Cleaning Finished vs. Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring can either be finished or unfinished. The cleaning of both can vary greatly however.

To Clean a Finished Hardwood Floor

Finished floors generally have a coat of polyurethane over them these days. But this coating can be simple wax or other surface covering. The polyurethane can be water based or oil based. There are other choices too, such as acid-based coating or oil, but we will look at cleaning a wax or polyurethane here. All it requires is the time to understand what coating you have, then to clean.

Finished Hardwood FloorCleaning is a matter of choice. With a wax coating, beeswax is the choice of the type of coat. Ideally, waxed floors should be cleaned properly three times a year and stripped right back to wood about every three years with the wax replaced at the same time, but we will not discuss stripping here.

Check with a drop of water if you are unsure if your floor is waxed. Leave the drop for about twenty minutes. If it soaks in, but leaves a white ring, then it is waxed for sure.

Get a good quality wax cleaner, such as one from the Johnson range, plus something such as Restore-A-Finish. Ensure this is in the correct colour for the wood. Apply this cleaner to the floor with an old T-shirt or a pair of socks over rubber gloves on your hands. Leave for around an hour. I personally wouldn’t leave it any more than this as it may harden too much if you have applied a bit much.

After this, apply your wax. Make sure it is not too heavy, but only practice will teach you this. If you can see the wax, but not the floor then the wax is too heavy and you will have given yourself a lot more work because now you will have to buff it severely to ensure you don’t go skating. Start buffing from the centre and work out to the edges. You can buff by putting socks on and dancing, keeping an eye on your directions.

Needs for Cleaning:

  • A few old T-shirts, soft cloths/towels or socks
  • Rubber gloves
  • Restore-A-Finish
  • Some good quality wax

Cleaning An Unfinished Hardwood Floor

A bit more care needs to be applied when cleaning unfinished wood floors. When a floor is sealed, it isn’t very easy to ruin it with most wood cleaning products, but when a floor is unsealed, even something has harmless as water can cause the wood to swell and spoil it. Anything that spills on these floors soaks in, so they can be a pain to clean.

Unfinished Hardwood FloorGet a static mop or broom and sweep very carefully first. Try to get every speck of dirt up as anything you use on the floor after will either sink in or leave a mark. Then check to see what marks are already there. Those that cannot be ignored came be gently attacked with a pot scourer, but be careful you do not damage the wood. Pick up the scrapings with a tissue and dispose of. Do not wet the tissue before using. If you must, barely dampen it and place over the scrapings, not in a ball.

Have some cloths and rubber gloves ready to apply either cleaning vinegar or mineral spirits. If you have breathing problems or simply for safety reasons, use a paint respirator or one of those masks that are to keep germs out. Cleaning vinegar and mineral spirits can give an awful bite to the breathing system. You’ll be on your knees unfortunately, so have something comfortable to kneel on. Have your room well ventilated with the windows open.

Apply the cleaning vinegar on the cloths. You can dilute it about 500 mils to 2 liters of water if the straight stuff gives you a headache or interferes badly with your breathing. Or use the spirits, but they are better not diluted. Apply until the room is fully done, then dry carefully with some more towels.

If you are using spirits, do not smoke while you are cleaning as they are highly flammable and you do not want to blow yourself to Kingdom Come.


Ensure what type of floor you have first. Get all your needs together. Then choose a day when you have nothing to do and start. There are many floor cleaning tips and tricks that can help you get the task done not only quicker, but safer.