How to Remove Stains from Wood Floors with No Hassle

Harold K. Hardesty
Harold is a Flooring Specialist at TheHouseWire, educating people on the flooring by writing guides about the topic. He is a well-seasoned flooring specialist with experience in the industry for nine years.
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Updated October 27, 2023

Find Out How to Make Your Wooden Floors Look Fresh and New

How to Remove Stains from Wood Floors with No Hassle

Somehow, it’s inevitable.

Your rain boots carried water in and now the memory is ingrained in the wood.

Or maybe your kids dropped their greasy food off the plate and somehow the stain has lingered.

Whatever it is, cleaning wood floors and removing wood stains is not how anyone wants to spend their afternoon, but I hope to prove to you today not only how easy it is, but also how worth it.

The National Wood Flooring Association finds that getting rid of stains “will enhance the performance of the floor, will prolong the lifetime of the floor, will promote the long-term sustainability of raw materials, and ultimately, will protect your investment,”.

This article will show you the different stains you might be battling and the best methods to remove stains from wood floors.

I myself have taken these defense strategies on the hotel’s wood floors, and I have to say… the results? Marvelous.

Want to know more?

Let’s get started.

Type Of Stain

First things first: Determine the Type of Stain

Is it water rings, dark water stains, or a whole different animal entirely? Stains can be rather stubborn and to get them out thoroughly, the best thing to do is identify their nature.


Colors of the stain help show you whether the stain is within the floor’s finish or if it’s on the waxy surface of your floor.

White stains, for instance, are a type of watermark and are extremely easy to remove. If you’re not sure, you can ask your floor manufacturer or call for a professional cleaning company.

Determine the Wood You’re Working With

You don’t want to take the stain out but hurt your wood floor indefinitely, and so it’s important to know what you’re working with.

If the stain you have appears to be surface-level, you are most likely working with a hard-finished floor. But if the stain looks like it went through the wood, then you most likely have a soft-oil finish.

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I will be offering advice for both, but as a warning, be sure to not use sandpaper, steel wool No.1, or any other strong chemicals that can damage your finish.


Removing White Rings or Water Marks from Wood Floors

I’ll never forget staring at the white rings on my floor, wondering where they even came from? And why were there so many?

White rings in the wood mean that the water’s moisture is within the wood’s finish and has not actually reached the wood yet— which is great news.

It’s important to note here whether you have a waxed wooden floor or surface finish wood.

  • If your floor is waxed, you should carefully rub the water stain with steel wool No.1 and wax.  If the stain is still persistent, be sure to lightly sand the area again with fine sandpaper. Once that’s done, clean the newly sanded stain with the steel wool and wood floor cleaner or mineral spirits of your choice.
    Wait for the floor to dry and then you’re on your way to staining, waxing, and buffing by hand!
  • If your floor is a surface finish, be sure to invest in a cleaner and scrub pad that is specially made for urethane finishes in order to protect the wood.

What if the stain is still being too stubborn despite these 2 methods?

Then let’s try bringing out the big guns: a dry cotton cloth and iron. Place the cloth (or a t-shirt if you don’t have a cotton cloth) over the stain and then rub with a hot iron (without any steam and at the lowest setting) for a few seconds.

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My last trick is to dampen a cotton cloth with denatured alcohol and rubbing the contents over the stain for a few seconds as well.

Removing Dark Water Stains from Wood Floors

These bad boys can be even peskier than the white water rings, as they are a sign that water has made its way through the wood’s finish.

Because of their nature, removing the stains requires a different approach.

You can first try to dip a toothbrush into bleach and then rub gently into the stain. Repeat the process again in three to four hours, and wait until the next day for results.

Another Route is Also Available

First, dampen a cloth with warm water and wipe the area of any grime or dirt, and then rub the steel wool into the stained areas. Next, get another rag to soak in vinegar and rub the vinegar into the stain.

The Public Health and Safety Organization even praises vinegar for being inexpensive and environmentally friendly.

Wait for 5 to 10 minutes and then apply hydrogen peroxide, as needed, to the stain— also allowing it 5 to 10 minutes to work its magic.

Once the time’s up, apply either hardwood floor cleaner or mineral spirits to the stained wood, and then rub a solution of four parts water and one part bleach into the stain. If the stain is still alive and well, up the dosage of bleach application or sand the surface first and try again.

Finally, once the stain is out of sight, be sure to finish off the process with hardwood floor wax that corresponds to your flooring in order to keep it protected.

What About Other Stains?

If your stain seems to not be water but isn’t greasy, the best approach is to use warm water mixed with dish detergent and rubbing the solution onto the stain with a cotton cloth.

If the stain is in fact greasy (oil, butter, etc.), on either wax or finished floors, be sure to place a cotton cloth of hydrogen peroxide over the stain, and then layer a cloth with ammonia right on top of the peroxide.

Keep doing so until the results are what you want.

If None of These Options Appealed to You…

Then, your last bet would be to strip, sand and reseal the area, and be done with it.

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