How to Get Water Stains Out of Hardwood Floors

By Cezar

As a homeowner, there are few things more annoying than finding water stains on your beautiful hardwood floors. Fortunately, there are solutions.

On this page, we’ll show you how to remove water stains from wood.

Removing Fresh Stains from Hardwood Floors

The general guideline regarding water stains in hardwood floors is that the faster you can get to them, the better. You can remove water stains from wood much easier if you get to it right away. For fresh water stains in your hardwood floors, follow this procedure:

  1. Use a soft, cotton cloth (a cloth diaper will work) to soak up the water. Work with the grain of the wood floors.
  2. If the mark remains, use a blow dryer on it. This will dry the water out before it can get too deep into your wood floors. Use a low setting or else you can create damage.
  3. Buff the spot with oil-based furniture polish.

That’s how to remove water stains that are freshly made. It’s simple. If you get to it quickly, you can remove water stains from wood before they settle in and become permanent.

How to Remove Older Stains

If a stain is settled in, you’re going to be in for a bit more of a fight. Rest assured, though, that you can remove water stains from wood, even if it’s been there for a while.

Older water stains come in two varieties: dark (or “black”) and light (or “white”). Light water stains on hardwood floors are more superficial and easier to clear up than dark stains.

How to Remove White Stains

Removing light water stains from wood floors is usually pretty simple. White water stains only affect the surface finish of wood floors. Their appearance is often described as “smoky.” Three primary materials are used to get rid of white water stains on wood floors.

  • Baking soda water paste: This paste is made by simply combining baking soda and water. Scrub the paste into the water stains on your wood floors and let it sit for 24 hours. Apply furniture polish to the area and let it dry overnight before treading over it.
  • Mineral oil: Use a soft microfiber cloth to apply mineral spirits to the water stains on the wood floors. Wait a few minutes, then apply it again. Let it sit for 24 hours. It should break down the stains in that time period.
  • Mineral spirits: If the oil doesn’t work, escalate to mineral spirits. These will penetrate even deeper into your wood floors. Let it dry for 24 hours. If it’s ineffective, try another application.
  • Petroleum jelly: This is one of the heavier options on the list. Simply rub it over the water stains and let it sit overnight. When you wipe it away the next morning, you should find the water stains gone.

That’s how to remove water stains from wood floors if they are superficial. Now let’s get into the really heavy stuff.

How to Remove Dark Stains

Dark stains indicate that water stains have penetrated through the finish and into the actual wood. To get to them, you have to get through the finish layer. You do this by using:

  • Sandpaper: This is often the first choice. Rub the water stains lightly to avoid damaging the wood underneath. Get the areas around the stains, as well, so that everything will look smooth and even when you’re done.
  • Steel wool: This accomplishes about the same thing as sandpaper but is a lot abrasive. You have to be more careful with steel wool than with sandpaper because it can damage the wood easier.
  • Vinegar: Common household vinegar will do here. Use a rag to apply the vinegar to the stained area and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. It will strip the stain away from the affected area. For bigger stains, you may need to apply multiple coats.
  • Chlorine bleach: Apply a solution of four-parts water to one-part bleach with a white cloth (to avoid discoloring a colored one) and work in into the stained area for up to 10 minutes. After the spot dries, check to see if the stain is gone. If it isn’t, repeat the process. You can also consider using a stronger bleach solution (more bleach to less water) if the stain persists.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: This is a gentler option that is more pleasant to work with than bleach. As with the bleach, start with a four-parts water to one-part hydrogen-peroxide solution, increasing in strength if desired.

After the spot is removed, you’ll need to apply finish to the wood. Use steel wool to gently scrub away any irregularities that may result from your finish, and that’s how to remove water stains that have penetrated the finish!

How to Remove Water Stains from Unfinished Wood

This is usually the most challenging scenario because the unfinished wood has no protection at all. However, rest assured that it is possible.

  • Form a thick paste with vinegar and table salt.
  • Rub the paste into the stains in a circular motion.
  • Repeat the application until the stain is gone.
  • Wipe the residue away with a damp rag.
  • Depending on the situation, you may want to apply

If the vinegar/salt mix doesn’t work, use non-gel toothpaste. Toothpaste has a fine abrasive in it, and that abrasive is great for getting those stains out.

  • Simply dampen a rag, apply some toothpaste, and rub at the stain in a circular motion.


Now that you know how to remove water stains from wood floors, you’ll probably want to try it yourself. Or, if it sounds like too much work for you, you can contact professionals to do it for you. Or, if you try to do it yourself and find the stain too tough to remove, you can also enlist professional help.

There is no “one size fits all” solution here! Each wood floor and its condition are unique. We will provide you with the best and most cost-efficient solution for your floors.

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As a general rule, professionally refinished hardwood floors last 5 times longer vs DIY.