How to Repair Scratches and Stains in Your Wood Floor

First aid for wood floors depends on the type of finish used. In the following chart, solutions in the middle column are for floors finished with wax or penetrating stains. Solutions in the right-hand column are for floors finished with polyurethane or other surface finishes.


Note: When removing stains from any wood floor, always begin at the outer edge of the stain and work toward the middle. Always use the wood flooring manufacturer’s cleaning, repair and finish products when known.


Problem: Scratches

Solution (Wax or Penetrating Stain): Wax the affected area using a soft, clean cloth.

Solution (Surface Finish): Repair with a touch-up kit for urethane finishes, available from any wood flooring retailer.


Problem: Dried Milk or Food Stains

Solution (Wax or Penetrating Stain): Gently rub with a damp cloth, then rub dry and wax.

Solution (Surface Finish): Use a cleaner developed specifically for urethane finishes. For stubborn spots, scrub using a cleaner and a scrub pad made for urethane floors.


Problem: Water Stains or White Spots

Solution (Wax or Penetrating Stain): Rub the spot with #000 steel wool and wax. If this fails, lightly sand with fine sandpaper and clean the area using #00 steel wool and mineral spirits, or a wood floor cleaner. Allow the floor to dry, then stain, wax, and hand buff.

Solution (Surface Finish): Use a cleaner developed specifically for urethane finishes. For stubborn spots, scrub using a cleaner and a scrub pad made for urethane floors.


Problem: Heel Scuffs

Solution (Wax or Penetrating Stain): Rub in a small amount of wax with fine steel wool and hand buff to a shine.

Solution (Surface Finish): Use a cleaner developed specifically for urethane finishes. For stubborn spots, scrub using a cleaner and a scrub pad made for urethane floors.


Problem: Mold or Mildew

Solution (Wax or Penetrating Stain): Rub with a wood cleaner using a soft, clean cloth.

Solution (Surface Finish): Use a cleaner developed for urethane finishes. If the mold or mildew lies underneath the surface finish, sand and refinish the area.


Problem: Chewing Gum, Crayon, or Candle Wax

Solution (Wax or Penetrating Stain): Apply a plastic bag filled with ice until the deposit is brittle enough to crumble off. (Solvent-based wax can also be applied to loosen the deposit.) Remove crayon or candle wax by placing an ink blotter on the wax and applying a hot pressing iron to the top of the blotter.

Solution (Surface Finish): Apply a plastic bag filled with ice on top of the deposit until it is brittle enough to crumble off. Clean the area with a product made for urethane finishes.


Problem: Oil and Grease Stains

Solution (Wax or Penetrating Stain): First rub area with kitchen soap having a high lye content or saturate cotton with hydrogen peroxide and place over the stain. Then saturate a second layer of cotton with ammonia and place over the first. Repeat until stain is removed. Let the area dry and then hand buff.

Solution (Surface Finish): Use a cleaner developed specifically for urethane finishes. For stubborn spots, scrub using a cleaner and a scrub pad made for urethane floors.


Problem: Dark Spots and Ink Stains

Solution (Wax or Penetrating Stain): Rub the spot with #000 steel wool and wax. If this fails, lightly sand with fine sandpaper and clean the area using #00 steel wool and mineral spirits or a wood floor cleaner. Allow the floor to dry, then stain, wax, and hand buff. If the spot remains, apply a household bleach or vinegar and allow it to soak for an hour. Rinse with a damp cloth, wipe dry and smooth with fine sandpaper. Stain, wax and hand buff.

Solution (Surface Finish): Use a cleaner developed specifically for urethane finishes. For stubborn spots, scrub using a cleaner and a scrub pad made for urethane floors.


Problem: Wax Buildup

Solution (Wax or Penetrating Stain): Strip the old wax away with odorless mineral spirits or a wood floor product made for stripping wax. Use cloth and fine steel wool to remove all residue. After the floor is dry, wax and buff.

Solution (Surface Finish): Not applicable.


Problem: High Heel Shoe Dents

Solution (Wax or Penetrating Stain): Requires professional repair.

Solution (Surface Finish): Requires professional repair.

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