Getting years of dirt and general gunk off hard wood can be a challenge. Some people might even consider giving older wood items away or throwing them out, but that is such a tragedy when it comes to vintage homes. Original wood touches add so much character and warmth. Cleaning up wood may take a little elbow grease, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or involve anything elaborate.
One of our favorite methods to clean wood is a combination of water and vinegar. It’s not fancy but it works! We used this method at a house in Redlands that was featured on season 2 of Vintage Flip. There was an amazing built-in that was in rough shape. We knew right away that it was worth saving and, as it turns out, it mainly just needed a good cleaning. We used a mixture of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Then we SCRUBBED.
Although the example seen on the show was a built-in, this can also work for wood floors, baseboards, wood trim—you name it.
For a basic vinegar recipe, mix about 1 gallon of warm water to ½ cup of white vinegar. White vinegar works best because it doesn’t smell as strongly as the other types and is less likely to stain the wood. We like to funnel the mix into a spray bottle to make things easier but that part is up to you. (If you’re washing a floor, you might want to use a bucket or a refillable mop. Also, go in sections instead of tackling the entire thing at once.)
If there is a ton of dirt or dust just sitting on the wood feature or floor, go ahead and wipe or sweep it away before you start major cleaning. No need to risk scratches from the dirt. But after that, you’re set to wash with mops for floors or paper towels or cloths for detailed work. Some people like to wash with the wood grain in case of streaking. If it’s a first wash, though, just get it clean.
When you’re finished you can pretty much just let everything air dry. If there’s tons of pooled water or it looks especially wet, wipe up the excess with a towel.
And that’s pretty much it. This is a good option if you’re budget conscious or prefer natural cleaning products. It’s also safe to use around children and pets because it’s non-toxic.
By the way, this mixture isn’t just good for cleaning wood. You can also use it for spot cleaning around the kitchen when it comes to footprints, fingerprints, spills, grease spots around the stove. Just shake the bottle a little and spray onto the spot or into a towel and wipe!