Hardwood floor finishes are more fragile than they appear -- even though you can't damage the finish easily by walking on it, you can dull it by cleaning it with the wrong solvent. Hydrogen peroxide isn't one of those, however, and it's an effective stain remover. Peroxide is especially effective at removing pet stains, which are often the most problematic stains. In the proper concentration, it's also a potent bleaching agent for wood.
Make a Peroxide-Water Solution
Hydrogen peroxide is a mild oxygenating bleach, and you can make a safe floor cleaning solution for general use by mixing 1 cup of 35 percent peroxide solution -- which is the cleaning grade -- with a gallon of water. As an alternative, mix 1 or 2 tablespoons of sodium percarbonate with a gallon of hot water. Sodium percarbonate releases hydrogen peroxide when mixed with water, and using it is an easy way to make a more concentrated peroxide solution. It's the main ingredient in many commercial oxygen bleach products -- check the label before purchasing one of these products.
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Floor Cleaning Procedure
You can do a general cleaning of wood flooring with a hydrogen peroxide solution and a mop or towel. Be sure to wring out the mop or towel so it is just damp; too much water is bad for hardwood. It's best to use a nonabrasive cloth or a microfiber mop -- not a natural fiber one, which spreads too much water.
Clean the floor in sections, drying with a separate rag before moving on to the next section. For spot cleaning, pour some 3 percent peroxide -- which is the grade available at drug stores -- into a spray bottle; then spray, wipe, and dry.
Removing Pet Stains
Pet urine can create unsightly dark areas on your floor that are accompanied by acrid odors, and you can usually remove both with a combination of peroxide and baking soda. Spray paper towels with 3 percent peroxide, and lay the towels on the stains. Leave them for several hours, spraying occasionally with peroxide to keep them wet. When you remove the towels, sprinkle baking soda liberally on the stain and leave it there until it dries. Then vacuum it away.
Cat litter also absorbs odors; you can use it instead of baking soda.
Dealing with Problem Stains
One of the problems with pet stains is that after treatment with peroxide, they leave permanent damage on the finish, and maybe even in the wood. If the finish is damaged after you treat a stain with peroxide, your only option is to sand it off. You can treat permanently darkened wood by bleaching it with a 2-part wood bleach, which works by combining hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydroxide on the wood.
The deep oxygenating action usually removes the stain, but it may also lighten the natural wood color, and you may have to stain the wood to match the rest of the floor. Because of this possibility, you may be better off hiring a pro for this job, depending on the size of the damaged area.