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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Tips To Remove Stubborn Stains On Hardwood Floors

9/4/2020 (Permalink)

Stains Like This Can Possibly Be Removed

If you have hardwood floors and kids, or even pets, it is almost guaranteed that you have had a mess at some point. Getting those stains off or out are normally easy cleans, but for the odd stain, or the stubborn stain, the following information will help.    

First, you are going to need to know what kind of floor you have. There are three basic types of floor finishes: wax finish, penetrating stain, surface finishes. A surface finish sits on top of the wood, whereas wax and penetrating stain finishes go deeper into the wood. The latter are usually found in older homes. 

Second, after determining the type of floor, you need to determine the stain type. We will cover both kinds of water stains, non-greasy stains, and greasy stains as follows.    

WATER STAINS. You will need to identify if the stain is a white ring type stain or a dark (possibly even black) stain. There are two different methods for the respective stain types.  

White stains: 

  • Wax/penetrating: 
    • Gently rub with #000 steel wool and a floor wax 
    • Go on with a #00 steel wool and a mineral spirit/wood floor cleaner 
  • Surface finish:
    • Use a cleaner for urethane finishes, this will most likely take anything right off
    • Scrubbers can be bought specifically for urethane finishes as well, sometimes extra elbow grease can do the trick for stubborn stains 

If the previous methods do not work (for any finish type) you can try 

  • Placing a damp towel on the floor and placing a hot iron (not on a steam setting) on top of it for a few seconds. Then wipe the area down with a clean dry towel 
  • Try rubbing the spot with a toothbrush and some rubbing alcohol for a few seconds in small areas at a time 

The second type of stains, dark/black stains, can be trickier. Generally, these stains have penetrated the wood, but you really have two options (with no variation depending on the finish type): 

  • Dip a toothbrush in bleach and rub the stain. Repeat once more after a few hours, then wait overnight to see if the stain is gone 
  • You can always strip, sand, and reseal the area if all else fails 

For non-greasy food stains/nail polish and the like: you should be able to remove the stains with warm water, dish soap, and a rag.  

For greasy stains, such as butter or oils, the method of removal will again be determined by the type of finish on the floor: 

  • Wax/penetrating: 
    • Use a dish soap with a high lye content, warm water, and a rag 
  • Surface Finishes: 
    • Use the steps above for removing white stains from surface finished wood 

When removing stains from wood, always go easy on moisture and let the area thoroughly dry before doing anything more. Only use cleaners for your specific floor type when possible to avoid unnecessary damage.

When in doubt, or if you have a very large stain, call a professional such as SERVPRO. We have seen a lot of different situations and are always here to help. Feel free to give us a call at 262-542-0900 with questions or comments.  


  1. Kelly Roberson Updated April 10, and Kelly Roberson. “How to Remove Stains from Wood Floors So It Looks Like That Spill Never Happened.” Better Homes & Gardens, www.bhg.com/homekeeping/house-cleaning/surface/how-to-remove-stains-from-wood-floors/.  

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