Maintenance
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Question and Answer ArticleCleaning Interior Logs

By Linda Lia
Published: June 1, 2005
Q: I own a log cabin built in 1934.  How do I clean the interior logs of years of dust and grime?
– Linda Pulford; Somerset, Wis.

A: There is a hierarchy of remedies for dust and grime on interior logs, depending on the level of buildup, the finish of the logs and your propensity for elbow grease.
   
The simple solution would be to try a cleanser like Murphy’s Oil soap. Sponge the liquid soap on the logs, scrub, then wipe them down. As with any of these methods, always try a small, inconspicuous place for a test patch to see how your logs and finish react to the product, particularly if you are not the original owner and don’t know what was used to treat the logs.  
   
For more stubborn buildup, elicit the muscle of a tougher cleaner. Mix one cup of trisodiumphosphate or TSP (a powdered detergent product available at Home Depot or 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.
   
Aside from dust and grime buildup, logs do darken over time as they are exposed to indoor lighting, indirect sunlight and oxidation.
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