Best Cleaning Solutions for Wooden Surfaces

Best Cleaning Solutions for Wooden Surfaces - Alabama Sawyer

May 13, 2020

With the outbreak of Corona Virus, we have all become more focused than ever on cleanliness. Along with taking hand washing to the next level, cleaning and disinfecting household surfaces has become a daily ritual.  We decided to conduct an experiment on what cleaning solutions can clean and disinfect, while also protecting the finishes of our wooden surfaces!

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends first cleaning surfaces with soap and water, then disinfecting with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered household disinfectant.  Cleaning will clear your surfaces of dirt, and can also wipe away a portion of the germs residing on the surface, while disinfecting helps to kill the majority of germs on a surface.  You can check the CDC’s website for a list of disinfectants approved for use against SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

First we tried out Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes, which use Thymol, a component of Thyme Oil, to kill pathogens.  This product claims to clean and disinfect in one step, and it didn’t bother our finishes one bit!  Plus it is food safe, so it’s ok to use on compost bins, bread boxes, and cutting boards.

Next we tried Method All-Purpose Cleaner and ECOS All-Purpose cleaner.  Neither of these products have disinfecting properties, but they could be used as a preliminary cleaner on wooden countertops, tables, and floors.  Method was safe on both our oiled and varnished surfaces, but the denatured alcohol and Limonene found in ECOS lifted the color of our oil finishes a little bit. We also tried a 1-1 Vinegar Solution, which was ok on our urethane varnish, but discolored oil finishes.  It is better used for cleaning and killing bacteria as well, as there is no proof that it kills viruses.

wood cleaning instructions all purpose cleaner

Finally we tried Bleach and Alcohol Solutions.  The CDC affirms that these are effective in killing COVID-19 on surfaces.  A mixture of 1 part Chlorine Bleach, (Clorox) to 32 parts water (½ cup bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water) will need to sit on surfaces for 5-10 minutes in order to disinfect them.  We found this did not harm either of our wood finishes.  We also tried Hydrogen Peroxide, which can be used in its commonly sold 3% solution, or diluted to .5% concentration and still work as a disinfectant.  It did no damage to our surfaces.  A 70% Alcohol Solution was also tried, and it appears safe to use as well as it had no effect on either oil or varnish.  Both the hydrogen peroxide and alcohol were allowed to sit for a few minutes to effectively kill any pathogens before being wiped off.

Cleaning wooden surfaces hydrogen peroxide

  • Disinfecting Wipes - Cleans, Disinfects, and Good on both oil & varnish
  • All-purpose Cleaners - Won't disinfect, watch out for solvents on oils
  • Vinegar Solution - Won't kill viruses, will damage oil finishes
  • Bleach - Disinfects well, appears safe on our finishes
  • Alcohol - Disinfects, safe on our test pieces

Of course, we still recommend spot checking any cleaner you choose on a small area of wooden surfaces to make sure it does not cause any discoloration or damage. Our products finished with hand-rubbed oil finishes also have special soaps and cleaning instructions available from Woca Woodcare or Rubio Monocoat USA. These makers recommend avoiding any cleaners that contain solvents as these can harm the oiled surfaces of wood.  Our 2-part urethane varnish is from Milesi Wood Coatings, which simply recommends wiping clean with a damp cloth. We found it stood up well to just about any cleaner/disinfectant we threw at it!