How to Clean a Cedar Ceiling

Richard Kalinowski

Cedar is a very resilient wood. According to NorthCedar.com, common red cedar woods contain oils that act as natural preservatives. Cedar is also fast growing and easily harvested, making it an affordable option.

Couple this with its excellent insulating qualities, and it’s no wonder why cedar is widely used for walls and ceilings. Unfortunately cedar is not the easiest wood to clean. It is a relatively light wood, so it shows more dirt than darker woods. MrsCleanUSA.com explains, uncoated woods tend to absorb moisture and washing becomes very difficult. It is possible, however, to restore a cedar ceiling to its former luster.

  1. Sweep away cobwebs and dust with a broom. A broom with a long handle is best so you can more easily reach corners without having to go up and down a ladder; this will save you time as you dust your cedar ceiling. Taking care of dusty nuisances will let you focus exclusively on stuck-on dirt and grime during the upcoming ceiling polishing.

  2. Apply wood polish to a dry rag. Make sure the product you use is designed specifically for wood surfaces.

  3. Climb to the top of a stepladder while someone holds the ladder’s base for safety.

  4. Rub the wood polish onto the ceiling in concentric circles. Do not attempt to apply the polish by wiping in horizontal or vertical lines; this will lead to streaks and so called “tiger striping” overlap. Always apply in even circles, slowly moving across the ceiling. Wood polish returns essential oils to your cedar ceiling while also freeing up stuck-on dirt. As a result, your polishing rag will become dirtied as you apply the wood polish. Ring out the rag over a sink if necessary, and apply more wood polish. Do not run the rag under water. You want to avoid saturating the wood with anything other than polishing oils.

  5. Wait at least 24 hours for the polish to penetrate and dry.

  6. Mix a half cup of detergent with a gallon of warm water.

  7. Dunk a clean rag in the water-based mixture. Remove the rag, and ring it out until it is just barely damp.

  8. Climb a ladder. As before, make sure somebody holds the base.

  9. Clean any leftover dirt that was not removed during polishing. Only clean as-needed, avoiding getting the ceiling overly wet. The detergent and water mixture is for spot cleaning only. You can clean both sealed and unsealed wood with the previous wood polish method, but only sealed wood can be excessively cleaned with water-based cleansers. Never wash the entire ceiling unless the wood is finished and sealed with polyurethane. Sealed wood will be glossy and slick to the touch.

  10. Tip

    Though some resources may tell you to mix bleach into your water-based cleaning solution, this is not advisable for ceilings or other indoor cedar. When cleaning a deck or outdoor furniture, however, a small amount of bleach is useful for killing outdoor mold and bacteria growth.