How to Clean Wood Stairs

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Do you also like the wooden finish over the floor and staircase? Then this guide is for you. One of the major concerns of people having a wooden staircase is its maintenance. However, with this step-by-step guide on how to clean wood stairs, you can keep your stairs as fresh as new.

How to Clean Wood Stairs

The wear and tear caused by rising and descending steps might cause your wooden staircase to look worn out. However, with a few simple actions, homeowners can bring their stairs back to life. On a wooden staircase, it doesn’t take long for symptoms of wear and strain to appear. 

Materials Required

  • Mop and Bucket
  • Wooden Floor Cleaners/Vinegar
  • Ice Cubes And Filler Bag
  • Chemicals (Mineral Spirit/Trisodium Phosphate)
A spiral wood staircase

Step #1: Find the Finish of the Wood

The first step is to identify the sort of wood finish you’re working with, as each has its own set of care requirements. The easiest to clean is surface-sealed wood, which only requires a short sweep and mop.

The most prevalent sort of wood floor sealant is this one. You’ll need to wax these types of steps in addition to sweeping and mopping. Wax is also required for the unfinished wood.

Wipe your finger across the surface of your wooden staircase to determine the type of finish. If you observe a mark where you touched wood, your floor is unfinished or has a penetrating seal. 

Well, in most cases, the wooden stairs are adequately finished when they are laid. However, if you are still unsure about it, you can contact your builder.

Step #2: Pick the Appropriate Cleaning Supplies

Before you start with mopping your wooden stairs, it’s crucial to determine the type of cleaning solution (depending upon the finish of the surface). The easiest and quickest solution you can prepare at home is the dish soap and water mixture.

This solution will not only clean the wooden staircase but also will remove the stickiness from the surface. 

Apart from this, you can use non-abrasive cleaners, especially when you have an unfinished wooden staircase. We highly suggest you not go for cleaners meant for polished or sealed surfaces as they can be pretty potent for your staircase.

You will also need wax or sealants for the unfinished stairs to protect them for the long run.

It’s crucial to remember that you should never use oil or polish on wood stairwells or floors. Be mindful of the varnish or polish you are picking.

Don’t go for oil-based varnishes, as they can make the surface slick and increase the chances of slipping and falling. Cleaning and polishing your steps on a regular basis will keep them looking fantastic.

Step #3: Look For Dents and Cut-Marks

If your steps have any dents, apply an extra coat of wax to the damaged area. This will fill in the dent and restore the smoothness of the surface. If your wood has scratches, you’ll need to apply a second finish to seal the crack and keep moisture out.

It is best to look out for dents or scratches from time to time to avoid paying extra bills for repair and maintenance. It will help you save time and labor and add a few more years to the wooden staircase. 

Step #4: Eliminate the Dust

Dirt and debris can stack up if dust has not been done for a long time, making it difficult to get rid of—dust with a feather duster or a soft cloth on a regular basis. If you don’t have a feather duster, you can also use your vacuum with an upholstery attachment brush.

To remove dirt from corners, use small-sized soft-bristled brushes like an artist brush or toothbrush to remove the dirt granules properly. 

A soft-bristled brush can assist in scrubbing the grime off if the unclean area is challenging to clean. One can find dish soap made from natural ingredients at some organic supermarkets.

A dusty wooden floor with a vacuum cleaner beside

Step #5: Make a Soap Mixture

It is hard to keep floors and staircase clean when people are around. Dropping food, paints, and other sticky edibles on the floor and staircase is common in every household. Well, mopping might seem enough, but actually, it isn’t. 

Mopping with plain water cannot remove the oiliness and stickiness from the surface. Hence, you need something that can remove these unwanted textures from the staircase. The best thing to do is to make a detergent and water solution; you can also use any other fragrant soap of your choice too.

Use a sponge or a microfiber mop/cloth to wipe the stairs thoroughly with detergent and water. Don’t miss out on dry-mopping the surface later. Never leave the staircase wet.

There are two reasons for it. First, they become dangerous to climb up/down, and secondly, they can start deteriorating if they are unfinished.

A soft-bristled brush can assist in scrubbing the grime off if the unclean area is challenging to clean. One can find dish soap made from natural ingredients at some organic supermarkets.

Step #6: Homemade Assistant

To make the staircase shine as new, it is vital to get rid of marks like fingerprints and dust from the unfinished wood. For this, you don’t have to rush to the supermarket but to your kitchen. Grab the synthetic vinegar from your household.

Take a tbsp of vinegar along with few parts of water in an atomizer bottle. Clean the staircase with the mixture and wipe it down properly. To prevent moisture from penetrating the wood, wipe the cleaned area with a dry cloth afterward. 

If you are not satisfied with the diluted vinegar solution, you can use vinegar and water in equal parts for effective results.

Step #7: Tackle the Sticky Residue

If there is chewing gum sticking on the stairs, then don’t miss out on this step.

Chewing gum and pine tree sap leave a sticky mess on wood that can be difficult to remove without damaging the furniture. Since the chewing gum stains might still be sticky, the best way to remove them is to solidify them first.

Once the gumminess is solidified, you can scratch it off quickly. For that, take a few ice cubes in the zipper bag and put them on the gummy area. Use a scraper or a knife to chip off the hardened gum.

Here is a detailed video on how to clean timber stairs properly.

How to Clean Unfinished Wood Staircase

Above, we discussed the steps on how you could clean a polished or finished wooden staircase. But, what about the unfinished ones? Here are a few steps to look after the unfinished wooden staircase, which you must try:

Step #1: Use Chemicals

1. Mineral Spirit

Mineral spirits are a by-product of petroleum that artists often use to remove oil paints from the surface. It can remove stains without harming your floors/stairs when used as a cleaning agent. Use a soft pad or a lint-free cloth to rub the substance into the boards.

Using a clean towel or rag, wipe up any remaining liquid. There is an alternative to mineral spirits if you don’t like them.

2. Trisodium Phosphate

Trisodium Phosphate is another alternative. It is a crystal-based powder that is readily available in any local improvement store. Apply this phosphate powder on the stains and wash it off thoroughly with warm water.

To avoid irreversible water damage, soak it up in any extra liquid before use.

Keep in mind that preparation is essential when employing one of these strategies. Your floors must be spotless and free of dust and debris to achieve the most outstanding results.

Before using this cleanser in a visible place, do a spot test.

Step #2: A Few Precautions to Consider

  1. Both of these compounds are very flammable and dangerous to one’s health. They’re incredibly combustible, so don’t keep or use them near sparks or open flames. When working with either of these products, exercise extreme caution.
  2. When working with dangerous goods, always use a respirator. To avoid being exposed to harmful gases, make sure your location is sufficiently ventilated. One should never use these solvents in the company of minors or anybody who has a history of respiratory issues.
  3. These compounds can irritate your skin and cause it to react in an unpleasant way. Wear thick gloves developed for chemical applications to protect yourself.
A person holding a red mop on a wooden floor

The Most Common Unfinished Wood Floor Cleaning Mistakes

Don’t assume that just because you know how to clean treated hardwood wooden staircases, you can also clean unprotected wooden staircases. Here are seven cleaning blunders you should never make in order to preserve your floors.

1. Mopping Unfinished Stairs

This old-fashioned cleaning method may work for a variety of things, but it doesn’t work well on unfinished flooring. Water can deform and destroy your floor.

Do not use wet cleaning methods to clean this type of flooring. It’s not a good plan.

2. Using Wrong Supplies

Look at the labels. Unless a product clearly states that it is meant to clean untreated flooring, it is unlikely to be safe to use on unsealed wood floors. When you use the wrong materials on your unfinished flooring, you risk permanently ruining your untreated wood.


Today there are many designs and wood material available to choose from whose maintenance differs based on the type of wood. Moreover, the layout of the staircase has been evolved with time.

Homes with unfinished wood flooring have a rustic, warm feel to them. On the other hand, maintaining such flooring necessitates attention and care if you want to maintain a natural appearance. Because such flooring is prone to irreversible damage from trash and water, homeowners should follow a regular cleaning program.

Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.