Tag Archive for: clean

Whatever type of flooring you have in your home, you want your floor to look its best. To accomplish this, the floor has to be clean. 

Yet, different flooring types call for different cleaning methods. For most wood floors, you need only be concerned with cleaning the wood finish and not the wood itself. But what about unfinished wood floors? 

In this article, we’ll answer frequently asked questions about cleaning unfinished wood floors. We’ll also discuss practical cleaning solutions that will leave your unfinished wood floors looking as they should in no time. 

cleaning stained unfinished wood floors

How Do I Know If My Wood Floor is Finished Or Not?

Granted, different flooring types and colors have been on trend and off throughout the past decade or more. But during this time, for whatever reason, high gloss finish has been decidedly out of fashion. This can make it difficult to tell if a protective finish coat has been applied to the surface of your wood floor. 

However, there’s still an easy way to tell if your wood floor is finished. Put a few drops of water onto an inconspicuous area of your wood floor. 

Now, leave it there for a minute or two. 

If the water stays on the surface, your floor has a finish on it. Just be sure not to put the drops of water near any seams or you could mistakenly assume your floor is unfinished. 

Should I Leave My Wood Floor Unfinished?

If you prefer the natural, rustic look of unfinished floors, you’re not alone. But you should know that raw wood floors are more prone to stains, scratches, scuffs, and wood insects without the protection of a finish coat. 

Yet, the process for cleaning a raw wood floor isn’t terribly different from cleaning a finished one. Both scenarios call for very gentle treatment.    

Cleaning Unfinished Wood Floors — What Not To Do

Before going any further, It’s probably best to get what not to do out of the way and behind us. This list also includes:

What To Avoid And What Not To Bother With 


Less is more. Avoid puddling, ponding, and allowing floors to air dry. 

String Mop And Bucket

This deluge cleaning method can do more harm than good. It’s also a lot of work. Most professional cleaning services tossed out their string mops and buckets years ago. They now use equipment and products that are less damaging, less unwieldy, and more effective.

Steam Mop

If water should be avoided, then it’s probably best to also avoid injecting wood floors with water heated to 212F

Steel Wool/Steel Brush

Microscopic fragments of steel wool tend to remain on the floor. When these particles rust, they’ll stain. 


Many product manufacturers invested vast amounts of human and financial resources to create low VOC content, low odor products that work. Mission accomplished. The products they’ve come up with are very effective. 

These products are safe for people, kids, pets, and the environment too. These products include cleaning solutions. Many of these solutions are safe for use on a variety of surface types and they don’t need to be rinsed. Some of these products have a very mild, but pleasant scent. 

So, what reasonable explanation could there possibly be for our nation’s incessant predilection with vinegar? Vinegar has the potential to stain an unfinished floor irremediably and it also smells like …like rotting fruit of all things. It’s one thing to leave the stuff in the pantry next to the olive oil. But wiping the floors with it? There’s no reason to make your home smell like that if you don’t have to. There are better options.  

Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)

Beginning July 1, 2010, the sale of TSP became limited or prohibited in the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and New York. (source

California had restrictions in place prior to this time. 

The reason for the prohibition of trisodium phosphate is the phosphate aspect. Once applied, TSP is carried away in rinse water, also referred to as gray water. The gray water makes its way to ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers where the phosphates fertilize algae and mold. The algae and mold become so prolific that no other form of life can exist wherever they’re present. Ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers become gooey, foamy, and devoid of all flora and fauna. 

Of course, we could and probably will go on discussing the virtues of wood floors and singing their praises. But if cleaning a floor or ANY thing involves the use of something that creates a scenario as the one described, then how important can it be?

Fortunately, there are ways to clean your unfinished wood floors that don’t involve threatening our own survival by rubbing nature the wrong way. 

For General, Routine Cleaning of Unfinished Wood Floors

You’ll Need To Have and Apply the following As Appropriate :

  • Rubber Gloves: Rubber dishwashing gloves tend to be thicker and less prone to tearing than Latex.
  • Floor Vacuum Or Floor Accessory Vacuum Attachment: A floor vacuum’s row of short, soft bristles located in close proximity to your unfinished wood floor is an extremely effective way to remove dust and debris.
  • A Soft-Bristled Broom: Provided you don’t sweep abrasive debris across the floor instead of directly into a dustpan, this type of broom is also effective in the removal of dust and debris. 
  • Sweeping Compound: Sweeping compound is a sort of moisturized sawdust. Lightly toss small handfuls onto the floor and sweep it up with your soft-bristled broom. Dust and dirt are absorbed by the compound. This keeps them anchored where they might otherwise be disturbed and sent into the air only to settle on your floors again later.

Note: It’s called “sweeping” compound for a reason. You’ll risk frying your vacuum if you attempt to suck up the compound with it. 

The moisture contained in the sweeping compound is all the moisture that should be involved in the general, routine cleaning of an unfinished wood floor. 

How To Deep Clean Unfinished Wood Floors

In Addition to The General Cleaning Items Above, You’ll Need: 

  • Respirator 
  • Mop With Flat Microfiber Mop Head: The wider the mop head, the better. A wide mop head covers more floor in less time. 
  • Clean Terry Cloth or Microfiber Rags
  • 1 Quart Spray Bottle
  • 1 Quart Hot Water
  • Mineral Spirits: The fumes released by mineral spirits are very heavy and noxious. Be sure the room you’re working in is well ventilated. If the ventilation is insufficient, wear a respirator and protective gloves.
  • Borax: Borax (boron) is a mineral that’s used as an insecticide, an all-purpose cleaner,  and a flame retardant. It also eliminates and repels fungi, wood rot, termites, wood boring beetles, bark beetles, and carpenter ants.  Properly diluted, the cost of a borax liquid solution is about 0.02/oz. All this makes for an excellent wood floor cleaner.
  • Murphy’s Oil Soap: Instead of borax, you can use Murphy’s Oil Soap that’s sold in a spray bottle. 

Directions For Deep Cleaning Unfinished Wood Floors

  • Remove dust, dirt, and debris as explained in General Routine Cleaning, above
  • Dampen the mop with water
  • Dissolve  2 oz borax into 1-quart hot water. 
  • Transfer the borax solution into the spray bottle. Allow any undissolved granules to remain untransferred. This will keep them from clogging the sprayer. 
  • Working in sections of about 3’ x 3’, spray the borax solution or if you prefer, Murphy’s Oil Soap onto the floor. 
  • Mop the sprayed section. 
  • Use a terry cloth or microfiber rag to wipe the mopped section dry
  • Move onto the next section of the floor. Spray, mop, dry. 
  • Continue until the entire floor is clean.

How To Remove Stains From An Unfinished Wood Floor

If There Is A Stain That Cleaning Your Unfinished Wood Floor Didn’t Remove

  • Put a small amount of mineral spirits onto a clean rag. 
  • Dab the saturated part of the rag onto the stain, increasing pressure as necessary.
  • Add more mineral spirits onto a fresh section of the rag.  Continue to dab, don’t wipe the stain. 

Unless the stain is a deeply set water or urine stain, this process should ultimately remove it. 

If the stain is deep, you can try hydrogen peroxide to remove it or you can sand it, or both. Start with 80 grit, then 100, 120, and finally,150. 

If the stains on your unfinished wood floor are considerable in size or number, you might want to consider renting an orbital or drum sander to sand the entire floor. 

Although sanding a large area of wood floor is another project in itself, the information with respect to cleaning still applies as does the information contained in the rest of this article. 

How To Make An Unfinished Wood Floor Shine

Although it’s not as popular as it was during the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, the application of paste wax still gives as warm a luster to wood floors as ever. If you intend to wax your unfinished wood floor, you’ll need the following: 

  • Terry cloth towels or rags
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Sponge Mop
  • Respirator
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Paste wax. You can choose a clear paste wax or one with a wood stain. You can also use a liquid floor wax

Applying Paste Wax To An Unfinished Wood Floor

Before you start, you’ll need to be sure to take care of yourself. Although the fumes tend to dissipate reasonably quickly, waxes of this kind are nevertheless solvent-based. The work area must be well ventilated. Consider wearing a respirator. Protective gloves should also be worn.

Working in sections of 3’ x 3’, put a tablespoon of wax onto a clean cloth and coat the floor wiping in the direction of the grain. If you’re using liquid wax, put a tablespoon of it on the floor and use a mop to coat the floor. You will need to use a cloth to apply wax in corners and tight spots. 

Allow an hour for the wax to dry before applying the next coat. Liquid wax requires at least two coats whereas its solid counterpart requires not more than two coats. 

Buffing Unfinished Wood Floor

The buffing process additionally protects waxed wood floors by moving the wax further into the wood’s surface. 

Use a cloth to buff the wax into the floor. For liquid floor wax, use a terry cloth rag. 

Alternatively, you can rent a floor buffer for about $50 daily. This might be money well spent as this type of machine makes quick work of buffing and polishing. 

While it represents some effort on the owner’s part, the choice to leave a wood floor unfinished is becoming increasingly popular. The reason for this is the considerable savings realized by not having to restore the floor which involves hiring a professional. 

It’s possible that at some point in your wooden floor’s lifetime, you’ll encounter an area that has become darkened. This area might consist of a single, dark spot or there may be several spots or even several areas that have become discolored. The color might be a light greyish one, a deep, dark black color, or something in between. 

In this article, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions related to the cause, removal, and prevention of black stains on wood floors. 

Is It “Normal” For A Wood Floor To Darken? 

This type of discoloration cannot be considered a “patina” of any sort as it is not part of any hardwood floor’s mellowing or aging process. Although it could be categorized as something that isn’t terribly unusual, this darkening is not normal. It is a stain and as such, it should be addressed. 

Why Are There Black Stains On My Wood Floor? 

If you weren’t on hand to actually witness the event or series of events that caused this, the cause is nevertheless evidence that an event has occurred. Dark stains indicate that a chemical reaction has taken place between the tannins in your wood floor and moisture or more specifically, the moisture’s level of acidity. 

If your hardwood floor shows no signs of warping, then the moisture is most likely to have come from above the floor rather than underneath it. 

Certain Types of Wood React More Profoundly Than Others

If your hardwood floors are:

  • Unsealed or
  • The seal has become worn
  • The wood has a high concentration of tannins
  • The grain of the wood is open

Then, depending on the acid content of the moisture it’s exposed to, it doesn’t take long for wood to become stained in this way. 

As with many hardwoods, their grain is one of the qualities that make them such natural choices among furniture makers. The grain’s detail and beauty are easily captured with a light application of stain or a mere rubbing of oil or bee’s wax. 

However, hardwoods contain higher levels of tannins. 

Proportional to the concentration of acids and minerals contained in the moisture, and the amount of tannins contained in the wood, the chemical reaction between them can be mild or quite profound. 

This Chemical Reaction Causes The Wood To Darken

Oak and walnut are particularly tannic hardwoods. Urine is a particularly acidic water based substance. The odor notwithstanding, the reaction between the tannic and uric acids is 

especially dramatic. 

All this makes it easy to imagine that a floor made entirely of hardwood could have several dark spots.  

If This Is The Case, Then There Really Is No Point In Crying Over Spilled Milk. Right?

Granted, by virtue of the fact that it can be so cathartic, crying certainly seems to have its therapeutic benefits. But because there continues to be a complete lack of evidence to suggest that crying can undo an event that has come to pass, the wisdom contained in the old adage also continues. 

As to its effect on a hardwood floor, it’s true that milk doesn’t contain uric acid. But milk does contain lactic acid. Lactic acid is ten times more acidic than acetic acid. If you think it will help you come to terms with it, then break out your crying towel because if it isn’t removed from your hardwood floor, even milk, whether spilled or intentionally applied, can cause the floor to darken. Harsh, I know, and not unlike urine, the smell is no picnic either. Sorry. 

Can Dark or Black Spots On Hardwood Floors Be Removed?

While the answer to this isn’t a 100% “Yes”, the outlook is certainly far from bleak. The odds for success are improved if you can answer “Yes” to the following:  

Have Offensive Odors Been Resolved? 

If there is a lingering odor, then whatever caused your floor to stain is still present. It’s possible for germs, bacteria and other unpleasantness as evidenced by the presence of odor, to be in residence underneath and in between the floorboards. 

Has The Moisture Been Resolved? 

Until the floor is completely dry, there isn’t much point in considering repair of the damage that not being completely dry caused. 

To Remove Dark Stains, You’ll Need To Remove The Cause

In other words, each of your hardwood floor’s boards needs to be thoroughly dry and odor needs to be treated. 

NOTE: This might entail removal of the undry boards. If you don’t have the skill or confidence to do this on your own, call your local flooring expert. If the expert is willing to remove the boards and then come back to install them once you’ve taken care of business, that’s even better. 

If your flooring expert suggests cleaning the boards with oxalic acid followed with borax, then do this. Follow his/her instructions to the letter. 

Otherwise, proceed with the following:

What You’ll Need To Remove Odor and Black Stains From Your Wood Floor

How To Get Those Smelly, Black Stains Out Of Your Wood Floor:

Remove The Floor’s Finish

  1. You’ll need to first strip the finish from the floorboards.
    1. to do this, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the back of the container of the floor stripping product. 
    2. You can apply this with your paintbrush to be sure to keep the stripping solution contained to the affected area. 
    3. Use your plastic putty knife to scrape the lifted floor seal residue. 
    4. Use a clean rag to wipe and contain the residue from the putty knife. 
  2. Once your hardwood floor has been stripped, you might find the dark spots have lightened somewhat. This is to be expected. You’ll need to continue nevertheless. Especially if any odor is still present.

Remove Odor From Your Hardwood Floor

  1. Fill one of the spray bottles with the enzyme solution. Fill the other with hydrogen peroxide. Be sure to mark or label the spray bottles accordingly.
  2. Spray the affected area with enzyme solution. Be sure to spray in between the boards as well, but don’t drench the area or allow puddling. Allow the solution to dry. 
  3. Spray the area again with the enzyme solution. If after a few minutes, no odor is detected, pat the area dry. Otherwise allow the solution to dry.
  4. Repeat steps 5 and 6 as necessary.

Remove The Black Spots From Your Hardwood Floor

  1. Use your scrub brush to remove any residue from the affected area of your wood floor.
  2. Spray hydrogen peroxide well inside the area of the floor that has been stripped only. 
  3. Saturate a clean rag and lay it over the darkened area. Place another next to the first and continue until the entire darkened area is covered. 
  4. Cover the saturated rags with plastic wrap. Use a water jug or heavy book to keep the plastic in place.
  5. Allow the rags to remain in place up to eight (8) hours checking the rags occasionally to be sure they haven’t become too saturated with the stain to continue delivering the peroxide.
    1. Replace any stain-soaked rags with rags freshly saturated with peroxide.
    2. Replace the plastic wrap 
  6. When eight hours have passed, remove the soaked rags from the floor.
  7. When the floor has dried, the stain should be gone.
  8. If some discoloration remains, use the sandpaper.
    1. Working outward from the center of the discolored area, apply light pressure and smooth strokes that move in the direction of the grain of the wood.
    2. If the natural color of the wood doesn’t begin to appear after three or four strokes, move on to the next area and the next, sanding these in the same way and using three or four strokes in each of these areas as well. Sanding will help to expose the pores in the wood, but too much sanding will result in dipping this section of floor.
  9. Repeat steps 8-14.

By now, the stains should be completely gone. If any floorboards remain darkened, sand these lightly. if the discoloration still isn’t gone, they should be replaced. 

How To Prevent Black Stains On Hardwood Floors

The key to preventing black stains on your hardwood floor is in understanding that its exposure to moisture doesn’t need to be terribly prolonged to cause this. 

  • Clean spills right away
  • Follow up with an appropriate disinfectant. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  • If you have pets, be sure to inspect your home routinely for “accidents”. Use an enzyme solution to clean these right away as well. We even have a detailed guide on cleaning pet urine stains & smell from hardwood floors.
  • Routine inspection should include a check for leaks you might not be aware of. Look under the sinks, the washing machine, and the dishwasher especially. 
  • If you discover a leak, place a container underneath it to catch the water, and dry the area completely. Continue to empty and replace the container until the leak can be repaired.

By taking care of problems before they start, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle, stress, and energy…

…which of course, translates to more beach time.

A nice area rug brings comfort and style to a room with natural hardwood floors. But all carpets, including area rugs, are notorious for accumulating stains from spills, pets, or muddy feet. Even gentle use over time can break down the intricate fibers that together form a beautiful rug.

That’s why it’s critical to clean an area rug regularly and to know the right way to do it. Your technique is especially important on a hardwood floor because you can seriously damage the floor with improper cleaning.

Follow the steps in this guide to keep your area rugs looking and smelling fresh for years without removing the rug from the room or harming the flooring below.

How Often Should You Clean an Area Rug on Hardwood Floors

area rug on hardwood floors

If you take the time to clean your area rug often, it will last you a long time and stay looking neat throughout its lifespan.

The simplest way to take care of a rug is to vacuum it weekly. Dirt, dust, and small rocks that end up on a rug need to be vacuumed up or they will eventually work their way into and through the carpet backing. This will lead to wear and tear on the rug, or worse, the hardwood floors. 

Since some dirt and other material will always pass through the woven backing of the rug, it is a good idea to vacuum the underside, too. Simply flip the rug over (you can do half at a time if it’s easier) and vacuum the backing with the wand attachment.

Stains or pet accidents should be cleaned as soon as possible — preferably while they are still wet. This is the best practice to eliminate odors and watermarks.

A deep clean using baking soda, carpet shampoo, or steam should be done every six months.

If you aren’t sure how to deep clean your rug on hardwood floors, keep reading this guide for the steps you can take to keep both the area rug and the floor looking great.

What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • A vacuum cleaner
  • Soft sponges, brushes, or rags


  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Carpet shampoo
  • A thick plastic sheet (slightly larger than the size of the rug)
  • Masking tape, painter’s tape, or another non-marking tape


Before you get started, gather the items you are going to need from the list above. Move any furniture that is sitting on top of the rug, preferably a few feet away. If you are only cleaning a small stain or the rug is not very dirty, you may not need to do all of the steps listed below. Skip the heavier cleaning methods if you do not find them necessary.

Remember to pay careful attention to the state of your hardwood floor. If the cleaning process is getting more than a very slight amount of water on the floor, clean it up with towels or a mop right away.

How To Clean An Area Rug On Hardwood Floor

Cleaning an area rug on top of a hardwood floor demands extra care. Remember that prolonged exposure to water or even brief exposure to a large volume of water can severely damage your hardwood floor.

If you work carefully and prepare the area, you can get your area rug clean again without hurting the floor. Here are the steps in the process:

1) Vacuum the Rug

Roll over the whole rug with a vacuum cleaner. Remember to flip the rug and vacuum the backside if at all possible. Shaking the rug can also help remove dust from the fibers and backing. Vacuum or sweep up any dust left behind from the rug before you move on to the next step.

2) Prepare the Area

Prepare the area so that you can clean the rug without exposing the hardwood floor to water or chemicals. The best way to do this is to create a waterproof barrier between the area rug and the floor.

Roll the rug up to one end and lay out a thick plastic sheet that is at least as large as the area rug. Use some non-marking tape on the corners of the sheet to keep it from sliding around. Choose a plastic layer that is thick enough so it will not tear easily during the cleaning process, as small tears will cause water to leak through.

Finally, unroll the rug to sit on top of the plastic sheet.

Note: If you are only performing a small spot clean, it may be sufficient to substitute a smaller area rug for the plastic sheet. Just be sure that it is larger than the area you are going to be cleaning. This won’t be waterproof, but it can provide enough protection for a light cleaning.

3) Remove Odors with Baking Soda

baking soda

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a powerful odor absorber. To remove odors from your area rug, sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda over the entire rug. Allow plenty of time for the baking soda to absorb smells from the rug — plan for at least four hours, but overnight is best. After that, vacuum up all of the powder left on the rug.

For a stronger effect, you can create a thick paste by mixing a little lukewarm water in with the baking soda. Apply the paste with a soft brush or rag, rubbing it into the fibers in one direction. Just make sure to let the mixture dry completely before you vacuum it up.

This is a great method to target pet stains which can cause an unpleasant smell in a room.

Note: You can also use baking soda for spot cleaning if you only have one or two stains causing the odor and you do not have time to treat the whole rug. Or, if odors are not an issue in your room, you can skip this step.

4) Spot Clean the Rug

Now is the time to focus on any visible spots or stains on the rug. Dilute a small amount of dish soap into lukewarm water (hot water can affect the colors on some rugs). Apply the mild soap solution to the rug using a soft brush or sponge.

Scrub gently with the soapy brush to loosen any stuck-on dirt and stains. Avoid soaking the area rug completely. Use just enough water to get the rug clean.

To remove the soap, dip the brush in clean water and scrub again. Rinse the brush and replace the water several times until no more soap bubbles or dirt appear.

5) Clean with Carpet Shampoo

If the area rug requires a complete cleaning, use a carpet shampoo. Make sure to read the labels carefully and follow the directions to avoid damaging the color of your rug. Some shampoos need to be diluted with water before you use them.

Rub the carpet shampoo into the fibers of the rug gently with a soft sponge or brush. Use enough to cover all of the material but take care not to use so much that the rug is soaking wet.

Remove the shampoo by dipping the sponge in clean water and rubbing it into the rug. Repeat with fresh water until no more suds come out of your sponge into the clean water.

6) Dry the Rug Completely

Take your time to get all the water out of the rug. Speed the process by opening windows or setting up fans to move air around. This step is critical to prevent mold or mildew growth and to protect the hardwood floor when you remove the sheet.

During this step, also check the wood floor to see if any water has spilled or seeped in. Dry this with towels and fans immediately to avoid damage.

7) Replace the Rug

Once you are satisfied that the rug and the floor are completely dry, remove the plastic sheet from the hardwood floor. Roll the rug back out in its place.

8) Vacuum to Finish

Make one final pass with the vacuum cleaner. This will lift the carpet pile if it is matted down from cleaning and leave your area rug looking brand new.


Can you steam clean a rug on hardwood floors?

The short answer is yes, but you need to be very careful to protect your hardwood floors from steam exposure. Water, including water in the form of steam, can damage hardwood floors in a number of ways. Improper steam cleaning may watermark or even rot the floor. A relatively slight change in humidity can cause the floor to expand or contract too rapidly, warping the individual boards and leaving your floor bumpy and uneven.

To avoid these problems, you need to place a waterproof barrier between the rug and the floor. After vacuuming the rug, roll it up to one end and carefully lay out a clean plastic sheet or tarp that covers the whole area underneath the rug. Roll the rug out flat on top of the plastic sheet and steam clean the rug. Wait for the rug to dry completely (fans can speed this process) before removing the plastic. Carefully inspect both the rug and the hardwood floor to be sure they are completely dry before you roll the rug out on the floor again.

Can you use a carpet shampooer on hardwood floors?

You should not use a carpet shampooer on a rug that sits on a hardwood floor. These machines put down too much water to safely operate on top of hardwood, even with a protective plastic sheet in place. It is much better to use carpet shampoo by hand with a soft sponge or brush so you can control the amount of water yourself.