Pet stains (namely, urine) in hardwood floors can be a bigger problem than they may seem. Over time, pet urine turns to ammonia that burns through the hardwood. Yes, that can seem hard to believe, but it is unfortunately true.
The severity of the necessary measures really depends on how long the stains have been sitting. If they are relatively new, cleaning can be pretty simple. If they’ve been there long enough to seep into the wood, however, you may have to refinish the hardwood.
On this page we explain what to do with hardwood floors with pet stains.
How to Prevent Pet Stains and Pet Wear in Wood Floors
The ideal way of dealing with pet stains and wear in hardwood is to prevent them from happening at all. A few simple measures can help:
- Cleaning your hardwood floors regularly: Keeping up a regular cleaning regimen will catch urine before it has time to seep into the floor. It also picks up the hair and dirt that your pet’s paws grind into your floor.
- Trimming pet nails: Your pet’s nails can damage hardwood over time. A simple test for whether or not it’s time to trim is to pay attention to when you start hearing their nails click over the hardwood.
- Cleaning urine immediately upon noticing it: Time is the difference between harmless pet stains and damaging pet stains.
- Placing runners on the hardwood: Runners will absorb the impact of your pet’s claws and possibly catch urine. It’s a cost that could end up saving you money in the long run.
Is It Possible to Clean Up Pet Stains if I catch them Quickly enough?
Yes, it’s possible to fix hardwood floors with pet stains that you catch quickly. You can try:
Enzymatic cleaner: Non-toxic enzyme cleaners are great for taking pet odors out of hardwood and carpet. But, again, this is only if you catch the stains quickly enough.
Hydrogen peroxide: Soaking pet stains with hydrogen peroxide and then scrubbing the spots with peroxide-soaked rags or cloths may work. Covering the area with baking soda afterwards and vacuuming it up after an hour finishes the process. This process can also bleach out deeper stains, but it’s not always effective and the result isn’t always desirable.
White vinegar and grapefruit oil: One cup of vinegar mixed with warm water and a few drops of grapefruit oil provides a natural disinfectant that can help with lesser stains. Finally, cover the area with baking soda and vacuum it up after an hour.
If none of those measures work, then the urine has probably been sitting too long. You’ll have to escalate measures.
Is it Possible to Eliminate Pet Stains that Have Soaked Through the Hardwood Floors?
Yes, it’s possible to eliminate pet stains from hardwood floors even after they’ve soaked through, but (and we take no pleasure in telling you this), the work is probably more intensive than you were hoping for. You’re probably going to have to refinish the hardwood entirely.
But can’t pet stains be sanded? You may have heard this popular myth. The truth is that once the urine turns to ammonia, it penetrates deep into the hardwood, deeper than a simple sanding can handle. You can often see this as the hardwood blackens.
Well can pet stains be sanded and stained? There are two problems here. First, some types of hardwood don’t take stain very well or even at all. Plus, even if you do have a species of wood that takes stain, you’ll be left with a patch of floor that is conspicuously differently colored than the rest.
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that hardwood floors with pet stains that have penetrated the material need to be removed and then the floor refinished completely.
Remove the Stained Pieces of Hardwood, Replace and Refinish the Hardwood Floors
To truly fix hardwood floors with pet stains that have sunk in deeply, you’ll need to pull up the affected boards and replace them. Then, you’ll need to refinish the floor around them (unless, of course, you’re happy with a few boards being obviously different from the rest of your floor).
Refinishing means cleaning, sanding, staining, finishing, and then cleaning again. It’s a tedious process and a difficult one.
Fortunately, professional floor refinishing may not cost as much as you’d expect. The pros have their system down so efficiently that they can perform the work faster and more effectively than do-it-yourselfers.
Choose a Dark Stain to Cover Up the Pet Stains
Some homeowners try to repair hardwood floors with pet stains by applying dark stain over the floors. This may indeed be a feasible solution for some hardwood floors with pet stains, but there are issues with it.
For one thing, many species of wood don’t take stain. For another, a dark-stained floor may not look very good in the room’s general design. Staining also requires sanding, and the total labor gets so close to a full refinishing that it often makes sense to just go all the way with the process.
Hardwood floors with pet stains can be a much bigger headache than you’re expecting. Once pet stains sit for a while, they turn to ammonia. At that point, the pet stains penetrate into the wood and become impossible to remove without pulling out the boards entirely.
Flooring professionals are accustomed to dealing with hardwood floors with pet stains. They will be able to give you a fast, easy quote so that you know whether you want to use them or try to do it yourself.