When my Husband and I began renovations on our house a year ago, almost to the day, the house was in such a state of disarray that it was almost absurd. What we didn’t expect to find, however, was gold hidden beneath a layer of carpet and linoleum.
Of course, I’m not talking about real gold! Instead I’m referring to one of the best things (in my opinion) that you can find in an old home- which is equal to gold when it comes to historic and semi-historic real estate: Original Hardwood Floors.
Unfortunately, at the time of renovations we didn’t have the money to refinish the floors; other problems we found throughout the house required us to divert the funds elsewhere. And there, unfortunately, is where we ran into a bit of a pickle: Now-a-days, most wood floors are covered in a sealant like Polyurethane in order to protect them, but we had no such luck… Unfinished wood floors are simply more common in old homes like ours that haven’t been restored or updated.
We’ve been slowly stashing money away to refinish the floors, but one of the largest issue that we face in the interim is the fact that our floors are unfinished. The problem, here, is that unfinished hardwood floors are prone to a lot of issues; they are easily damaged, they can warp, they splinter, humidity and water may cause rotting, and the list goes on. Because of this you can’t clean them using conventional methods like mopping. Doing so risks more damage, warping, and rotting of the wood.
So how do you care for an untreated hardwood floor and prevent damage while you try to save money and figure out what you would like to do with it? That question is answered a lot more simply than one would expect- and I’ve figured it our over the last year through a lot of research, and my own trial and error.
Maintaining really boils down to both making sure that nothing that hits the floor and making sure that what does doesn’t stay there fore too long.
Since we have cats and one of the places we can store the litter box is in the kitchen, their box sits on a raised platform to prevent any litter or… ahem… Unpleasantness… From falling onto the bare wood. We also have a litter mat beneath it for added protection. More than that, I sweep my floor almost daily. This keeps the dirt and other debris from causing more damage, and helps to remove food (or other matter) that may stain it further. Likewise, anything that I spill on the floor gets wiped up immediately.
I don’t actually clean my floor all that often. When I do, it’s usually once monthly or once every couple of months depending on foot traffic through the kitchen.
To do that, I first take a super fine grit sand paper and lightly sand any splinters or rough edges that I find; I learned my lesson about not sanding the problem splinters after I pulled a rather sizable chunk of wood off a panel in the floor… Discovered only when a splinter caught on my stocking while I was running through the house! It doesn’t take more than a light hand, though. You don’t want to over sand the floor as sanding does damage it and eventually makes it uneven. Doing this with a light hand only on problematic areas, however, will help to protect your feet and keep splinters from becoming bigger problems in the future.
After all of the major splinters have been lightly sanded, I take a wood cleaner that’s safe for untreated wood, and a mop with a soft head. To do this I apply the liquid cleaner to the mop head until it is damp (never wet), and mop the floor in small, even sections. Make sure to read the labels on the wood cleaners, however! Not all modern cleaners are safe to use on untreated wood floors and can do more damage than good. You also want to be careful not to saturate the floor too badly, or it will still cause warping and damage- which is what we’re trying to prevent.
At this point, most people will suggest using Wax on the floors as a temporary sealant. I dislike this idea personally; wax builds up with regular use, making it harder to sand and refinish them later. Instead, I tend to use another cleaner that’s safe for untreated wood, but which contains an oil based protectant. I’ve found that once set it helps to prevent anything else from soaking into or staining the flooring just as well as a sealant will.
And here is our floor a year later (after a fresh clean, of course), compared to how it looked when we first discovered it. You can really see the difference it makes in the flooring!
Most of the stains have come out on their own simply with regular cleaning using this method. And they look just as great, if not better, than when we found them under the layers of carpet and linoleum.