How to Remove Stain on Wood

When life stains your wooden furnishings and floor, tackle the build-up with confidence by following these tips.

August 13, 2019

Removing stains on wood surfaces requires patience and finesse. It’s a true effort of love and appreciation since wood is already so susceptible to damage, and the last thing you want to do is risk further injury to the natural material. Try as we might, wood stains are fairly common, notably on wood floors due to foot traffic, pet messes, moisture and cooking splatters and spills. Learn what you can do to treat stains that do appear, and protect and preserve the wooden surfaces of your home.


Photo by: GettyImages/Stella


Dirt Stains

In high-traffic or high-use areas of your home, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the dirt from your shoes and body can begin to build up and affect the condition of your hardwood floors and furnishings. Take care to clean these high traffic areas with a little more diligence. You won’t want to toss down water and mop like you would porcelain tiles, but a cleaner specially formulated for hardwood floors (the kind that leaves no residue or oily build-up) can help you stay a step ahead of more permanent wear and tear.

Alternatively, on wooden furnishings, you can get away with applying furniture polish with a soft cloth to cleanse and protect the wood.

Cleaning and polishing furniture


Cleaning and polishing furniture

Photo by: GettyImages/Burak Karademir

GettyImages/Burak Karademir

To clean dirt stains and build-up on a wood deck, use soapy water and a scrub brush to tackle it by hand. Use as much soapy water as necessary and allow the area to air dry when complete.

Oil Stains

When cooking oil affects wooden floors and surfaces in the kitchen, mineral spirits can help to lift the oil stain from both treated and unprotected wood. Apply it using a clean cloth and rub it into the wood surface, though not so much that you oversaturate the wood. The stain should rub away. Follow up with a quick wash using soapy water and dry with a paper towel to absorb extra moisture. (Avoid the use of mineral spirits if you’re cleaning your cutting board or other food prep surfaces.)

USA, Wyoming


USA, Wyoming

Photo by: GettyImages/Cavan Images

GettyImages/Cavan Images

Consider the oils of your body and lotion products, too. Sweat and lotion alike can transfer onto wooden furniture (the armrests of your chair, or the edge of the seat where your knees wrap). This too will gradually stain the surface over time, so make it a point to wash these areas with a soft cloth sprayed with furniture polish to clean and protect the wood.

Water Stains

Water staining on wooden surfaces might present in two different ways:

As a light stain, in which the moisture has affected the protective top coating on a wooden piece, or as a dark stain, where the moisture has penetrated deeper into the natural grain of the wood.

Light-colored stains are easier to remove because you’re treating the surface coating on the wood. A light stain means that the finish on the wood's surface is doing its job! This is the easiest type of stain to remove. Begin by applying a gentle mineral oil onto the stain and buffing it in using a soft cloth. Distribute the oil over a wide surface (don’t treat it as a spot cleaner) and then leave it alone for 12 hours to set and cure. After it has rested, buff the surface of the floor again with a dry rag. The stain should have dissipated.

If the stain is still present (and still presents as a light stain on the surface of the wood) rub mineral spirits onto the wood surface. It will dissolve some of the finish to remove the stain. You will need to apply a new protective coat of furniture wax or polish to restore the finish, but it will get out the stain.


Photo by: GettyImages/Jovo Marjanovic

GettyImages/Jovo Marjanovic

For dark water stains that have saturated, the best (and only) way to get them out is to sand the finish until the stain is eliminated. Start with coarse sandpaper and then work up to finer and finer sandpapers to remove the top finish and the underlying stain from the grains of the wood. You will have to reapply a new finish to the top, such as a polish or wax. If the new area feels “patched” and doesn’t blend into the existing finish, rub the area with steel wool to buff the edges and fade the new finish into the old.

Pet Stains

When faced with tough, saturated pet stains, cleansers with enzymatic cleaners and ordinary hydrogen peroxide are the best go-to cleaners. With a cloth dampened with the cleaner of choice, scrub at the stain to simultaneously lift the stain and the odor. Removing the odor is, of course, the top priority when it comes to cleaning pet urine, but know that you may have to sand and refinish the flooring as well to fully eliminate any saturated stains and deeper set odors.

A distraught 8 week old Chocolate Labrador Retriever sitting next to a urine puddle on the hardwood floor because they missed the training pad behind them. Anybody that has had a young puppy knows the process of house breaking a puppy can be difficult.


A distraught 8 week old Chocolate Labrador Retriever sitting next to a urine puddle on the hardwood floor because they missed the training pad behind them. Anybody that has had a young puppy knows the process of house breaking a puppy can be difficult.

Photo by: GettyImages/cmannphoto


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