Hardwood Floor Stain Remover: A How-To Guide

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A few stain-removal tricks — and fast action — will keep your hardwood floor looking beautiful.

Even with hardwood floors, stains happen. The longer a staining substance sits on the floor, the greater its chances of soaking into the protective coating designed to keep the floor looking its best. If you've just found a stain long after it occurred, the best course of action depends on the material responsible for the stain.

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Act Fast With Hardwood Floors

When it comes to spills, splatters and problem substances with potential to stain the floor, acting fast is your best line of defense. Blot the affected area with a folded paper towel to lift away as much of the substance as possible. Avoid rubbing the spot, which could make it even larger.

Even a water spill should be blotted with paper towels, absorbent cloths or a sponge to prevent water stains, especially if the water was tracked in from outdoors along with mud or even rock salt on a winter day. Do your best to remove as much liquid as possible as early as possible to avoid floor damage.

Baking soda and vinegar are gentle on hardwood and its protective finish.
Image Credit: Eskay Lim / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Pet Urine Problems

Pets can be a major source of messes in the house, especially when they're left alone for a while. Pet urine may go undetected long enough to create a stain or a temporary discoloration.

For a fresh spot, blot the urine with folded paper towels while wearing rubber gloves. Once you've blotted as much liquid as possible, liberally sprinkle baking soda over the wet areas to lift the odor and absorb liquid from the floor surface. Baking soda also reacts with urine to help lift any that has soaked into the wood or its sealer, according to Accutech Restoration & Remodeling. Vacuum up the powder after an hour.

If the area appears stained, pour some hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle and spritz the liquid over the stain. Peroxide helps lift the offending liquid from the wood's pores, according to MacDonald Hardwoods. Wipe the area with a soft cloth after several minutes, repeating the process if necessary and using more pressure when rubbing the spot. Peroxide may bleach the staining substance or the wood, so wipe it away with a damp cloth. Do not use chlorine bleach on wood floors, as it may dull the finish.

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Markers and Ink

Where kids and markers coexist, so do accidental ink stains. According to COIT Cleaners, rubbing alcohol works wonders for removing permanent marker and some other inks from wood floors and other hard surfaces. Pour a little rubbing alcohol onto a folded paper towel and then press the paper towel over the ink. Lift the paper towel as the ink transfers from the floor to the paper. Repeat with a fresh paper towel and more alcohol if any ink remains.

Attack marker stains with rubbing alcohol before trying a paste.

If the ink isn't responding to the rubbing alcohol, mix a little water into baking soda to make a paste or use a white toothpaste that contains baking soda. Dab some of either paste onto a damp, soft cloth and then rub the spot, rubbing from the outer areas of the stain toward the center. Wipe away the paste with a fresh damp cloth. Repeat the cleaning process with more of the baking soda paste as needed.

White Rings or Water Stains

A bit of water left on the floor or even a glass of iced tea set on the floor next to a chair may leave behind a white discoloration, much like what happens on wood furniture. In many cases, these stains affect only the finish and go away on their own once the moisture evaporates. To get rid of the stain without a lengthy wait, heat the spot with a hair dryer set to low or medium, holding the hair dryer several inches from the spot.

Rub mayonnaise or a little cooking oil over a more stubborn spot using a microfiber cloth. If the discoloration hasn't disappeared, apply more of the chosen oil, letting it sit for an hour or even overnight. Wipe away the oil with the cloth. Use a damp cloth to wipe away any remaining oily residue.

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Water is the enemy of wood, but most water stains won't get through the flooring's finish.
Image Credit: Chalongrat Chuvaree/iStock/GettyImages

Food and Drink Spills

Any food or drink that stains clothing may also stain the floor. Pick up or blot as much of the mess as possible using paper towels, working from the outside of the affected area toward the center. Sprinkle table salt or baking soda over the area to absorb any remaining liquid and then sweep or vacuum the spot after 15 minutes or so, applying more of the absorbent material as needed.

Mix a little of your favorite wood floor cleaner into a few cups of warm water in a bucket. Dip a white, lint-free cloth or a sponge into the bucket, wring out most of the liquid and then wipe down the area, rinsing and wringing the cloth again before dipping it back into the bucket. Continue until the water rinsed from the cloth comes out clear.

Equal amounts of white vinegar and water also help remove any staining substances as well as odors from the wood. Wipe down the area with a damp cloth containing the vinegar cleaning solution.

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Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.

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