December 22, 2006, Newsletter Issue #43: Removing Stains From Finished Wood Floors

Tip of the Week

Wood just doesn't cotton to water all that much. A little water sitting on a sealed and waxed floor can leave a stain in a matter of minutes (someone didn't read their guide to protecting and maintaining flooring). Fortunately, the damage can be reversed. Here's how: To remove a smoky white haze or a white spot, buff the finish with a soft cotton cloth and a very mild abrasive, such as whitening toothpaste, auto-polishing compound, or tobacco ash mixed with mineral oil, until the stain disappears. To remove more serious black or white water stains on wood flooring, take the following steps: Mask off the surrounding boards with painter's masking tape. First remove any wax or surface finish. Use fine steel wool to remove wax, and sandpaper to remove a surface finish. Depending on the size of the area you want to repair, hand-sand with a rubber sanding block or machine-sand with a random-orbit sander. In both cases, start with 80- or even 60-grit abrasive and sand to 100-grit. Sand just up to the edges of unaffected boards. Mix oxalic acid crystals (available at paint or hardware stores) in 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) or so of hot water and stir to dissolve them. Keep adding crystals until they won't dissolve anymore. Pour, brush or sponge the solution on the stained area. Once it has dried completely, brush off the crystals and repeat the process until the stain is gone. Stain or seal, then refinish the affected area. Or, if the touch-up stands out too much, use the screen-and-overcoat method to restore the entire floor.

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