Sealed Vs Unsealed Hardwood Floors
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Sealed Vs. Unsealed Hardwood Floors – Better Material 2024

Sealed vs. unsealed hardwood floors; If you are in love with hardwood floors, the term sealed and unsealed will frequently appear when choosing how you should finish the materials.

Stay with me! I will give further explanation of selecting the best material for your floor. Stay tuned!

Seal Your Hardwood Floor
Is it necessary to seal your hardwood floor?

Let’s Look At Sealed Hardwood Floors

Sealed hardwood floors are a version of finished hardwood floors that are coated with surface-sealants or penetrating sealants. There are many types of sealants like water-based, oil-based, or solvent-based, each of them serves a different purpose, but the key is to protect the floor.

The water-based sealants can penetrate the wood, while oil-based sealants can create a protective cover on the hardwood’s surface. Sealed hardwood floors are also coated with other finishers like wax or varnish.

Covering Your Hardwood Floor
Covering your floor with a finisher will make the floor shinier and resist to water.

Some Quick Ways To Test Your Floor Sealant

Here are some methods that you could test on your floor to see if the floor is covered with any finisher or not.

Initially, place a drop of water on the hardwood floor. Remember to choose an inconspicuous area on your floor to test. If the water doesn’t soak into the floor, instead, beads of water appear, your hardwood floor is sealed.

You can also use steel wool to rub on the hardwood floor’s surface and check for residue. After a few minutes of rubbing, if any wax grabs onto the steel wool, your hardwood floor has been wax-finished.

You can also use your fingernails to check the floor’s sealant. Gently rub your nail on the clean floor; if there is no smudge on the floor, it is covered with a sealant. If smudges do appear, your floor has been finished with an oil finish, penetrating seal, varnish, or lacquer, and then waxed.

Another way to check the floor sealant is using nail polish remover (acetone-based). Applying the acetone-based product on the floor, varnish, shellac, and wax finishes will form a space, while polyurethane finishes will remain the same.

The final option is to contact the floor’s manufacturer to check what type of finisher that they applied on your floor. Knowing the finisher will help you clean your floor better.

Identify the finisher on your wood floor following these quick steps.

Watch this video: Wood Finish Identification

Unsealed Hardwood Floors – What Are They?

Unsealed hardwood floors are raw flooring planks that haven’t been finished with any sealants, wax, or varnish. These flooring planks are the favorite choice of many house owners as they can finish the floor with any finishes that suit their interior design.

Sanding allows you to do inlays, borders, and other customized elements on the planks. These features are not always available in finished flooring from the manufacturer.

As you can choose any stain to finish the wood planks, the color and appearance of the wood after being sealed on-site will match your desire and other interior elements.

Unfinished hardwood floors are typically applied in old houses and apartments. The material gives a rustic and contemporary vibe to your home, so this is a perfect choice for those who love this interior style.

However, unsealed hardwood floors come with many disadvantages. The material will be vulnerable to damages and spoilage, especially when dealing with moisture. So, unsealed hardwood floors require high maintenance and complicated cleaning procedures.

As a result, most people choose to seal the floor on-site due to the additional benefit that this process provides to the material. Here are reasons for sealing unfinished floors on-site.

  • Enhance durability and stability after sanding and finishing.
  • The finisher will sustain the unsealed hardwood’s natural characteristics.
  • Boost the uniformity of seal and finish as the unfinished planks will cover the space and cracks created by uneven flooring planks.

So, Which One Is Better?

Sealed and unsealed hardwood floors can have perfect performance when you apply them correctly. Look at the table below to have an overview of these two types of hardwood floors.

FeaturesSealed Hardwood FloorUnsealed Hardwood Floor
  • Smooth and glossy
  • Different colors from the sealants and finishers
  • Dull and a bit dark
  • Only have the natural wood colors
DurabilityCan withstand weight and resist scratches, stainsFragile surfaces
Scratches and dents appear easily
Water resistanceResist waterVulnerable to moisture
ApplicationsCan apply to any roomNot suitable for high levels of moisture and high-traffic areas
MaintenanceCleaning with wood cleaners is sufficient to keep the floor shiny and clean.Require high maintenance and proper cleaning

Sealed hardwood floors have a shinier surface compared with unsealed ones. The finisher or sealant will evoke the gorgeous look of and the color of hardwood floors.

Unsealed hardwood floors are darker and don’t have a smooth surface like the former one. If you want to give this type of floor a shiny look, you have to clean it with olive oil and vinegar mixture. Or, you can sand and finish the floor to achieve the glossy look you want.

Protect The Surface Of The Sealed Floors
Sealed hardwood floor has a distinctive glossy look.

As the finisher will protect the surface of the sealed floors, you can apply this material to almost any area in your room. Even the site with high moisture levels, like the kitchen and bathroom, can utilize the finished hardwood planks.

The unsealed material, on the other hand, doesn’t have any protective cover. As a result, you can only apply this material in a low-traffic room and avoid moisture.

Some sealants can contain color pigments, so the sealed products can have various choices of color. Unsealed floors only have the original color when you first bought them home.

Cleaning the unprotected wood is quite challenging and complicated. Not any commercial wood floor can work on this material, so be careful while maintaining the unsealed hardwood floors.

Use a soft-bristled broom or a canister vacuum to clean your hardwood floor regularly. Make sure you keep dirt and dust out of the floor. Don’t let the dust have any chance to build up.

As your floor is unprotected, cleaning it with water will make your floor crack and warp. So, lower the use of water in cleaning at all costs.

To keep the unfinished floor shine, you have to treat it with jojoba or linseed oil once every month. Just ensure the floor is free of dust and apply the oil with a clean cloth. Finally, just go over your floor again with a dry mop, and the floor will gloss.

An additional layer of wax will even boost your floor glossiness onto another level. Choose petroleum-based wax that doesn’t contain water to prevent scratches or warps on the floor. Cover the wax with a clean rag and finish with a dry mop after the wax is dry (at least 30 minutes).

Different Types Of Wood Finishes

Covering your hardwood floor’s surface with sealants or a finisher will prevent stains, scratches and add moisture resistance to the material (2). Here are some common sealants that you should take a look at.

Most people miss recognizing a layer of the stain as a protective sealant for finishers. Well, the stain layer only adds color, and it is not a sealer. There are two major types of hardwood finish: surface finishes and penetrating finishes.

Lacquering Finish Your Floor
Lacquering is another easy way to finish your floor.

Surface finishers will form a plastic-like layer covering the hardwood surface. This helps prevent moisture from soaking into the material. One of the most common finishes for wood flooring is polyurethane.

Polyurethane has two subcategories: aluminum oxide formulations for finishing on-site and aluminum oxide formulations for prefinished hardwood flooring. Shellac and lacquer are also used, but the durability can not be compared with polyurethane.

Polyurethane or polycrylic can resist water and stains with a long-lasting cover . This type of finisher is considered the most durable surface finish.

Apply polyurethane finisher to maintain your floor’s flawless look.

Watch this video: Re-finished your Hardwood Floors

Penetrating finishes like linseed oil and hard-wax oil will penetrate the wood, protecting the natural textures and grain on the hardwood’s surface. As the surface is not protected by any cover, the material can be threatened by water and unwanted stains.

A layer of wax is usually applied to protect the penetrating finishes from moisture. You have to reapply the wax layer after a certain amount of time. Penetrating seal is not commonly used for interior flooring like the polyurethane type.

How to apply a sealant perfectly on your hardwood floor.

Watch this video: How The Pros Finish A Wood Floor

How Can I Clean Unsealed and Sealed Hardwood Floor?

After you know the difference between a sealed and unsealed hardwood floor, here is how you should clean it. Remember to follow the instructions precisely so as not to damage the floor.

Clean Unsealed Hardwood Floor

That said before, this type of flooring requires extra care and maintenance from you. As the material is unsealed, any excess water will ruin the whole planks.

Clean Unsealed Hardwood Floor
Always choose a soft and gentle material to work on the unsealed hardwood floor.


  • A bucket
  • A broom with soft bristles (a feather duster or a microfiber dust mop)
  • A canister vacuum
  • White vinegar (lemon or baking soda)
  • Clean cloths
  • A sprayer (Optional)
  • Mineral spirits, cyclo-propane, or paraffin (Optional)


Step 1: Sweeping the floor to pick up all the dirt, hair, and debris that are stuck in the material. Use a broom with soft bristles or microfiber dust mop as the bristles will not damage the wood surface. A feather duster is also an excellent option for doing this.

Note: You should sweep or vacuum the floor every day to prevent the buildup of dust.

Step 2: Vacuum the floor to suck up any remaining debris on the surface. Choose a vacuum brush that is designed to work on unsealed hardwood floors to avoid scratching the surface.

Quick tip: A canister vacuum is perfect as it has an attachment that is suitable for cleaning bare floors like a hardwood floor.

Note: You only need to vacuum once a week. This is not a daily task.

Step 3: Make a cleaning solution in a bucket. Here are three options that you can try to work on your hardwood floors.

  • 1 gallon of water and 2 spoons of white vinegar
  • ½ a lemon and 1 gallon of water
  • 1 gallon of water and 1 spoon of baking soda

Note: Mineral spirits, cyclo-propane, or paraffin are also good for cleaning unsealed hardwood as they can remove scuff marks on the material.

Step 4: Damp the mop in the prepared mixture. Then, squeeze the mop to get rid of the excess solution. Don’t let a soaking wet mop on the unsealed hardwood floor, as the solution could cause permanent damage to the floor surface.

Note: Don’t use a string mop! This type of mop retains excess water in its fibers which can damage the floor.

Quick tip: You can use a spray to apply the solution to the floor surface. The sprayer will help you control the amount of cleaning solution better. Then, follow with a damp and clean cloth or mop.

Step 5: Clean the entire floor carefully. Don’t miss any spots on the floor.

Step 6: Wipe the floor with a clean and dry towel to remove any film of water.

Step 7: Let the hardwood floor dry completely.

Useful tips to take care of your unsealed hardwood floor precisely.

Watch this video: Maintain Unfinished Wood Flooring

Clean Sealed Hardwood Floor

After being protected by a sealant or finisher, your hardwood floor is now much easier to clean. Let’s go!

Clean Sealed Hardwood Floor
Even if the floor is sealed, you should choose a microfiber mop to protect the floor’s surface.


  • White vinegar
  • A bucket
  • A soft bristle broom


Step 1: Pick up all dirt particles with a soft bristle broom

Step 2: Mix 1 cup of white vinegar and 2 gallons of water into a bucket.

Step 3: Damp your mop with the prepared mixture and work on the floor. Always wring out the excess solution to prevent over-wetting the floor.

Note: Ensure that the mop or the cloth you use is free of dust and dirt because the dirty one will act like sandpaper and dull your floor.

Step 4: Let the floor dry. Your hardwood floor will shine again after this cleaning procedure.

Quick tip: Besides vinegar, plenty of wood cleaners can work well on the sealed floor. Avoid choosing any chemical containing wax, as it can build up residue over time and ruin the floor’s appearance.

Clean your hardwood floor in a super simple way.

Watch this video: How to Clean Hardwood Floors

Vital Tips To Take Care Hardwood Floors

Check these tips out to take care of your hardwood floor properly. Remember to note them, as these tips might come in handy to sustain the dazzling look for your floors.

Prevent Build Up Dirt And Grime

Sweep the floor every day with a soft broom to remove any dirt on the surface. Use a microfiber cloth to take care of some stubborn dust. You can use a vacuum without a beater bar rotating to clean the floor and avoid scratches appearing on the surface.

Use Mats Or Rugs

Place floor mats in high-traffic areas such as door entry and living rooms. The mat will reduce the damage and collect any dirt or tiny particles from shoes when your house has visitors.

The mat will also be helpful in snowy or rainy weather, absorbing water and muds from boots and shoes. Place a floor protector under heavy furniture and use carpets in the living room to avoid scratches from kids’ toys.

Carpet Or Rug Protect The Floor
A carpet or rug will protect the floor from such dust and minor damage.

Purchase The Correct Cleaning Product

Only apply the cleaning products that the flooring manufacturer approves. You can consult with the floor installer to apply a suitable cleaning approach. Spot test any new cleaner on a hidden corner to make you use the correct product.

Unless the floor is finished with a wax finisher, don’t use wax or petroleum-based products on the hardwood floor. Dirt and debris will cling to the oil or wax finisher, which can cause scratches when you step on the floor.

Never use commercial cleaners that contain the following ingredients: ammonia, polish, oil (oil soap), or wax. These products will damage or leave sticky residues on the floor’s surface. Only apply commercial cleaners when dealing with stubborn stains or dust.

Don’t Let Any Water Stand On The Wood Surface

Clean any spills or water on the hardwood surface immediately. You can use a soft and dry cloth and wipe at the edges of the spill and move toward the center of the spill. This motion will make sure that the water can’t spread to other areas.

Do not over-wet the hardwood floor while cleaning – this causes the floor planks to expand, resulting in cupping.

To avoid over-wetting the area, try spot-cleaning with a hardwood flooring cleaner. Spot-cleaning allows you to control the amount of moisture on the material’s surface than the regular mopping.

Steam cleaning will harm your hardwood floor, especially the unsealed one. The extreme heat and moisture will ruin your floor.

Treating With Natural Oil

Natural oil like linseed or jojoba will help get rid of residue and keep your floor spotless. Apply the oil once a month to maintain the appearance of your floor. Wipe the surface with a dry and clean cloth to buff the excess oil and kick any dirt residue out.

Wax Unsealed Floor

A layer of wax will help the unsealed floor look shinier. Don’t wax if you want to add a sealant in the future. Removing the wax layer is difficult, so make sure you plan this carefully.

Amazing tips to maintain your hardwood floor.

Watch this video: Protect, Maintain, And Clean Hardwood Flooring

Shine Your Unsealed Hardwood Floors

If you are in love with the appearance of unsealed hardwood floors, you can make the material’s surface shiny by treating the floor with oil or wax. Let’s discover how you can do it.

Shine Your Unsealed Hardwood Floors
Do you know that you could shine your unsealed hardwood floor?

Warning: You can not seal or coat the floor after applying the following instructions. So make sure you plan ahead before doing the next steps.


  • Clean cloths
  • For oil method: a natural oil (linseed or jojoba)
  • For waxing method: petroleum-based, waterless wax
  • A buffing machine (Optional)


Oil method

Step 1: Apply a natural oil (linseed or jojoba) on a clean cloth.

Step 2: Then, rub the floor’s surface using the cloth and let the oil stay for around 15 minutes.

Step 3: Buff the excess oil with a dry mop or cloth – this will also help remove any dust and debris on the floor.

An additional ways to shine your hardwood floor with tung oil.

Watch this video: Use Half & Half Tung Oil On Wood Floor

Waxing method

Step 1: Rub the petroleum-based, waterless wax on the hardwood floor using a clean cloth.

Step 2: Allow the wax to dry for around 30 minutes.

Step 3: Clean the excess wax with a clean cloth. You can also try a buffing machine to speed up the process when waxing a large area.

The Price For Refinishing Hardwood Floors

The following chart will show you a general cost for refinishing your floor. So, if you want to have your floor seal, have a quick look.

Room Size (per square foot)1.20 ($)2.75 ($)3.50 ($)4.50 ($)
10 x 10101.2275350450
12 x 12172.8396504648
14 x 14235.2539686882
16 x 16307.27048961,152
18 x 18388.88911,1341,458
20 x 204801,1001,4001,800

The lowest price ($1.20 per square foot) is usually the price for refinishing pine wood and other common types of wood. The price will increase toward $4.50 per square foot if your floor is a rare type of wood.

You will have to add $50 per hour for the labor cost. The larger the room, the longer it takes to finish resealing the floor. Ask the contractor to provide a quotation, not an estimated price. You don’t want to spend any extra that wasn’t ‘estimated’, right?


Let’s look at the following questions to have further information about sealed and unsealed hardwood floors.

Is laminate flooring sealed or unsealed?

Almost any laminate flooring planks that arrive at your house are sealed and can be installed immediately. Unsealed options are also available if you want to finish it with an eco-friendly sealer of your choice.

Do new hardwood floors need sealing?

Hardwood is vulnerable to moisture and scratches if you don’t cover it with a protective sealant. Apply at least two layers of cover to protect your floors from unwanted damage.

How frequently do you seal hardwood floors?

Reapply a finisher for your hardwood floors every 3-5 years. Observe the floor’s surface to see if it needs resealing or not. Dull surface and light scratches on the surface will be the signs telling you to apply a new sealant.

Are prefinished hardwood planks sealed?

A prefinished hardwood plank is treated with a finisher at the manufacturer before arriving at your house. However, you will need to apply a sealant on the lines between each plank to protect the floor entirely.

Are engineered hardwood planks sealed?

Engineered hardwood planks are also available with sealed and unsealed planks. The flooring materials usually come prefinished. You can also add another layer of the protective layer to protect the material.

How do I know my wood floor is oiled or lacquered?

A lacquer finisher is not as shiny as an oil finisher in terms of appearance. If you don’t know the finisher of your floor is oil or lacquer, rub the floor with your finger; if you feel a bit oily, your floor is covered with oil. Otherwise, it must be lacquer.

Can I use Murphy's oil soap for wood floors?

Sure, Murphy’s oil soap is a cleaner that can sustain the beauty of your wood floors. Just dilute the product with water according to the instructions. Then, wipe your floor using a clean cloth; you will be amazed by the result.

What is the best mop for an unsealed hardwood floor?

When it comes to cleaning an unsealed hardwood floor, I prefer choosing soft tools so as not to damage the floor. So, you should pick a microfiber dust mop to clean the hardwood floor.

What is the best unsealed wood floor cleaner?

You should only clean the unsealed wood floor with a dry mop or a broom. A damp cloth with water will work on cleaning some stains but avoid using any commercial cleaner and water on the wood surface.

Can you use Rejuvenate on an unsealed wood floor?

Rejuvenate is formulated for clean hardwood floors. However, it would be best if you spot test the product before applying it on your floor, especially for unsealed hardwood floors.

Can I use Bona on my wood floors?

Bona is a mild but very effective cleaner recommended for hardwood floors. Spray the product on the wood surface and wipe with a clean rag. The product will shine on your floor without leaving any residue.

So, What Is Your Decision?

Both sealed and unsealed hardwood floors have their own benefits and serve different purposes. Sealed hardwood floor is a safer choice if you choose durability and moisture resistance. However, sealing the unfinished hardwood planks on-site is also a great choice.

Share with me your choice and the reasons for choosing it in the comment section below. Thank you for staying with me until the end of this post! See you in the next post.

Sealed Vs Unsealed Hardwood Floors


  1. 2022. Polyurethane Coatings on Hardwood and Softwood Surfaces: Their Resistance to Household Liquids as an Educational Case Study.
  2. 2022. Wood finishing – Wikipedia.

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Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones

Home Cleaning Specialist

Expertise: In-depth Knowledge of Cleaning Agents and Their Uses, Advanced Home Sanitization, Techniques Expertise in Cleaning and Maintaining, Various Floor Types, Innovations in Home Cleaning Tools

School: American College of Home Economics

Kevin Jones is a seasoned home cleaning specialist with over a decade of experience in the industry. A stickler for cleanliness and organization, Kevin brings a systematic and innovative approach to home maintenance. His expertise ranges from traditional methods to modern cleaning technology, ensuring homes are not just clean but healthy environments too.

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