--Finishing the floor: well, I don't own the apartment. How much does it cost to finish it?

Blackkar--I thought the murphy's was good, but it said not to use it on untreated floors b/c of possible water damage. But the more interesting and crucial point I'm getting from you is that the floor may be treated, just matte. Is there any way to find out? Does the gloss make a difference in protecting the wood?
posted by kensanway at 12:19 PM on January 16, 2006

I would say that first of all, an untreated hardwood floor would be pretty rare. I don't think I've ever seen one. If it has a matte finish, this is just as protective as a glossy finish. The difference between a matte and glossy finish (be it paint, polyurethane, etc) is that matte finishes have particles added to them to make the finish more "bumpy" so that it diffuses light instead of reflecting it directly back.

Go down to home depot or something and look at plain raw lumber (oak, poplar, etc). Does it really look/feel like that? I just can't imagine it's unfinished, especially in an apartment.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:23 PM on January 16, 2006

Well, are you getting splinters? Untreated wood, where it is bending/warping, would definitely have small splinters. If the floor is relatively smooth (with and across the grain of the wood), it has been sanded. It is really hard to lay a smooth unfinished floor and have it stay smooth and level, many people sand them to lay flat. They then seal them ('cuz that's the easy part). You can also look around the floor mouldings - when mine was finished, I could see where they got really close to the edge, but not under the moulding (there is a gap where the carpeting was).
posted by blackkar at 12:28 PM on January 16, 2006

Also, I paid ~$1 per foot for the sanding and 2 coats of poly-whatever (I should really look that up) in Michigan, with no furniture in the house and all of the room and closet doors off.
posted by blackkar at 12:30 PM on January 16, 2006

i have a natural wood floor (the whole apartment in la serena, apart from the kitchen/bathroom). when i first moved in i had the wax removed (several people on hands + knees for a day or two scrubbing away with fine wire wool) and then i added new wax (you can buy wax for wooden floors here - it's a thick liquid) liberally, left it to dry/soak in for a day, and polished with a floor polisher (like a vacuum cleaner but has three circular brushes underneath that whizz round).

then every month (more or less, and it should be more often) i put down more way, leave it an hour or two, and polish it. inbetween, if/when it gets dirty, i sweep it clean.

i have no idea how this translates to the usa.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:45 PM on January 16, 2006

(polishing the floor is very relaxing, and i suspect the solvents in the wax make it more so).
posted by andrew cooke at 12:46 PM on January 16, 2006

Just drop a little water on the floor. If it beads up, there is a finish on the floor, which is matte and not glossy. Nobody in their right mind puts down untreated wood flooring, particularly in a rental unit.
posted by fixedgear at 12:47 PM on January 16, 2006

We have an untreated hardwood floor on the first floor. We haven't had it refinished yet (it's 90 year old red oak) and it looks exactly as you have described.

It's a big more difficult to find products for untreated hardwood, but not impossible. Using a spray-misting bottle full of water on a Swiffer will keep it lightly cleaned, using a bucket of water and a mop isn't advisable. ACT makes an excellent reusable product like the Swiffer, except you never have to purchase refills (you just rinse and dry the velcro pads).

There are a few cleaning products for unfinished wood, but they aren't easy to find. Cory makes a product, but there are many solvent based cleaners that might work. I also lightly oil the floors once in awhile to keep them looking "bright". I avoid waxing them only because we want to refinish the floors eventually and it's a little difficult to strip the wax out of the floor before refinishing. This FAQ regarding wood floors might help.
posted by jeanmari at 1:26 PM on January 16, 2006

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