Caution: When working with any chemicals, carefully read and follow the label directions for using that chemical, especially any cautions on safe use! With solvents, be very careful to have ventilation, and no flame or spark in area.
The first time you use any procedure on any floor, test it first on an out-of-the-way part of the floor to be sure it does not damage the flooring or finish.
- Notes: If steel wool is suggested, use fine grade, 000 grade. Scouring powder will help remove many stains, but can also permanently scratch the floor. If you decide to use it, use only a mild type, and be very careful about rubbing too much. Concentrated liquid commercial household cleaners, rubbed onto a stubborn spot, may remove it as well as scouring powders without the danger of scratching. Rinse off well. Do not use on wood floors. Do not use water solutions, or cleaners which have to be rinsed off with water, on wood floors. Use a solvent or solvent-based cleaning wax. After removing a stain, rinse the area thoroughly, dry completely, and, if floor finish has been removed in that area, recoat with appropriate finish or wax.
Alcoholic Beverage Stains: Rub with a cloth dampened in a solution of detergent and warm water. If the stain remains, rub it with a different cloth dampened with denatured alcohol.
Blood Stains: Mop or sponge with clear, cold water. If the stain remains, mop or sponge it with a solution of ammonia and cold water.
Candy Stains: Rub with a cloth dampened in detergent and warm water. For abrasive action, use steel wool instead of a cloth, except on "no wax," or hard-surface floors. On those, use powdered detergent and a plastic scrubbing pad dampened with warm water.
Crayon Marks: Toothpaste. Crayon marks on the floor may be removed by rubbing them with a damp cloth containing toothpaste. Toothpaste will not work well on porous surfaces.
Dark spots on wood floors are often the result of alkaline exposure, which were allowed to dry on the floor. To get rid of these spots, remove solvent based wax with mineral spirits. This is a flammable solvent so be very careful; have adequate ventilation, and be sure there is no spark or flame in the area.
Apply white vinegar to spots, leave it there for three or four minutes, and wipe dry with a clean cloth. Repeat this procedure, if necessary. If several applications of vinegar do not remove the spot, you might try a 4 percent oxalic acid solution. When using oxalic acid, read the label and observe all cautions. Oxalic acid is poisonous! If oxalic acid solution does not work, you should consider calling in a professional floor finisher. Scratches and small worn areas on wood floors can often be concealed by applying a small amount of wax with very fine steel wool to the floor. Apply the wax in the direction of the wood grain wherever possible and rub it in gently until the color blends with the floor. Wipe off any excess, then polish the area with a clean, dry cloth. Wax alone will work well for light to medium-colored floors.
Dye Stains: Rub with a cloth dampened in a solution of one part chlorine bleach and two parts water. Under no circumstances combine ammonia with chlorine bleach, since this may lead to the formation of a harmful gas. The water can hurt wood floors; do not let it soak.
Grease: Ice cube or cold water. If you spill grease on a wood floor, immediately place an ice cube or very cold water on the spot. The grease will harden and can then be scraped off with a knife. Then iron a piece of cloth over the grease spot.
Fresh Fruit Stains: Rub with a cloth dampened with a solution of detergent and warm water. If this is not effective and your floor is resilient tile, wood or cork, rub the stain with a cloth dampened in a solution of one tablespoon of oxalic acid (available at drugstores and hardware stores) and one pint of water.
Ink Stains: Rub with a cloth dampened in warm water and detergent. If the floor is not hard-surfaced, use a commercial ink remover and follow the instructions on the package.
Iodine Stains: Rub with a cloth dampened in a solution of household ammonia and water. If this is not effective, saturate the cloth in the solution and place it over the stain until the stain is removed.
Lipstick Stains: Rub with a cloth dampened in detergent and warm water. If you do not get results, rub with steel wool dipped in water and detergent. If the floor is hard- surfaced, "no wax," or embossed vinyl asbestos, use a plastic scouring pad instead of steel wool.
Nail Polish Stains: On resilient flooring, rub with a cloth dampened in a concentrated detergent solution, or use scouring powder, water and a plastic mesh pad. On wood and cork, rub gently with steel wool. After removing a stain, rinse the area thoroughly, dry completely, and, if floor finish has been removed in that area, recoat with appropriate finish or wax.
Oil Stains: Remove as much as possible with newspaper, paper towels, or a plastic spatula. On resilient tile, rub with a cloth dampened in detergent and warm water, or if that does not work, use a concentrated commercial household cleaner, and then rinse well. On wood and cork, put a cloth saturated with dry cleaning fluid on the stain for five minutes. Then wipe the area dry and wash with detergent and water. On stone, use a formulated solvent with a soft, clean cloth.
Paint or Varnish: On resilient tile, rub with a cloth or plastic mesh pad dipped in warm water and detergent. On wood and cork, rub lightly with a cloth dampened in a formulated paint remover following manufacturer's directions so as not to damage the permanent surface finish. On a hard-surfaced floor, scrub with a concentrated solution of detergent and water.
Rubber Heel Marks: A pencil eraser may remove them. If not, heel marks and other stubborn spots may be removed by rubbing gently with 000 fine steel wool and the solvent-based wax used on the floor.
Rust Stains: Use a commercial rust remover made for your type of floor such as Wink or Zud.
Shoe Polish Stains: On resilient flooring, rub with a cloth dampened in a concentrated detergent solution, or use scouring powder, water, and a plastic mesh pad. On wood and cork, rub gently with steel wool. After removing a stain, rinse the area thoroughly, dry completely, and, if floor finish has been removed in that area, recoat with appropriate finish or wax.
Stubborn Spots on Vinyl: A coat of wax or vinyl finish will protect floor from staining if highly colored liquids, etc., spill on the floor. It will also protect against scratches. If sticky spots don't come off in washing, rub with a plastic mesh pad to loosen. Do not use scouring powder as it will scratch the floor.
- Note: White or light vinyl may turn yellow from soil trapped between layers of wax; in that case remove the wax and recoat clean floor. Too much sunlight can also yellow a white vinyl floor.
Tar: To remove tar, freeze it to brittleness with ice cubes and then scrape it off with a plastic spatula. To remove the tar stain, wipe with a cloth dampened with either a dry cleaning solvent or a formulated safety solvent. Or: Scrape up excess tar with the side of a dull knife. Rub again with your fingernail, a ice cream pop stick, or anything that won't scratch the floor. Finally, wipe up the tar with a dry cloth.
Urine Stains: Rub with a hot, damp cloth and scouring powder. For old stubborn stains, use a 10 to 1 dilution of liquid bleach. Rinse well with clean water. Bleach reaching the actual wood surface will lighten/discolor the floor.
This article has been contributed in part by Michigan State University Extension