How to Remove Stains and Scratches from Wood Floors


Wood floors enhance both the beauty and the value of your home. They can make a space look larger and cleaner. It’s amazing how popular hard wood floors have become.

However, as beautiful as they are, dirt collects – dirt you may not have realized or thought so much about when you had carpets. So if you have hardwood floors, you will most likely clean them often so you don’t see the dirt piling up, that being said they are fairly quick to clean.

Wood floors can scratch easily if you’re not careful, but I think old wood floors with some add character, as long as there not large or deep. Wood floors can also stain easily if not careful and some stains can be near impossible to remove.

If you know how to properly remove the stain, you can salvage your floors and save time and the expensive of a full stripping, sanding, and finishing.

Stain and Scratch Removal from Wood Floors

Just to be clear, we are not talking about laminate wood floors. They are more scratch and stain resistant than real wood. If you have a laminate wood floor that does get damaged, you can probably replace the board but check with the manufacturer or contact a professional.

Name That Stain!

The first step in knowing what type of product/method you should use to remove the stain on your wood floor is to know what caused the stain in the first place. This can be particularly important with liquids, where the contents of the liquid (protein vs. acid) can be crucial to know what exactly needs to be done.

This may require a bit of detective work on your part, particularly if the stain has aged. But the time spent can mean the difference between a relatively quick cleanup and completely refinishing the floor.

Using Steel Wool

It’s often recommended to use steel wool in the stain removal process. It’s very important you check to ensure you have the proper grade of steel wool. Anything too harsh and you’re likely to do more harm than good. Never use anything other than Super Fine, or 000, grade steel wool when working on wood floor stains.

General Scratches, Dull Finish Areas, and Imperfections

While these aren’t truly stains in the most general sense of the word, they can appear as such from a distance and thus mar the overall look of the wood floor. Most light scratches can be covered using a very small amount of wax on your super fine grade steel wool. Rub very gently into the affected area, and wipe any excess with a dry cloth. If necessary, buff the area to make the wax match the rest of the floor’s finish.

If a cleanser has dulled the finish of your wood floor, you can usually buff it back to its original luster with a wipe-on oil for wood such as pure tung oil (this and other oils can be found at your local home improvement store). Use a soft cloth to apply the oil, buff the area, and your floor will be looking like new once again.

Protein Stains – Foods, Beverages, and Urine

Protein stains can become seemingly commonplace on wood floors, particularly if you have children and/or pets.

  1. The first step with a protein-based stain is to cleanse the floor thoroughly with a mild detergent and warm water. This will allow you to clear off the worst of the stain material.
  2. If any stain remains, rub the stain with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol to lift out the stain.
  3. If you still can’t get all of the stain, try using steel wool but be sure to keep it wet as you work.
  4. Follow with your floor wax.

You can also use a commercial wood cleaner that can be found at your local home improvement store; be sure to ask a flooring specialist for the right cleaner for your wood.

Grease and Oily Stains

Since wood floors are porous surfaces, grease and oil can penetrate and cause a lasting stain very quickly. It’s important to act immediately to prevent permanent damage to the wood.

For fresh oil spills:

As soon as the spill is discovered then:

  1. Blot up as much of the spill as possible with paper towel or newspaper.
  2. Sprinkle cornstarch over the stain, place plastic wrap over it, then place a brick or something equally as heavy on top to help absorb more of the oil.
  3. Thoroughly vacuum up the cornstarch. If the cornstarch is wet, it may not vacuum completely the first time. Let dry and vacuum again, especially if not all the stain has been lifted and you need to go on to step 4.
  4. Place a cloth soaked in a wood cleaning solvent (available from your local home improvement store) on the stain and let sit for 5 minutes.
  5. Wipe away, and clean as necessary.

For old oil stains:

You can try using OxiClean Stain Remover (see note below). Follow the instructions on the container or look on the manufacturer’s website for measurements (about 2 scoops to 16 ounces of warm water).

With a soft bristled brush and enough water to cover the stain (no need to over saturate), scrub the area along the grain of the wood, rinse, repeat if necessary, rinse and wipe dry.

Note: Using OxiClean can change the color of the wood, test in inconspicuous place first.

This option may be best on a smaller surface like a wood table so if the surface does change color, you can lightly wash the entire surface to even out the color – floors not so easy unless it’s a small area of wood flooring or you’re removing stains because you will be sanding and refinishing the floors.

Crayons and Markers

If your bundle of joy decided to show you that she’s a budding Picasso across your maple entryway, all is not lost.

Cleaning Crayons from Wood Floors

For crayons, simply head to your bathroom and grab the tube of toothpaste. Gently rub the crayon markings with a damp cloth and some toothpaste. Be sure to wipe any residual off with a clean damp cloth then dry thoroughly.

If for some reason the crayon markings remain, try Goo Gone, a commercial product that can work wonders for crayons and other grease-based stains like lipstick.

Removing Marker from Wood Floors

For markers, things can be a bit trickier. If the marker has penetrated into the wood, you may be facing the need to refinish that area. However, most wood floor finishes are strong enough to keep the marker from reaching the wood itself.

Try a commercial solvent like Goof Off, which should remove the marker marks without destroying the finish (always check in an inconspicuous area first, of course).

Enjoy your beautiful hard wood floors knowing that, should a stain occur, you can quickly and easily take care of it without causing any permanent damage.


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