One of the benefits of hardwood floors is that they’re relatively maintenance free. Sweeping or dry mopping once a week or so usually keeps them looking as good as new. Accidents do happen, though, and removing stains from hardwood floors can be a very frustrating, time-consuming project. There are a few things you must remember before starting a stain-removal process and techniques you can employ to make the whole process move along as quickly as possible.
Identify the Type of Stains
Knowing what caused a stain is a crucial part of the stain-removal process. Stains caused by such substances as candy, wine or fresh fruit will simply require warm-water, a little detergent and some scrubbing. More stubborn stains such as those caused by grease, blood or ink require harsher chemicals such as ammonia or bleach. Trying to remove a stain using the wrong technique could possibly make the stain worse, so make sure you know exactly what you’re dealing with.
Assess the Severity of the Stain
The nature of the stain is only one aspect of the removal process. Knowing the condition of your hardwood floors is also very important. If your floors are new and well-sealed, the stain probably hasn’t yet reached the wood. If that’s true, detergent or chemical stain removers will most likely work. If the floors are old and the sealant worn off, the stain has probably reached the wood fibers. In this case, you will probably need to strip and sand the floors, then refinish and seal them.
Use the Right Cleaning Materials
The right cleaning material is another important thing to consider. Mild dish detergent is a useful cleaning agent when the stain has been caused by alcohol, ink, lipstick, nail polish or other non-greasy substances. Ammonia and cold water works great at getting out blood, grease or iodine. Scouring powder, bleach and hot water is the best way to remove urine stains and other pet accidents.
Apply the Cleaning Solution
Proper application of the appropriate cleaning solution is the final step in the stain-removal process. For detergents, wet a soft cloth with the solution and gently scrub the stain until it is gone. If needed, use a slightly more abrasive cloth or cleaning tool. Be cautious, however – you don’t want to scrub off the sealant.
For ammonia mixtures, make sure you use cold water and a soft cloth. Gently scrub until the stain disappears. If the stain is stubborn, try saturating the cloth and spreading it out on top of the stain. This loosens the stain and particles get absorbed into the cloth. Leave on the cloth on the stain until it is gone.
For scouring powders or bleach mixtures, use hot water and an abrasive cleaning tool. This method works best when the stain is fresh. If the stain is too old for this method to be effective, mix one part bleach to ten parts hot water and use after treating the area with scouring powder. After removing the stain, rinse the area with clear bleach to remove any lingering odors.
Strip and Sand
If none of the above techniques worked, you may need to strip your floors, sand them and refinish them. This can be a time-consuming, even dangerous operation, so you will probably want to call a professional to assist you. Make sure you ask about spot-refinishing and whether it would work for your stained hardwood floors.
You now know some of the basic ways to remove specific stains on hardwood flooring. If your stain is not coming out easily, or if you have questions about sanding or refinishing, contact your local hardwood professional.