Removing Stains from a Hardwood Floor



How do I get cat urine stains out of a hardwood floor? I have tried all the pet store remedies. I cannot sand, as the stains are old and deep — Zorianna P., Tuckahoe

Well, the short answer is: with difficulty. If the enzymatic cleaners from the pet store didn’t work, you might be out of luck, but perhaps you needed repeat applications. The optimistically named Nature’s Miracle has a line called “Just For Cats,” which (their website declares) “is guaranteed to work on old and deep-set stains.” There are mixed reviews online from those who’ve tried it, but some users report success.

There are a couple of home remedies you can try, which I’m listing in the order of gentlest first. Be sure to clean the area thoroughly between attempts if you try more than one — some of these products may not mix well. In each case, you may need to repeat the application several times, but you should be able to tell if it’s working.

• Make a wet paste of baking soda and white vinegar. Apply liberally to the stain and let it stand until it’s completely dry. Wipe up.

• Soak a clean cloth with hydrogen peroxide — the 3 percent solution you get at the drugstore — and lay it on the stain. Leave for several hours or overnight.    

• Zud and Bar Keeper’s Friend are cleansing powders that contain oxalic acid, which can lift black marks from wood. Make a wet paste, brush it on the stain and leave it for several hours. Repeat until the stain is gone. Neutralize the area with white vinegar and then wipe with clean water.

• DAP wood bleach contains oxalic acid in a stronger dose. Wear rubber gloves and follow the directions.

The drawback to any of these methods is that you may damage the floor’s finish. Masking the area around the stain could keep the damage to a minimum.

Frank Savino of Savino Brothers Hardwood Flooring Contractors in Ardsley (www.savinobrothers.com) is dubious about any of the aforementioned. “Home remedies are not going to work,” he declares. “People try to bleach and then they get a bleach stain. Bleach weakens wood fibers, even wood bleach, so it’s not recommended.... We’ve been doing this for over 25 years and from past experience, the only way to take care of stains — cat, dog, whatever — is to try to sand them out first. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and the stain will sand out; sometimes you have to cut the floor boards out, add new boards, and then sand and finish the entire room.” 

That said, Savino is a pro who’s hardly likely to be dabbing about with hydrogen peroxide and such. He admits he’s never used any of the remedies listed above. What does he think of DAP, which at least has professional packaging? “I’ve never used it,” he responds. “I guess it’s worth a shot.”

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