How to Clean Stains on Hardwood Floors

Nowadays, more and more people are opting for hard floor surfaces such as laminate, hardwood, and laminate for their homes. Compared to carpet, which tends to trap soil and debris, they are not only easier to keep clean, but stand better against heavy traffic (carpet generally wears out after a while). Maintaining them is also straightforward; you simply have to vacuum or mop the surface regularly. For the most parts, that will be enough to keep them shiny and clean. The way they’re made, dust and allergens also do not penetrate the surface (as opposed to carpet fibers which cling onto them). Ultimately, this makes them a good choice for those who have allergies.

Hardwood Floor Stain Removal Tips – Cleaning Guide

Hardwood, in particular, is especially popular. Aside from being elegant, they are durable and less likely to be damaged compared to some of the other floor types. In fact, it’s not uncommon for some to last several generations. Given that they are made out of natural materials, they are also highly sustainable. Perhaps the best part of all, however, is that they increase your home value; it’s no secret that having hardwood floors will increase the value of your property. In the end, this makes it a good long-term investment.

As mentioned earlier, they do not accumulate a lot of dirt and debris. Generally speaking, they are very easy to clean. With that said, messes are inevitable from time to time. At one point or another, there will be a stain or a spot—perhaps due to a spilt cup of coffee or a puppy in the middle of potty training. In any case, you will have to be ready to tackle these situations. Fortunately, cleaning up these messes is not as difficult as you might think. As it turns out, there are many simple ways to lift these stains. 

Before we get into that though, there are a few things to keep in mind.

It is Important to Get the Stains Out Early

This might seem obvious, but you always want to try to get the stains out as early as possible. Despite the fact that hardwood is impervious to most liquids, bleed-through can occur after a period of time. Ultimately, your goal would be to remove the liquid before it has a chance to penetrate the surface; even plain paper towels would do the job in a pinch. Even with prompt action, however, it might require some effort to get rid of the stain. In the end, it depends on the offending fluid—some liquids such as dye and wine have a greater tendency of leaving marks. 

You have to Use the Right Type of Cleaning Solution

As you might be aware, there are numerous cleaning agents out there on the market. To get rid of a stain, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using the appropriate solution. After all, using the carpet shampoo on hardwood won’t do you any good as far as stains go. Fortunately, picking out the right agent is often quite simple as the bottles will be labelled at the store. Prior to purchasing a product, you can also consult with good ol’ reliable Google.

Some of the Most Common Hardwood Stains

Hardwood, in general, is quite resistant to stains. However, certain things can leave marks on the surface. Some of the most common things that can stain the floor include oil, water, and alcohol. If you have animals, there is a real possibility that you’ll have to tackle pet-related accidents (e.g. urine, vomit) at one point or another.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the ways that you can remove stains out of hardwood.

1. Getting Rid of Stains Using Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine bleach is probably one of the most common cleaning agents out there. Noted for its bactericidal properties, it is used in a variety of household products including laundry detergents and floor cleaners; they are also used in many industrial processes. Powerful chemicals, they are capable of not only disinfecting, but are known for getting rid of tough stains—this is due to their whitening abilities. It’s important to note, however, that bleach is not meant to be used as an all-purpose cleaner; it is simply not a good choice for lifting and removing dirt. If that’s your goal, there are many other products out there that can do the job.

First things first, you will want to get a suitable chlorine bleach for your hardwood. Once you’ve got that, remove the existing finish with either steel wool or sandpaper; you can also use a chemical stripper if necessary. From there, you’ll want to dilute the bleach with water in a container. Afterwards, pour some onto the stained area and brush it in with a bristled brush. Wait 10-15 minutes prior to wiping the chemical off with a soft cloth.

Note: If the stain is still present after wiping, you can reapply and leave the bleach on the spot for up to 24 hours—just remember to wipe off the area afterwards.

The next step is to neutralize the remaining bleach with vinegar; as a general rule, you can use 1/4 cup of vinegar on the area. When you’re done, rinse it with water. Avoid using too much though as it can cause the wood to swell. Once you’ve rinsed it, wipe it with a cloth and allow it to dry overnight.

2. Stain Removal Using Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is frequently used as an antiseptic and bleaching agent. Known for its anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, it works great as an all-purpose cleaner (typically as a 6% solution). Not only does it exist as itself, but it can be found as an active ingredient in products such as Tide laundry detergent and OxiClean. Unlike other agents, it is also non-toxic. For one thing, it has a very similar chemical make up to water—it just has an extra oxygen! Highly versatile, the chemical can be used on a variety of surfaces including floors, glass, appliances, countertops, and more.

When it comes to stains, hydrogen peroxide might just be what you need. Depending on what your store has, you can either use 3% or 6% peroxide. Once you’ve got that, fill it into a spray bottle—this will allow you to easily apply it onto your floors. As with most cleaning agents, you will want to leave it on for several minutes. After a while, you can wipe off the excess using a soft cloth. For those particularly stubborn stains, you might have to scrub the area with some force. Sure, it might take a little work, but your hardwood floors should look as good as new when you’re done.

Note: You should never mix hydrogen peroxide with vinegar. Combining the two liquids creates a harmful substance called peracetic acid that is known to be very irritating to the eyes, nose, and throat. Highly corrosive, it can also cause permanent scarring of the skin.

3. Using Vinegar to Remove Wooden Floor Stains

Vinegar isn’t just for cooking—it can also be used as a household cleaner. In fact, it works just as well as some of the commercial products out there when it comes to removing dirt and grime. A holy grail for many, its popularity has grown significantly over the past decade as a non-toxic and natural cleaning agent. While it is capable of killing some bacteria, however, the acid should not be used as a disinfectant. For that, you’d be better off using something like bleach. Also, it requires a bit of time to work; that is, you can’t just spray a surface with vinegar and wipe it away—you have to let it sit for a while.

As you probably already know, there are several different types of vinegar. For cleaning purposes, you’ll want to use white vinegar as it does not have any particular color (i.e. it will not further stain the surface). However, you do not want to use it on its own—as a general rule, you should dilute it with water. More specifically, it is usually recommended to use half a cup of vinegar to one gallon of water. After you’ve done that, immerse a cloth or a mop into the solution; wring it, and use it to gently scrub on the stain. Sometimes, you might need to directly spray some directly onto the floor. When you’re finished, wipe it dry with a towel.

Note: Vinegar should never be mixed with bleach as the combination leads to the release of a toxic vapour called chloramine. While they are both effective for cleaning, they should never be used at the same time. 

4. Enzyme Cleaners for Hard Wood Floor Stains

Enzymatic cleaners are non-toxic cleaning agents that can be used to clean various surfaces including hard floors and carpets. As implied by their name, they contain natural enzymes that are capable of breaking down tough stains—all without the need for harsh chemicals. In general, these cleaners are used for getting rid of pet-related accidents (e.g. urine, vomit, and feces). Not only are they effective at removing the stain, but the enzymes also help to discourage the animal from making a mess at that same spot at a later time. Some of the most popular brands include Nature’s Miracle, Biokleen, Pet Stain Off, and Anti-Icky-Poo.

If the stain is still wet, you’ll want to soak up as much liquid as possible before using the cleaner. You can do this by blotting the area with a thick layer of paper towels. To prevent spreading the mess, start from the outside and work your way towards the center. Once the liquid is all blotted up, repeat the previous steps with a damp paper towel. From there, you can add the enzymatic cleaner to the spot (make sure that it is safe for hardwood floors). While it depends on the individual product, you generally do not have the dilute the solution; rinsing is also typically not necessary.

Note: It’s important that you try to clean the stain while it’s still “fresh” (aka before the “accident” soaks into the floor).

5. Removing Hardwood Stains Using Ammonia

Ammonia is often compared to bleach as one of the most powerful household cleaners. An affordable tool, it is highly effective in breaking down grime and stains. While it can be purchased as a stand-alone product, it is often mixed with other ingredients such as vinegar, or laundry detergent to produce other cleaning agents. For instance, ammonia is often a component in toilet bowl cleaners and drain cleaners. Due to the fact that it evaporates quickly, it is also used in glass cleaners and window washing solutions. Aside from cleaning, ammonia has many other uses. For example, it can be used as a fertilizer or as a refrigerant gas. 

As a general rule, ammonia should be your last resort as it tends to discolour and dulled the finish of wooden floors. In some instances, however, it can be helpful. For instance, it can be effective in removing greasy stains. For that, you will want to make your own cleaner by mixing equal parts of ammonia, water, and liquid detergent together. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and apply it to the stain. Alternatively, you can cover the area with a rag that has been sprayed with the liquid. After waiting a few minutes, gently rub the stain.

Note: You should never mix ammonia with bleach. Doing so generates a toxic gas called chloramine, which is extremely dangerous. If inhaled, it can cause significant damage to your lungs. In severe cases, it can lead to death.

6. Isopropyl Alcohol for Removing Hard Wood Floor Stains

Isopropyl alcohol—otherwise known as rubbing alcohol—is widely used as an effective cleaning agent. Easy to find, it readily kills germs and bacteria on a variety of surfaces—including minor cuts and wounds. One of its greatest properties is that it is highly volatile. Ultimately, what this means is that it evaporates so quick that it does not leave any residue behind; this makes it the perfect for cleaning items such as windows and glasses. Aside from that, isopropyl alcohol can be used to clean the floor, walls, clothes, and more. For the most parts though, you will want to dilute it with water (stores typically sell 99% isopropyl alcohol).

Similar to ammonia, isopropyl alcohol is generally not used for cleaning hard floors; the reason for this is that it tends to soften or dull the finish. Given that you’re careful enough though, you can use it for spot cleaning small areas. For instance, it is effective at getting rid of permanent marker stains. To do so, you’ll want to pour a small amount onto a soft cloth. To remove the mark, gently rub the area. To prevent the alcohol from damaging the floor, you’ll want to rinse the spot with adequate water immediately afterwards.

Note: You should never mix isopropyl alcohol with bleach products as that will lead to the production of hydrochloric acid and chloroform, both of which are harmful to the body. More specifically, they can damage your eyes, skin, nervous system, kidneys, and liver. Extreme levels of chloroform in the body may also lead to death.

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