How to Clean Unvarnished Wood


Regular maintenance of wood surfaces is necessary to preserve the natural warmth and beauty of the wood. Properly caring for wood floors, cabinets and furnishings helps to keep the wood in good condition, as well as protects it from scratches and dulling, which can diminish the appearance. Because both dirt and water can damage wood, it is important to clean unvarnished wood surfaces to keep moisture and accumulating dust and dirt from ruining the look.

Step 1

Vacuum or dust mop the floor first to remove any loose dirt. Use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment so that you do not scratch the wood.

Step 2

Wash floors by damp mopping with a vegetable oil-based liquid soap. Olive oil as a main ingredient is a good choice. Dilute ¼ cup of the soap in 1 gallon of warm water. For more heavily soiled floors, dilute ½ cup in water. Use the least amount of water you can to get the wood surface clean. There are a number of other eco-friendly wood cleaners and dusting aids that you can mix yourself using chemical-free ingredients (see links in Resources).

Step 3

Use a clean mop and wring it out well before mopping. You do not want the mop to be dripping wet. Scrub high-traffic areas where dirt gets ground in with a scrub brush. You can also wash wood floors with a few drops of a mild, liquid soap mixed into a pail of water.

Step 4

Apply diluted bleach to tough stains on bare wood floors. Mix a solution of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach. Rinse well with clean water and sponge dry.

Step 5

Remove grease and grime from bare wood floors by mixing ½ cup of either cider or white vinegar in a bucket of warm water. Crack open a window while mopping so that the floor dries quickly and the smell of vinegar dissipates.

Step 6

Use olive oil to condition unvarnished wood surfaces including floors, cabinets, doors and wood trims and moldings. Dust wood with a soft, dry cloth before wiping clean with a cloth or sponge dampened in a solution of ½ tsp. oil soap, ¼ cup white distilled vinegar and ¼ cup water. Rinse the cloth or sponge in a bucket of warm water often between washings. Once the wood surface is dry, apply a few drops of olive oil to a clean, damp cloth and wipe in the direction of the wood grain. For wood floors, add the olive oil to a bucket of water and mop floors again using a clean mop.

Step 7

Dry immediately. If your floor gets too wet, and you are worried about water spots, dry the floor with clean, cotton towels.

Step 8

Polish unvarnished wood furniture using a mixture of 2 tsp. each of lemon juice and olive oil. Slightly dampen a soft cotton cloth with the solution. Wipe furniture using wide strokes to distribute the oil evenly. Rub the oil into the grain of the wood, wiping off any excess.

Things You'll Need

  • Vegetable oil-based liquid soap
  • Olive oil
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Bleach
  • Dust mop
  • Wet mop
  • Bucket
  • Clean, soft cloths
  • Sponge
  • Scrub brush


  • Natural Wood Floor Cleaner
  • Alternative Cleaning Recipes

Who Can Help

  • Wood Care Tips
Keywords: clean, unvarnished, wood, floors, cabinets

About this Author

Amber Keefer has more than 25 years' experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering health, fitness and women's issues published in Family Digest Magazine, Chicago Parent and Woman's Touch. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.

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