How to Remove Black Water Stains From Hardwood Floors

Hardwood flooring is so beautiful and adds an air of luxury and class to your home. The only downside is that it stains easily and these can be difficult to remove.

Water stains, if left to soak into the flooring, can cause very dark stains to appear. These can seem impossible to remove, leaving your flooring looking scruffy and uncared for.

We are here to help you. Below we have compiled a variety of solutions to show you how to remove black water stains from hardwood floors to give them a new lease of life.

Why do dark stains form? 

Dark-colored stains on your hardwood flooring are often a result of liquid settling on the flooring.

This liquid can then permeate the protective polyurethane layer and the top few layers of wood as well. This is what causes the characteristic dark stains.

As soon as you see a spill on your flooring, you should immediately wipe it up to prevent damage being incurred to your flooring. Use a soft and dry cloth to absorb the moisture without damaging the wood.

For the best results, you should buff the wood in the direction of the grain.

If there is a mark that remains visible, you should target it with the air stream from a blow dryer. Do not hold the nozzle too close, and do not set it to the maximum temperature as these could cause further damage to your flooring.

Once this has been completed, grab an oil-based furniture polish. Apply this over the cleaned area and buff it out to create a perfect finish.

What do you need to clean dark water stains?

Gather the following household items to clean dark water stains:

  • Clean Cloths
  • No 1 steel wool for the actual cleaning.

Used in conjunction with:

  • White Vinegar
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Hardwood floor cleaner
  • Bleach
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Hardwood floor wax

How do you remove black water stains? 

1 Remove Loose Debris

Your first step is to remove any loose debris on the top of your flooring. You can use a broom for this, but for the best results, we recommend using a vacuum cleaner.

2. Use Damp Cloths

Dampen one of your cloths and use this to wipe away any dirt and debris that has settled on the upper surface of your hardwood flooring.

3. Target Areas With Steel Wool

You should next grab a section of your steel wool and use this to target the stained areas of your floor. Try to scrub off as much of the stain as possible.

As you get towards the edges of the stain and into the areas of the floor that are normal colored, scrub more gently. The goal is to create a kind of gradient effect so that it becomes less noticeable as to where the stains are located.

4. Soak With White Vinegar

Grab another cloth and place it in a small bowl of white vinegar. Allow the vinegar to soak into the fibers of the cloth and then remove it from the bowl.

Place the cloth directly on top of the stained area of the flooring and leave it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Test With Hydrogen Peroxide

On an inconspicuous area of your flooring, test out a little of the hydrogen peroxide. This works in a similar manner to bleach by lightning the wood and could damage your flooring.

This is why we recommend testing it first to ensure you will not do lasting damage to the wood.

Using the same method as you did with the vinegar, soak a clean cloth in the hydrogen peroxide solution. Place it on the top of the stained area of the floor and allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

If you are concerned about damaging your flooring, we recommend diluting the hydrogen peroxide with a little water. You can always increase the strength, but you cannot remove any damage done by chemicals that are too harsh.

6. Combine Mineral Spirits With Steel Wool

Grab some mineral spirits, and using the steel wool, gently scrub the stained area of your hardwood flooring. This will begin to wipe off the protective coating of polyurethane from the wood.

Continue to scrub gently but firmly, working the spirits into the wood.

7. Bleach and Water Combination

Create a solution that is one part bleach to 4 parts water. Combine this in a spray bottle and spray a layer over the affected area of flooring. Wipe with a damp cloth and take note of how much the stain has been lifted.

Continue this process until the stain has been successfully lightened. If it does not appear to be effective, add some more bleach to your solution and try once more.

8. Remove Fine Grit Sandpaper on Polyurethane

You can then use a fine-grit sandpaper to sand away any of the remaining polyurethane layer and whatever stain is still there.

9. Recover With Hardwood Floor Wax

Once you are satisfied with the way that the stain has lifted then you should re-cover the flooring. This should be done using a hardwood floor wax to protect the wooden fibers.

Dark Water Stain Removal Other Methods

Baking soda  

You should use a tablespoon of baking soda and a teaspoon of water to create a thick paste. This ratio can be scaled up for larger stains. Rub the paste into the stain using a soft cloth and allow it to sit for a few minutes.

If the stain does not lift, you can leave the paste to sit on the flooring all night. Use a soft cloth to wipe off any excess the next morning.

Butter and ashes  

A slightly unorthodox method for removing stains is to create a paste of butter and cigarette ashes. You should combine equal quantities of each and then rub this in using a cloth. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.

Hardwood floor cleaner

These are products that are designed exclusively for hardwood flooring. They tend to come in spray bottles for ease of application. Wipe the solution with a damp cloth.

Lemon oil 

Applying lemon oil using a piece of steel wool is a very effective method to remove stains from wooden flooring.

Rub it in following the direction of the wood’s grain. You should use enough of the oil to prevent scratches from forming on your floor.  

Magic Eraser

Magic Erasers are truly magic. They are amazing for cleaning stains from hardwood floors.

All you need to do is make it damp and then rub in the direction of the wood’s grain. You may need to do this a few times to get rid of the stain completely.

You should polish the wood afterward to restore the finish.


Add a blob of mayonnaise to a clean cotton cloth. Place this on the stain on the flooring and leave it to soak in for at least an hour.

Do not allow the area to dry, if you notice it drying out then you should add some more mayonnaise to the area.

Wipe off the mayonnaise with a clean cloth once you have finished.

Oil and salt 

You should combine a decent amount of salt with a small drop of oil. You should create a thick paste, rather than trying to dissolve the salt.

Rub this paste into the stained area of the flooring and leave it to sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Wipe off with a clean soft cloth and apply some floor polish to the area.

Oil and vinegar 

Mix equal quantities of olive oil and white vinegar in a bowl. Rub into your flooring using a soft cloth, rubbing in the direction of the grain. Buff with a clean and dry cloth to finish.

Petroleum jelly 

We all have petroleum jelly lying about our homes, and it makes an effective stain remedy.

Rub some onto the stained area of your flooring and allow it to sit there overnight. Wipe the excess jelly off of your floor in the morning.


For this to work correctly, you will need to use toothpaste that is white in color and all one consistency. Do not use gel toothpaste or a whitening one for this purpose.

Use a soft cotton cloth to apply a blob of toothpaste to the stain. Gently buff it into the flooring, before wiping it off using a damp cloth. Polish the floor when you are done.

If the stain is particularly tough, you can create a paste of equal parts baking soda and toothpaste.

Water mark remover 

These are commercially available cleaning products designed specifically for removing watermarks from wooden surfaces.

These are often highly effective, particularly on newer stains. They are also effective on temperature marks, magic markers, and alcohol stains.

Some of these products contain harsh chemicals and you will need to ventilate your workspace well.

Read the manufacturer’s information on the back of the bottle to ensure you are taking adequate safety precautions.

How do you remove other stains from hardwood floors? 

Non-greasy stains 

This is referring to stains from lower fat foods and other products without grease, such as nail polish.

These should be easy to remove, provided you deal with them soon after the spill is created.

Simply combine some dish soap with warm water and apply to the spill with a soft cloth. Scrub gently until the stain has lifted.

Greasy stains 

This is referring to fat stains primarily, such as butter and oil. You should find a kitchen cleaner that has a high proportion of lye. Apply to the stain with a soft cloth and rub in well.

Alternatively, you can use the hydrogen peroxide method mentioned above. Soak a second cloth in ammonia and place this on the top of the first one.

Allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes and then allow the dampened area to dry completely. Buff the area with a dry cloth to finish.

White stains 

Cover the stained area with a dry cloth, preferably one made from cotton. Grab an iron and set it to a high temperature, disabling the steam function. Place the hot iron over the cotton cloth and hold it there for up to 3 seconds.

If this does not work, you can soak a cloth in denatured alcohol such as ethanol. Rub this over the stain for a few seconds and it should lift.

Dean Luoma

As a long-time homeowner, Dean has been working on his own home projects for over 30 years. He is a licensed real estate agent in the state of Minnesota, helping clients with the buying and selling of their homes.

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