How to Remove Water Stains from Wood Floors

Wood floor stains are grouped into two categories: white and black. In general, white stains affect the surface finish and black stains penetrate into the wood. Understanding the difference between white stains and black stains is the first step in deciding the most suitable method of how to remove water stains from wood floors.

Types of Water Stains:

  • White Stains
    The term ‘white stain’ is used to describe surface discolouration that only affects the wood floor finish. Typically, this smoky type of water stain is found on newer wood floors with lacquered finishes. Older oiled floors are not generally associated with white stains.
  • Black Stains
    Black stains are darker in tone and give the visual effect of slightly charred wood. These water stains penetrate deep into the wood and can affect any type of wood floor. Due to the multi-layer nature of this type of stain, the problem requires a more thorough stain removal solution.

Next we will take a closer look at each type of water stain on an individual basis and discuss popular methods of removing both white stains and black stains. For further information on water damage and how to apply different types of waterproof finish, please see Are Wood Floors Waterproof.

Wood Floors – How to Remove White Stains

Removing a white stain from a wood floor is notoriously a trial and error process. This is because each water stain is different – although these surface layer stains only affect the wood floor finish, the depth of penetration into the finish combined with the type of wood floor finish itself can reduce the effectiveness of removal attempts.

Methods for removing white stains from wood floors:

  • Mineral Oil
    Apply a thin layer of mineral oil using a soft microfibre cloth. Wait several minutes and repeat the process. This method should break down light water stains within 24 hours.
  • Mineral Spirits
    Mineral spirits penetrate deeper into the wood floor finish. Where mineral oil is ineffective, repeat the same process using mineral spirits. Again, leave to dry for a full 24 hours.
  • Baking Soda & Water Paste
    Make a paste of baking soda and water. Rub the paste into the stain using a microfiber cloth and leave for 24 hours. Apply furniture polish and leave to dry overnight.

Alternative methods… where the above methods do not succeed in removing the white stain, there are several alternative ‘household’ methods that may work. Apply gentle heat using a hair dryer or a steam iron (make sure to keep the hair dryer moving so as to avoid burning the floor, and likewise be sure to place a towel between the iron and the floor). Other solutions include toothpaste, mayonnaise, and salt mixed with cooking oil.

Wood Floors – How to Remove Black Stains

Removing black stains from wood floors presents the issue of removing any wood floor finish to gain access to the stained wood beneath.

How to remove black stains from wood floors:

    • Sandpaper (100 grit)
      Begin by removing the surface layer of the floor using a 100 grit sandpaper. Where the water stain has not penetrated too deeply into the wood, this method should also be sufficient in removing the stain. Rub the sandpaper in the direction of the grain. Feather the edges of the removed area using steel wool – this will help to blend the area into the original finish. Finally, apply several coats of varnish/lacquer/wax to match the original finish.
    • Bleach
      This method is a last resort. Where the stain has penetrated the wood too deeply for sanding to have the desired effect, applying a thin coat of chlorine bleach directly on to the wood can help to lighten the water stain. The bleaching can take several hours. Once complete, be sure to thoroughly remove the remaining bleach using a damp sponge. Apply a thin layer of vinegar and again remove with a damp sponge – this will prepare the wood for the finish and prevent any further colouration from developing. Apply several coats of finish to match the original finish.

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