The Complete Guide to Removing Stains From Hardwood Floors

Hardwood flooring is fantastic for most areas of your home, but considering they are often found in kitchens and other high-traffic rooms, stains are quite common. Depending on the cause of the stain and the type of wood you’ve installed, getting rid of a stain on hardwood can be a nightmare.

So what happens if you find a mysterious stain on your hardwood floor? Is there any good method for removing stains from hardwood floors?

Luckily for you, there are several ways that you can remove various stains from different types of wooden floors. Here are some tips for quick stain removal based on the type of stain you are dealing with. 

Things to Consider When Removing Stains From Hardwood Floors

Before getting into the nitty-gritty side of stain removal, there are a few key points you should keep in mind that will make your job easier and faster. Having information about what caused the stain before you begin will help you when it comes to removal. 

With any luck, you’ll be able to take care of any mess before a stain has a chance to set in. The finish on your wood floor is meant to help prevent stains and can often keep it from soaking into the actual wood.

Even if the stain has had a chance to sit for a little while, it’s typically only the varnish on the floor that’s affected. While this won’t always be easy to deal with, it’s far better than the wood being affected by the stain.

If you discover a stain that’s been around for a while, however, you may be in for a bit of a hassle. Once the problem has worked its way into the wood, you will have a much harder time cleaning and may need to do repair work on the floor when you are finished removing the stain.

Most stains will require a bit of trial and error in order to remove them, so keep at it! Try different methods if one doesn’t work, and when in doubt, you can always contact a professional for help.

What Is the Stain From?

If you are able to identify the source of the stain, then you will have an easier time figuring out how to remove it. On the occasions where you didn’t see the cause of the stain, don’t worry—most stains will have colored rings that show some indication of what made them.

Here are some ways that you can remove wood floor stains, depending on their cause.

Catching a Spill When It Happens

It’s best to prevent a stain from setting in when you can. As soon as you see a spill or any signs of staining, you should immediately get a mop and start getting to work. If you don’t have a mop available, a clean, wet rag should work fine.

After going over the area with a mop or rag, be sure to wipe it down with a separate dry rag as well to get rid of any excess liquid. This will keep your floor clean and prevent stains from setting in.

If you weren’t able to catch it right away, there are some measures you can take for removing stains.

For Pet-Related Stains

We love our pets, but there are going to be accidents when they are young. Stains caused by pet urine can also get through wood finishes faster, meaning you have less time before it’s able to get into the wood. While pet stains don’t often have a particular color with them, the smell from the stain should be a dead giveaway to its source.

If you find that your dear pet has made a stain on your wooden floor, don’t worry—there are solutions. 

For a simple home remedy that doesn’t break the bank, white vinegar and grapefruit oil are not only great for removing stains but odors as well. Add one cup of vinegar to a bucket of warm water along with a few drops of grapefruit oil for a powerful home stain remover. Scrub the floor with the remover, giving extra attention to the more prominent smelling or stained areas.

If home remedies are ineffective, you may need hydrogen peroxide, as it can get deeper into the wood for a more thorough clean. After scrubbing the area and allowing it to dry, you can cover the area with a paper towel or wipe that has peroxide on it and let it soak up any remaining stain. Unfortunately, this method may lead to mild discoloration depending on the type of wood flooring you have, so keep that in mind.

If you want to avoid discoloration, oxalic acid is a great natural alternative. Mix a few tablespoons of the acid into a quart of hot water and paint it onto the stained area. This should help to lighten the stain and should be removed with a borax solution when the stain has faded to your liking. 

Baking soda is a helpful alternative as well. It’s recommended to be used along with the above methods, as it can be used to get rid of excess hydrogen peroxide or vinegar left behind during the cleaning process. Just sprinkle the affected area with baking soda and let it sit for about an hour before vacuuming to absorb any remaining odor or previous cleaning materials.

Of course, you can also try using a store-bought pet odor eliminator and stain remover as well if you have it on hand. This will help in the short term as long as you catch the accident right after it has happened.

For Food/Drink-Related Stains

Drinks or food stains are often dark red in color as they set into the wood, but can come in other forms as well. Depending on the food itself, it could also be a deep bluish or purplish-brown as well. 

For stains that haven’t had a lot of time to set in, use a cotton cloth on the stained area, then apply heat to it. This can be done by using an iron or something similar. This will help to draw out the stain quickly.

For those harder to get out stains, tougher chemicals might be needed. Start by removing the finish from your flooring with sandpaper, then apply bleach to the area to get rid of the stain. Just like hydrogen peroxide, this method might lead to discoloration, and you will have to reapply the finish when done.

For red wine or foods with food coloring, the stain might be a little more difficult to completely get out. Tannic acid is a great stain remover in these cases; it can remove stains from dark wood floors in no time and is gentle on the wood. 

Another natural option is using lemon and some steel wool. Apply the lemon juice to the stained area, then scrub with the steel wool; the lemon juice will help by both removing the stain and keeping the floor from getting scratched up.

Hydrogen peroxide can be used for food-related stains as well, particularly for those that have been hanging around for a while. For a food stain, be sure to leave a rag with the chemical on for at least a few hours to get the full effect. 

For Water-Based Stains

Water stains leave disgusting white rings or lines on hardwood flooring and furniture. Fortunately, water stains are normally just stains on the varnish or finish of the floor and can be removed with relative ease. 

Salt, car wax, non-gel toothpaste, or baking soda can be applied and scrubbed into the water stain for quick removal. Water should be added to prevent any scratching to the varnish. After removing the stain, you can recover the area with varnish or olive oil to make it clean and shiny again!

Dish soap can also be used on water stains, as well as other non-greasy stains. Rubbing a small amount of the soap on the area with a clean, wet rag should help to get rid of most water stains quickly and easily.

Black Stains

Black stains on wooden surfaces are often deep-set stains that become very difficult to remove. These will require more heavy-duty chemicals for proper cleaning. 

The quickest way to get rid of one of these types of stains is to bleach the wood until it reaches the proper color. However, this can damage the integrity of the wood and leave it weaker. If you do take this route, be sure to use gloves when removing the stain.

For deep stains that don’t go away, no matter what you try, you may want to sand the stain away instead. This will work best with floors that don’t have any varnish or finish on them, though you could go through the finish and replace it afterward if you wanted to try this method.

Caring for the Wood After Cleaning

Depending on what method of cleaning you used for the stains on your hardwood floor, you may have a bit of repair work to do. There are plenty of quick and easy ways to get your floor looking like new again after you’ve removed that pesky stain!

Getting Rid of Discoloration

Certain chemical treatments may have caused your floor to become bleached or otherwise lose its original color; your stain may have even been caused by simple sun damage to the floor, which can also lead to discoloration. If you want to have it looking like new again, here are a few of the steps you can take.

Repainting the area is always an option for you, though this is often a temporary fix. Find a color of paint that is as close to the original wood as possible and apply it to the wood, then give it time to dry before adding a new varnish.

For discoloration that is darker than the original wood, you can use bleach to lighten the area until it reaches a shade that matches the rest of the floor. Wood that has lightened can be a bit harder to repair, and repainting or adding a darker varnish may be necessary.

Finishing Your Floor

Depending on how deep your stain was, it’s likely that you will have to add more varnish or finish to your wood flooring. Before adding a new layer of varnish, you should first make sure that the area is clean and dry.

Another run over the area with a wet rag and letting it dry wouldn’t be a bad idea. If you aren’t careful to make sure the area is clean, the varnish will not stick to the floor and may flake off.

If you aren’t sure what type of finish you might need, you may want to ask for help or advice from a contractor. They can give you quality recommendations and work with you to repair your floor.

Additional Damage? Call for Help!

If you were unable to get the stains out, or if there are unexpected damages to your floor after you’ve removed the stain, you may need to replace that section of flooring. 

Before making any rash decisions, be sure to contact a hardwood flooring expert to see if they have any suggestions you didn’t try. 

Sparkling Clean Floors Ahead

Now that you know how to go about removing stains from hardwood floors, you can have your home looking like new again in no time! Be sure to use caution with any of these methods, and when in doubt, contact a professional for assistance.

Are you having problems with a stain and nothing seems to make it go away?

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