How do I clean 30 years of dust off of unsealed log walls ?

by Krae

Clean 30 years of dust off of unsealed log walls

  13 answers
  • Annie Annie on Feb 25, 2020

    Hi Krae, have you tried using Murphy's Oil on the logs? Here's a link. Are you planning to seal the logs after?

    • Krae Krae on Mar 01, 2020

      Hi Gk, that article did help very much, thank you.

  • Vimarhonor Vimarhonor on Feb 25, 2020

    Hello I agree with the poster above and Murphy oil soap is a good place to start.

    Heres a link that might be helpful.

    Additionally-Our 1973 log cabin did have a lot of water damage stains particularly at the roofline. We tried to do the sanding job ourselves -it became too physically intense and slow for us to undertake. We did hire a painter and some helpers to professionally sand and seal our cedar log walls and now they look like new. Just something to keep in mind.

    • Krae Krae on Mar 01, 2020

      Hi! Your cabin is Beautiful! Thanks for sharing the pictures. I’ve definitely been thinking of a water based sealant to seal the logs after we clean them. I’m afraid we can’t afford to hire anyone to do the job.

  • GrandmasHouseDIY GrandmasHouseDIY on Feb 25, 2020

    The problem with unsealed wood is that anything you use to clean it does have the chance of staining the logs because the wood will soak in any liquid put on it. I've used a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water before to clean wood but it DOES absolutely give the wood a different color and tone. You may want to do some test patches to see what works best with the least amount of color distortion.

    Best bet, if you don't want too much color distortion is a dry cleaning and then sanding with fine grit sand paper. If you seal after that the logs will be easy to clean.

    • Krae Krae on Mar 01, 2020

      hi, I was wondering how vinegar would do. I’m glad you told me about the color change. It seems that we are leaning towards the sanding and then sealing the logs to make cleaning the logs easier in the future. The logs are rough so using just a cloth does. It work because it snags. Thanks for your help.

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Feb 25, 2020

    If you feel it is only dust, I would begin with microfiber dusters that you can rub and "charge" with static to help grab the dust.

    If it is ingrained in the surface you could clean with TSP but it may cause a slight color variation.

    Another option is fine steel wool. It won't disrupt the surface as much as sanding but might do the trick.

    As a last resort, sand by hand with a fine grit.

    • See 1 previous
    • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Mar 02, 2020

      It is my go to over sandpaper because it is so mild of an abrasive. I hope it works out well for you.

  • Lifestyles Homes Lifestyles Homes on Feb 25, 2020

    Dust needs to be removed, not soaked in to the wood.

    I would take a shop vac hose & put a bush end piece on it and vac it thoroughly.

    • Krae Krae on Mar 01, 2020

      we have tried to vacuum some but it’s two stories opened from floor to ceiling in one area and we can’t reach everywhere we need to. The vacuum does take some of the dust off but much of it is still left behind. I have tried to find a telescoping vacuum attachment but haven’t found one yet.

  • Mogie Mogie on Feb 25, 2020

    Light Cleaning

    Fortunately, other than the initial coat, you're unlikely to need to mess with the finish again for many years if you care for it properly. The best thing you can do for your walls meanwhile is keep them clean. Periodically, knock down cobwebs and dust in hard-to-reach areas with a broom or even a damp mop. Start at the highest points of your ceiling, if it is also wood, and work down the walls to prevent redepositing soil and webs.

    Deep Cleaning

    If you find areas of mold or mildew, spray lightly with hydrogen peroxide, wait a few minutes, then scrub with a soft-bristled brush. Follow with a sponging of distilled white vinegar. This kills mold better than bleach, which will damage your wood. To remove smoke residue, grease, dirt and grime, wash your walls down with hot, soapy water, a commercial cleanser, or a mixture of 1 cup water, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup mineral oil (do not use vegetable, olive or any other oil) and 20 drops lemon oil. Fill a bottle with the ingredients, shake vigorously, and apply like car polish. Follow with a soft, dry cloth to buff to a sheen.

    • Krae Krae on Mar 01, 2020

      Thanks for that advice. I had no idea that vinegar was good for killing mold. I’d much rather use that than bleach. I like your mineral oil mixture. I think that solution would work great when we get the logs sealed and smooth.

  • Cheryl A Cheryl A on Feb 25, 2020


    Here is some info from a good source about log homes

  • Beth Beth on Feb 25, 2020

    I agree that vacuuming or spraying air on it will be a good way to remove the first layer. If there's any residue of the dust, you can try a cloth or duster. Then use something like Murphy's oil soap.

  • Sharon Sharon on Feb 28, 2020

    Is this a real log cabin or one of those fancy log homes? I lived in log cabins in the Canadian wilderness for 20 years and we took a brush and bucket with hot water with soap, and scrubbed the walls down each spring...... sorry no electricity so no vacuums, but a broom works if there is a lot of dust before washing.

    Then we took whatever soap and water was left and threw it on the rough floor and swept it out the door. So there is the back woods answer.

    • Krae Krae on Mar 01, 2020

      Hi Sharon, it’s not as fancy as most of the magazine cabins but it’s two stories and opened from the floor to the ceiling in one area. Sounds like you had a lot of fun in the backwoods. Thanks for your ideas.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Dec 07, 2023

    Use a good Vac, then wipe over with cleaning solution. Then apply a sealer of some sort.

  • Mogie Mogie on Dec 09, 2023

    Mix one cup of trisodiumphosphate or TSP (a powdered detergent product available at your local hardware store) with one quart fresh, plain liquid bleach and three quarts of mildly warm water to help the solution dissolve. Wearing rubber gloves and working in a well-ventilated room, sponge a small amount on, then off, to test the reaction. If the logs respond well, continue cleaning.

    Other cleansers, such as Simple Green or citrus cleaners, may pack enough power for your needs. Remember the importance of good ventilation and the value of a test spot! And never mix bleach and any other cleaners.

    If none of these cleaning solutions help, the only remedy may be to remove any finishes or stains – whether by sanding or a chemical strip such as Citristrip. Sanding returns the logs to their natural color.

  • Kassidie J Larsen Kassidie J Larsen on Jan 30, 2024

    If you read the label, Murphy's oil soap is not recommended for unfinished wood.