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How To Remove Water Stains On Wood Floors 

Whether you have real wood floors or engineered wood flooring, you can look forward to great-looking, durable results in your home with hardwood products. But, as you may well be aware, prolonged exposure to water can cause extensive damage, from warping to unsightly stains. 
These problems can sometimes arise, perhaps due to a leaky sink or a burst pipe. And it can be tricky when you’re not sure exactly how to tackle the issue. 

Problems Excessive Water On Wood Floors Can Cause 


When built-up moisture forces floors together, it can lead to ‘crowning’. Boards rise up in the middle, creating a kind of mound. Unfortunately, you may need to replace your wood floors to deal with this issue. 


Colour loss is obviously an indication of staining. If you notice whitish circles, this may just be minor damage which a flooring specialist can easily put right. But if you see dark black stains, the water has penetrated the boards. The only options then are to remove the wood floor entirely or carry out major repairs. 


This happens when your floor expands so that it becomes uneven on the edges – it’s basically the opposite of crowning. Again, it’s not a minor issue so you could be looking at a new floor. 


This is rare, but it means the damage is so bad that individual floorboards stick out. It’s the most extreme type of water damage, and will almost certainly mean your whole floor will have to be taken up. 

Questions To Ask Yourself First 

To start with, you’ll need to consider a few key questions: 

1) When did the damage happen? 

Time is of the essence here. If the spillage occurred only a few hours ago, you may be able to clean it up with minimal lasting impact on the wood. But if you’ve been away and the liquid has perhaps had days to sit on the floor, and you’re seeing some of the issues mentioned above, or have spotted mould or nails coming away from the boards, you’re looking at something more serious requiring a professional flooring specialist. 

2) How much time do I have? 

If you have plenty of time to fix your wood floors, all well and good. But if, for example, you have a busy household with pets and children, you may want to sort out the problem more quickly, for their safety and to minimise potential further damage. 

3) What type of water caused the damage? 

Not all H₂O is created equal! You may not be aware, but there are various kinds of water. Clean or white water contains no harmful bacteria, and mostly comes from sinks, taps and baths or showers. It hasn’t been exposed to dirt or harmful chemicals. If you’re wondering about removing white water stains from wood floors, the good news is that with this kind of liquid you stand your best chance of being able to repair rather than replace your floor. Grey water, from a washing machine or dishwasher, is contaminated – seek specialist advice. 
Meanwhile, black water inflicts the worst kind of damage, since it comes from contaminated sources like overflowing toilets, blocked sewage systems etc. and contains nasty bacteria. If you’re wondering how to remove black water stains from wood floors, unfortunately, again, you could be looking at a replacement model. 
The final water type is saltwater, but unless you live near the coast, damage from this kind of water on hardwood floors is pretty rare. 

Superficial Stains 

If the water has infiltrated the wood finish but not the timber below, you may see some surface discolouring or ‘white stains’ which are fairly light. Whether you can shift them or not will depend on a number of things, from stain depth to wood finish type, but there are a few things you can try. 
These include mineral oil plus mineral spirits, or the old trick of baking soda with water. Make your paste thick enough to coat the stain, yet wet enough to soak through the wooden floorboards below. With a soft cloth, rub the paste into the stain and leave it there for 24 hours. Wipe off anything left behind and buff up. 

Deeper Marks 

For these, you’ll need to remove the surface layer of the finish to remove the mark from the timber itself. These stains are usually darker in colour and shifting them is trickier and needs doing extremely carefully. 
Techniques for tackling these marks include: 
Sanding: Sand off the area around the stain without damaging the dry wood, rubbing with the grain. Next use steel wool to feather the edges so everything blends in. Clear the dust and then add coats of a matching wood finish such as lacquer or varnish before polishing to a shine. 
Vinegar: Try this if sanding hasn’t worked. Dampen a soft sponge with vinegar and wipe several times if necessary, pausing for a few moments in between applications. Follow the last two steps mentioned above to complete. 
Bleach: As a last resort, apply a light coating of a 50-50 chlorine bleach solution to the floor, wait a few hours and reapply. Once the mark is lighter, remove the excess with a damp cloth before wiping with white vinegar. Leave for two minutes or so and then wipe dry. Finally, complete the wood finish and polishing steps mentioned above. 

Talk to us 

At Basingstoke-based wood flooring specialist Creative Wood Floors, established in 1999, we’re committed to providing customers with the best possible advice. Talk to us whether you want to know how to remove black water stains from wood floors or anything else.  
Check out our range of cleaning, repair and products available to buy online
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