It is possible to remove stains from an oak floor.
Refinishing oak floors is just like refinishing oak furniture. You can repair any type of imperfection without complete sanding (or stripping) and refinishing. However, floors are often sanded and refinished because this is the easiest route to a perfect new finish or because the homeowners want to lighten the whole surface. It’s a personal preference whether a small repair or complete refinishing is in what you would like for your floor.
Light or faded areas in a wood floor.
If there is a light or faded area, try rubbing the spot with furniture refinisher on a steel wool pad. The strong solvent that will soften the existing clear finish and spread around a mixture of softened varnish and stain. This may even out the color variances. It might also lighten the whole surface as the old, darkened varnish is removed.
Dark stains on your wood floor.
For dark stains, first try to clean them with a 50-50 solution of laundry bleach and water. Stains that disappear quickly were just surface mildew. Any remaining dark spots are water stains that have penetrated the wood. To remove these, sand the area or bleach it with wood bleach. Wood bleach is available at paint and hardware stores. It lightens the oak, turning it almost white.
After bleaching, the grain of the wood will be raised and rough. Smooth with sandpaper and then stain the area with an oil-based stain to match the original color. Finally, seal the area you repaired with the finish of your choice. I like wipe-on oil finishes. I think they are a good option for repairs.You will need to be a bit of an artist with the stain color and final finish to blend in the color and gloss. Always start with a stain lighter than the final color you want to achieve. You can always add more stain or a darker color stain if necessary, but it is difficult to remove a dark stain color once it’s in the wood grain. Also remember that the clear finish will make the stain color appear darker and richer.
Re-sanding and refinishing the entire floor.
Since repairing a small spot takes a little finesse and creativity and patience (especially if it is in a highly visible area of the floor) you can understand why entire floors are often re-sanded to remove imperfections. When the wood floor is re-sanded stains, scratches, and damaged finish are removed with sanding, leaving the surface flat, smooth and ready for a new stain and clear finish. Sanding is the only way to ensure a like-new finish.
Bob Beisbier, owner of BK Home Inspection, is a Certified Master Home Inspector who has been providing professional and thorough home inspections in southeast Wisconsin for over 12 years. Bob is Infrared certified, DILHR Certified, and provides Home Energy Tune-ups, Environmental Data Reports, Pre-sale Home Inspections and Pre-offer Home Inspections.