How to Clean Particle Board Subflooring


Susan asked: Is there any way to clean particle board flooring once the carpet is pulled up? We have three dogs inside the house. We are getting ready to install new carpet as we are selling our house. Our realtor is worried about the dog smell and would like us to clean the particle board before the new carpet is installed. I know you should not get particle board wet, and I am at a loss as to how to clean it. Thank you!

Subflooring can collect odors almost as much as the carpeting that is laid over it. Over time these odors can build up and linger even after the carpet has been changed. With particle board, the key is to work in small areas and work quickly so that as little moisture as possible enters the wood. By doing so, you can avoid warping and/or swelling at the joints. Follow the guidelines below to clean the subfloor and remove the odor for good.

You Will Need:

  • Vinegar or bleach
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Stiff broom
  • Vacuum
  • Kilz or Zap oil based paints (optional)
  • Paint roller or sprayer (optional)

Steps to Clean the Subflooring:

  1. Start by thoroughly vacuuming or sweeping the particle board to remove any loose dust and dirt.
  2. Next, combine either one part vinegar with one part water or 1 part bleach with 3 parts water in the bucket. Either of these solutions will eliminate the smell and the bleach will also disinfect.
  3. Next you will begin washing the floor. To avoid getting too much moisture on the wood it is necessary to work in small areas and use the smallest amount of water possible.
  4. Dip just the tips of a stiff broom in the water and brush it along the floor.
  5. When you finish with a small area, dry up any remaining moisture with a dry mop or old towels. Remove the moisture as quickly as possible to avoid any damage to the wood.
  6. Move onto the next section and repeat washing and drying.
  7. When the entire floor is clean, allow it to dry completely.
  8. As an optional step, you can apply a sealer to keep any smells that may have not been removed from returning.
  9. Apply the oil based paint following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  10. Allow the paint to dry completely before installing new carpet.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • If the subflooring has a really strong odor, it may be necessary to remove it and lay new subflooring prior to installing the new carpeting. Before doing that though, try sealing it to lock the odors in.
  • If installing ceramic or natural stone flooring, do not seal the subflooring with paint prior to installation. Just allow the flooring to dry thoroughly.


  1. Stanley says:

    I am about to replace the carpet in the bedroom with laminate flooring. When I had the original carpet replaced with the present carpet three years ago, the plywood sub-floor was black in some areas, which in retrospect, I now think was mildew. This room is over a basement area. Are there dry chemicals to deal with this issue and if not, how do I get the mildew removed in the shortest period of time that would allow laminate floors to be installed in their stead?

  2. Greg says:

    Our coat closet near our front door also houses our hot water heater, our old hot water heater has leaked and the particle board flooring that is under the vinyl flooring is soaked. whenever we step on it you can see water rise to the surface. It sounds like a sponge. Can this be dried out or will we need new sub-flooring? We replaced the hot water heater already with a drip pan under it. What do we need to do next?

  3. Sharon L. says:

    When I worked in construction, it was common for the builders to seal up the plywood/particle board flooring with an antimicrobial sealer. It was easily rolled on with a paint roller and dried very quickly. I wonder if this could be used the same way after the particle board has this issue? Not wet, but had been at some point and is now dry.

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