DIY First Aid for Damaged Hardwood Floors

Heather Fowler/flickr Hardwood is arguably the most aesthetically appealing flooring material there is. In addition, it has plenty of other virtues -- it's natural, long-lasting, hypoallergenic, wheelchair-friendly, and easy to maintain. However, once in a while even durable hardwood floors can be damaged. The good news is that the damage is very often easy to prevent or to repair. Learn more about do-it-yourself first aid for hardwood flooring.

Use an Ounce of Prevention

  • Protect with furniture feet & doormats. Protect your wooden floor by adding felt "feet" to your sofa, tables, and chairs to guard against denting. Place mats next to all your home's entrances to minimize the amount of dirt that will be brought inside on the shoes or paws of household members and guests.

  • Keep floors clean. Frequent sweeping or vacuuming and asking everyone to remove his or her shoes before they walk on the hardwood floor does not make you a neat freak. On the contrary, keeping dust or grit off natural wood is only common sense. Otherwise, it will act like sandpaper, scratching and scraping the finish.

  • Deal with spilled liquids ASAP. Remember that water and wood are not the best of friends, either. Clean up any spilled liquids such as juice or milk right away. Use moisture sparingly when you wash wood flooring and never, ever steam-clean hardwood.

Take Care of Scratches

Scratches often go no deeper than the hardwood's waxed surface. If so, get rid of them with a simple buffing, or apply another coat of wax and then buff.

If the scratch does go right down into the wood, remove it with steel wool before rewaxing.

Deal with Dents

When heavy furniture or dropped items dent a wooden floor, their effect is really to compress its fibers. Restore the damaged area with a process of decompression.

First remove the finish with fine sandpaper. Next, wet an old towel and place on top of the dent. Hold a hot iron above the towel for about 3-5 minutes till the moisture turns to steam and penetrates the wood. (Check occasionally to make sure that the process is not harming your floor's finish.) This will cause the wood fibers to swell and fill in the dent.

Let dry thoroughly before refinishing.

Remove Burn Marks

Use a razor blade or box cutter to scrape off the black part of a hardwood floor that's been burned. If the burn went deep into the wood, you will need to build up the space with wood glue, let it cure, and then refinish. For a shallower burn, the refinishing itself is all it will take to fill in the mark.

Get Rid of Stains from Pet Accidents

You can improve the appearance of light staining from cat or dog accidents fairly easily by sanding. However, if Spot keeps spotting in the same place on your floor, you may have to refinish the wood or even remove and replace the damaged section. In addition, take your pet for a veterinarian visit to make sure that these frequent accidents are not the result of illness.

Tackle Food Spills

Take care of food spills as soon as possible to make for easy cleanup. If you don't get to them until after they've dried, though, try rubbing them gently with a damp cloth until all traces of the food are gone. After you wipe the floor dry, apply a light coating of wax.

Remedy Water Marks and Mold

Hardwood flooring that has been damaged by overzealous washing or excessive moisture in the environment will often develop white or even black patches. Eventually, if the source of moisture is not dealt with, mold or mildew may begin to grow on your floor. Minor damage can be remedied with steel wool and sandpaper, but more serious black stains and mold growth might require you to hire a flooring pro and have the affected boards replaced.

Laura Firszt writes for

Updated November 4, 2018.

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