How to Remove Soot from Unfinished Wood


Judith asked: The finish is worn off of our hardwood floors and kitchen cabinets. A layer of smoke from a kitchen fire covers these surfaces. The fire itself didn’t do too much damage, but the resulting smoke is on the cabinets and worn out hardwood floor. What can I expect from my insurance company regarding the cabinets and floor? I tried to clean with TSP and borax. It just rubbed the soot into the cabinets. Thanks.

Cleaning unfinished wood, or wood that the finish has been removed from can be a real challenge. The materials and cleaning supplies you can use is limited in these situations. We are not in the insurance business and can’t offer advice on what reimbursement or coverage you’ll receive, but we can offer you a cleaning method that will help to remove the soot from the wood.

You Will Need:

Steps to Remove the Soot:

  1. Begin by vacuuming the surfaces using an upholstery attachment.
  2. Once all of the loose soot is vacuumed away, you are ready to clean the rest of the soot away.
  3. The soot sponge is a chemically treated sponge that is designed to remove soot from all kinds of surfaces. It is safe to use on almost every surface and object.
  4. Simply rub the sponge over the surface. Do not wring or twist the sponge. This can disturb the chemicals inside.
  5. To clean the wood further, see our guide How to Clean Unsealed Wood Floors. Though originally written for unfinished flooring, these cleaning methods and products can be used on all unfinished wood surfaces.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • When floors are unfinished, there are a limited number of products that can be used safely to remove the soot. If the soot cannot be removed, the wood surfaces may have to be refinished completely.
  • If you are unsure of how the wood will react to a cleaning method or product, test a small hidden area first. If there is any discoloration or warping, select a different method. If the test area goes well, it is safe to continue.
  • Work in small sections to keep the wood from getting too wet.

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