Q: How do we clean the logs in our log cabin without using the harsh commercial cleaners that are available? The logs, from what we can tell, are not varnished, but may have stain on them. Any help or suggestions would be appreciated. – Elaine Orstead, Gunlock Lake, Wis.
A: Start with something mild to see if that does the trick. “Murphy Oil Soap and citrus-based cleansers are a good starting point,” says Paul Bartos, of Blairstown Distributors, but if those don’t clean well enough, try a mild solution of ammonia water, adding more ammonia, as needed, for extra cleaning power.
The Log Homes Council of the National Association of Home Builders recommends another make-it-yourself cleanser for both cleaning and removing mildew. Mix 1 cup trisodium phosphate or non-ammoniated detergent, 1 quart household bleach, and 3 quarts warm water. Use a hand-pump garden sprayer to apply, give it five minutes or so, and pressure rinse. You’ll want to apply these cleaners with gloves, possibly wearing a mask over your nose and mouth. But they’re straightforward solutions, and at least you know what’s in them.
Remember to always test cleaners in a discreet place, noting how your logs react. Logs do get darker as they age, but if yours simply refuse to clean up, sanding, while it’s definitely hard work, may be the best tonic for returning logs to their natural (and spotless!) condition.