By Lauren Caster for The Workbench Life
Wood floors are wonderful things. They’re beautiful, natural, have great acoustic qualities and add a great feel to your home. They’re also easy to keep clean -- for the most part. A stubborn stain on a hardwood floor can mar its natural beauty, but here’s how to remove stains and keep your flooring clean -- and intact.
Your hardwood floor is susceptible to a number of stain-causing conditions like water damage, pet urine, even leaving a flower pot or a full glass on the floor for too long. Wiping up spills right away should prevent serious problems -- it’s the long-term exposure to dampness that will cause lasting damage.
· Non-greasy spills (nail polish, food): Wipe clean with a mixture of warm water and dish soap
· Pet accidents: Same as above, then sprinkle area with baking soda to absorb moisture from cracks in wood and remove odors
· Greasy spills: Use a small amount of ammonia and cold water on a soft cloth
White and Dark Stains
Wood floor stains tend to fall into two categories -- white rings and dark stains. White rings, usually easier to remove, are water stains that lie within the floor’s finish. To erase them, scrub the stain with steel wool, using a generous amount of lemon oil to keep the wood from being scratched. Another technique is to cover the stain with a cotton cloth and iron it out.
Dark stains are where it gets more complicated. These are stains that have penetrated the finish. If the floor is older and the finish is worn, the wood is left unprotected, according to Chris Sy, a 15-year veteran of Carlisle Wide Plank Floors in New Hampshire. “Once that occurs, nearly anything will stain the open pores of the wood,” says Sy. Whether or not the stain is still present, the result is the same: you will need to sand, stain and re-finish the stained area.
Sanding and Bleaching
To attack dark stains, first sand through the finish. An orbital sander is a good tool for spot cleaning a small stained area. Once you reach the stained wood, use fine-grit sandpaper or bleach to remove it.
· Bleach: Use a brush to scrub bleach into the stain. Let it dry for a couple of hours, then repeat. You can do this two or three more times. Let the area sit overnight.
· Sandpaper: The key is to move to a finer grit of sandpaper. "If you start at 60 grit, go to 80, then 100 and ultimately 120 or 150 grit,” says Sy.
Once the dark stain is gone, apply wood stain if necessary, then apply two to three coats of the appropriate finish. To better blend the problem spots, Sy recommends applying two coats of finish on the affected area, then lightly sanding the entire board using 150 grit sandpaper. Apply a final coat of finish over the entire board.
If the stain ends up going too far into the wood, spot repairs are more difficult because sanding can cause a divot in the floor. If this is the case, and excessive sanding is making it difficult to blend the problem area with the rest of the floor, it may be time to call in the professionals to sand the entire floor or replace boards.
LAUREN CASTER is a New York City-based writer with a green thumb who has worked for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. In addition to tending to her massive balcony herb garden, she contributes to Brooklyn Exposed, writing articles about secret gardens and all things Brooklyn. She's also a ghostwriter, assisting business luminaries pen books on theory, strategy and management systems.