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How to Get Stains Out of Hardwood Floors
Some floor stains are easier to remove than others.
If you have children or pets, there’s a good chance your hardwood floor is going to see its share of juice spills, marker streaks and pet accidents. If you stay on top of things, you should be able to get most of them off without disturbing the floor finish. But if you leave any fluid standing on the floor, including water, it can soak down to the wood. That complicates the job of stain removal.
Getting Stains Early
Although hardwood floor finishes are impervious to most liquids, some bleed-through is likely if a liquid stands for a period of time. Consequently, the key to easy stain removal is to get to the offending fluid off the floor as fast as possible. Even with prompt action, however, some fluids, such as wine and dye, may leave stains. You should be able to remove them with an appropriate cleaning agent, but your task will be easier if the fluid hasn’t penetrated. If you live in a busy household, it’s a good idea to keep a towel or a roll of paper towels within easy reach.
Using the Right Cleaning Agent
It isn’t always easy to identify a stain, and you may have to use a trial-and-error approach to removing it. Rubbing it with a rag dampened with water is a good place to start because water removes stains from ink, candy, fruit and blood. Switch to white vinegar to remove a wine stain. Ammonia removes more stubborn stains, like iodine, while chlorine is effective for removing dye stains, but you should never use ammonia and chlorine together. When combined, they create toxic fumes. Most paint stains come off with warm water and detergent or a rag moistened with mineral spirits.
Cleaning Deeper and Deodorizing
It isn’t always possible to remove stains as soon as they happen, especially when you have pets. Any stains that haven’t penetrated the wood may respond to prolonged exposure. Moisten a towel with the appropriate cleaner, spread it over the stain and leave it for a day or two. You can deodorize, when necessary, by mixing a 5 percent phenol solution, available at hardware stores, and rubbing it on the floor with a soft cloth. Not even prolonged exposure will help if the wood is stained, however. In that case, you have to remove the finish.
Bleaching the Wood
Many hardwoods react to water and other fluids by turning gray, and bleaching the wood with a solution of oxalic crystals and water removes the gray color. On the other hand, a chlorine bleach solution removes stains from dyes that have penetrated the finish. To use either bleaching agent, you need to sand the finish off of the stained area with a palm sander. After bleaching, you may have to restain the exposed flooring before you recoat it it with clear finish. If the wood on your floor is extensively stained, sanding, bleaching and refinishing the entire floor may be your best option.