How to Clean Oak Doors: Tips for Treating and Finishing

how to clean oak doors and how to treat oak doors - image shows two interior oak doors either side of a staircase

Interior oak doors make a beautiful addition to any home, creating a naturally classic aesthetic that works harmoniously with practically any interior style. You simply cannot beat the look of a solid oak door, but like any natural material, they need a little TLC to keep them looking their best. Whether from fluctuating seasonal temperatures or simply from the wear and tear of family life, oak doors are subject to damage and staining as the years go by, so we at Laver Online have compiled an easy guide on how to clean oak doors and restore them to their former glory. We will also show you how to treat oak doors to keep them looking their best for longer. And the best part is, you won’t need extensive amounts of fancy equipment and tools; just a few simple bits and pieces.

How to Clean Oak Doors

Removing stains from oak doors and keeping them looking spic and span is a relatively easy task; you’ll just need to set aside an hour or two depending on how many doors you need to clean.

You will need:

  • Cleaning cloths (soft ones are best)
  • Washing up sponge
  • Clean paintbrush (for the grooves and edges)
  • Clean water
  • Washing up liquid
  • Olive Oil
  • Latex gloves

Here’s how to remove stains from oak doors:

This method works fine on both varnished and unvarnished oak doors, and it’s super easy – just follow these simple steps:

1. First, use one of your clean, dry cloths to wipe the door down. This will remove dust and most light stains from the wood. Be sure to follow the direction of the wood’s natural grain, rather than wiping across it, and make sure the cloth is completely clean and free from oils or waxes. 

2. Next, pop your gloves on. Dip your cloth in some clean, warm water and wring it out to remove any excess moisture (you don’t want to make your door too wet). Then, follow the same cleaning motion from the first step to gently buff away any stains (pay particular attention to the bottom of the door and around the handle).

3. If you still have some stubborn stains, it’s time to break out the washing up liquid. You only need to add a very small dash of this to your warm water, as too much can damage your door. You can also add a drop of white vinegar and a splash of olive oil and mix them about (these will help clean off any stubborn stains and also add a shine to your wood), but this is optional. 

4. Dip your washing up sponge in the mixture and wring it out to remove some of the excess (you don’t want it dripping wet). Squeeze a small amount onto the surface of your oak door and then wipe it across, still following the natural grain of the wood. Make sure you use a clean, dry cloth to wipe away any remaining moisture straight away, as you don’t want any water sitting on the wood for too long. 

5. Finally, take your paintbrush and use it to clean around your door’s trim, handle and any natural cracks or gaps in the wood’s surface. This removes any last specks of dust and dirt from those hard-to-reach places. Then use a clean, dry cloth to clean your door handle and remove any dust and finger marks.

How often should I clean oak doors?

This is a good question. Any cleaning is better than none at all, but we would recommend you clean your interior oak doors once a month at the very least, and ideally every week if you have a very busy household. The more often you do it, the easier the job as there will be less staining and dirt to remove each time.

How to Treat Oak Doors

Family life can be tough on your internal oak doors. Oak is a tough, solid wood, but it still needs a little TLC every now and again to preserve its appearance and prolong the lifespan of your doors. Regular cleaning is great for removing inevitable staining and dust, but you can also treat your oak doors periodically with oils and waxes to prevent too much dirt buildup and add a lustrous shine to this beautiful, richly-coloured wood. Here’s our guide on how to treat oak doors in your home:

You will need:

  • Dust sheet
  • Microfibre cloth
  • Wide paintbrush and paint tray
  • Masking tape
  • Finishing pad (low grit)
  • Sandpaper
  • A tin of your chosen door oil 

A note on treated and untreated oak doors

If your oak door is as yet untreated, simply follow the instructions below. If, however, your door has already been oiled in the past, it’s worth doing a patch test on a small area first to see how the new oil sits and reacts – this is particularly important if you can’t be sure if you are using the same oil as the last time your door was treated. Once you’re happy that the new oil patch test looks ok, you can proceed with the following steps on treating an oak door.

Before you start:

Precautions and protective measures need to be taken before you begin treating an oak door. Firstly, it’s a good idea to wear protective clothing, overalls, an apron or something old that you don’t mind getting dusty and dirty. 

Secondly, you should lay dust sheets down to protect your flooring if needed, and you should make sure the area is well-ventilated by opening windows or working outside, in a workshop or garage. This leads us to our final preparatory measure; you will need to take your oak door off its hinges and lay it flat on two trestles, and you should remove all hardware such as hinges and handles. If your door has any glass in it, make sure these areas are properly covered before you start.

And here’s how to treat oak doors with oil and wax:

1. Make sure your door is clean and dry, then give your door oil a good stir with your paint brush and dispense a small amount into your paint tray. 

2. Take your wide paintbrush, load up with some oil from your tray and begin applying it to your oak door surface using long, even strokes. As with cleaning, you should always brush in the direction of the wood grain when treating an oak door. 

3. Once you’ve treated the entire surface, use your microfibre cloth to gently wipe away any excess oil, still moving in the direction of the grain. Wait for your door to dry as per the instructions on your chosen door oil, this is usually around 4 hours or so. 

4. Once dry, your door needs denibbing. This is the process of removing imperfections in the oil finish between coats, and should be done with your finishing pad. Denib the entire surface with your pad, taking care not to apply too much pressure. You should now have a smooth surface free of imperfections.

5. Add a second coating of oil, repeating steps 3 to 4.

6. Once the final coat has dried, flip your door over and repeat the entire process on the other side. You can also now oil the top and sides of the door to give it the best possible protection.

7. Once the entire door is dry, you can re-attach the handles, uncover any glazing and re-hang the door. For future oil top-ups you can simply apply one fresh coat of oil rather than needing two.

How often should I treat oak doors?

While cleaning oak doors should be done every month or week, oiling and treating oak doors should only need doing once every three years or so. This is just a guide, however – if you think your door is looking a little tired then it might be time to give it a treatment.

Now you know how to treat oak doors and care for them, you can enjoy the natural beauty of this stunning wood in your home for years and years to come. Or, if your doors are looking a little too tired and beaten up for restoration, you may decide you wish to replace them with something new. Here at Laver Online, we stock an incredible range of solid oak doors in a variety of styles and designs, perfect for giving your home a little facelift.

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