Home Improvement--General/Cleaning log walls


QUESTION: Greetings!  We live in a restored 200 year old Civil War log home that has a wood stove and the interior walls are exposed logs.  What is the best way to clean the ceiling and walls of soot and smoke?  Many thanks!


The options available will depend on the characteristics of the logs, i.e. are they hewn, peeled with a draw knife, rough sawn, smooth, round or flat.  Without knowing these issues I can't narrow the options down.  But here are the options.  

Being that you live in the house now you're practical options are really limited. The most common option is to pressure wash, but that is almost surely not practical.  The next option is to media blast which removes the problem of getting everything wet, but everything will be covered in media and clean up would be horrendous. The next group of options all fall into the same category--by hand.  

For example, you could use a cleaning solution (a mixture of TSP, Tide, bleach and warm water) applied with a stiff bristle brush then rinsed off with a wet sponge or rag.  I would test this in a controlled area first to see if it takes the soot off and doesn't just spread it around.  Obviously, this is also going to be messy so it has it's draw backs in a lived in house.

You might talk to a rep at a contractor supply type paint store like Benjamin Moore to see if they have any chemical based sponges that could do the job.  This could be pretty expensive.

Probably the best way is use an Osborn brush (probably a 120 grit, in a 4" or 6" size), but you have to have a buffer or polisher to use the brush.  The brushes are nylon impregnated with   Ultra Grit and they work very well on any type of surface, e.g. we use them to take paint off of wood or logs, to remove stains on logs from virtually any substance that caused the stain and they work very well on non smooth or smooth surfaces.  This is what we would use if we were hired to do the cleaning.  Obviously, you would have to cover everything in the area you are working including the floors and hang tarps or plastic sheets to contain any air borne soot.

We don't sell buffers or polishers but they are available at Lowe's or Home Depot.  We do sell Osborn brushes and they are about $125.00 each and you might need more than one but I think one would probably do the job depending how big the house is.  I don't know if you can buy them at Lowe's, Home Depot, local building supply or hardware stores, or paint stores.  Email me if you want our help in any way.  Good luck.

Len Kroll
Wood House Log Homes LLC

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QUESTION: Many thanks for your information.  Just went out and got some TSP for cleaning.  I've attached 2 pictures of the inside walls because I'm not sure how they were cut.  Let me know if there is anything else I can do to clean them and to patch between the logs. One photo is in the main room with the fireplace.  Many thanks again!

I could not make out anything clear from the pictures.  Here is the cleaning solution formula:
      6 oz TSP
      2 oz Tide
      2 qts Bleach
      6 qts Warm water

Try this in an inconspicuous area and see if it works.  Don't leave the solution on too long; I'd start with about 2 or 3 minutes before rinsing it off. If that doesn't work try 5 or 6 minutes, but don't go over 10 minutes.  Both bleach and TSP can discolor the wood permanently to a unattractive color if left on too long.

If this doesn't work I believe you only practical option is the Osborn brush.  Good luck.

Len Kroll
Wood House Log Homes LLC

Home Improvement--General

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Len Kroll


I can provide advice on the proper design, construction, maintenance, restoration, preservation, cleaning and waterproofing of log homes. Questions concerning proper cleaning, sealing, staining and waterproofing are within my area of expertise. My expertise includes new construction and existing log structures. Chinking application or restoration, log replacement and repair are also in my area of expertise.


40 years experience in the log home and construction industries, 10 years in specialty contracting, 30 years in the log home field. We have designed, produced, supplied and built over 3,000 log homes and restored/repaired over 600 log homes. See more information at our web site: www.woodhouseloghomes.com.

Authored a monthly column expressing the Vice President and General Manager's "Observations and Insights" distributed to 300 employees and management.

BS degree in accounting, University of Illinois, 1963. Master of Business Administration degree, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Numerous relevant seminars including an intense two week business administration seminar, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, 1978. National Home Builders Association Graduate Builders education program.

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National Honor Society Student, Illinois State Academic Scholarship, Dean's List.

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