The Pain of a Hardwood Floor’s Accidental Stains

August 2nd, 2010


Grass-stained jeans often hide little legs that can run into a house, plop down on a couch that sits on a beautiful hardwood floor, and kick muddy sneakers off with a jolt that sends them sailing to the unreachable galaxies of the under-couch world. As the muddy sneakers are left forgotten on the hardwood floor, mud and dirt slowly seep into the wood. Dampness starts warping the hardwood, and as grains begin to roughen, stains set in. When it’s time to move furniture around for spring cleaning, dark stains on the hardwood floor show evidence of long-lost sneakers under the couch and overflowing water from plant holders hiding in the corners of the room. Once the room is cleared of furniture, it’s clear that spilled beverages from the last family reunion were not quickly wiped up. Life leaves stains.


Removing a stain can be a pain, but it’s certainly not impossible. If your floor doesn’t have a polyurethane treatment, and isn’t a no-wax floor, don’t fret thinking that you have to refinish your entire hardwood floor because of a few stains. Polyurethane floors, and floors that have no-wax treatment, have products manufactured specifically for treating their stains. But if you have a hardwood floor that can take some wax, it just takes a little scrubbing and pretreatment to get the goods looking good again according to Paul from Chicago Hardwood Floor Company. The process is just like treating stains on clothing – but a bit more abrasive.buffing-hardwood


A steel wool pad that is “grade 2” can help you with light and dark stains that are caused by water and other substances. For a light water stain, simply rub the area with a number 2 grade steel wood pad until the stain is gone. Then apply new wax onto the area. If it’s a dark stain, dip the steel wool pad in mineral spirits first, then rub the stain. After that, dip a cloth in distilled household vinegar and lay it on the spot for about ten minutes. Then take another cloth dipped in mineral spirits and wipe the area down. If the stain has disappeared, you can apply fresh wax.


If vinegar doesn’t work to lighten a dark stain, you can use “oxalic acid crystals” - which is the “oxy” in Oxydol laundry detergent and the numerous “oxy” cleaning products on the market. You can find oxalic acid crystals at a paint or hardware store, or you can substitue Oxydol laundry detergent. Make sure you wear rubber gloves. Take the crystals and mix them with very hot water until the crystals don’t dissolve any more. At that point, you have the proper ratio. Saturate a clean cloth in the solution, then let it sit on the stain for an hour. Then use a damp sponge to sponge the area dry, and quickly blot it dry. Once it has completely dried, you can add fresh wax.


If entertaining left your hardwood floors with alcohol stains, there’s a few tricks you can try. You can rub the area with a cloth that is dipped in a liquid wax that contains cleaner for removing old wax, or you can use a cloth dipped in silver polish that contains whitening. You can also try a cloth dipped in ammonia, but make sure you squeeze it dry first. If the stain can be rubbed through to the finish, apply fresh wax once the area has dried.


If the night of entertaining on your hardwood floor was memorable, and some dancing high heels left black marks on your floor, and marks from furniture being slid out of the way left streaks from black furniture casters, you can get those out with grade 00 steel wood pad. Dampen the pad with mineral spirits, but then squeeze it dry. Lightly rub the area, then apply fresh wax after it has dried.


If you have some oil and grease stains on your kitchen hardwood floor, you can doctor it up with one gauze pad saturated in hydrogen peroxide, and one gauze pad saturated in ammonia. Place the pad with hydrogen peroxide on the stain, then place the one with ammonia over it. Let them sit for at least 15 minutes. If it’s a bad stain, you can repeat the method until you see results. When the stain is gone and the floor is dry, you can put on some fresh wax.


Don’t use these methods to no-wax floors or floors with a polyurethane finish because a new finish might not take to it later. But for many hardwood floors, spot treatment and a little scrubbing can get rid of life’s little stains.


Paul S. - Hardwood Floor Refinishing Chicago