Removing Oil Stains from Hardwood Floors Today's Homeowner

Removing Oil Stains from Hardwood Floors Today's Homeowner

Removing Oil Stains from Hardwood Floors

Just what every homeowner wants to see!

You know, normally I try to view lifes little mishaps as opportunities to laugh, but with my house on the market, I feel like a walking disaster! One of my New Years Resolutions was to go “paperless,” so Ive been spending a lot of time scanning and shredding paperwork, which also means Ive been spending time oiling and repairing my poor overworked paper shredder. The other night, I took it apart and laid the oily parts (carefully, I thought!) on a plastic bag on the floor. Boy, did I ever mess up!

The bag was flimsy, and before I knew what was happening, a big oil stain had soaked its way into my hardwood floors. Now, I just had my floors refinished about three years ago, so after I snapped out of my trance of disbelief (isnt the whole point of floor finishing to protect the wood from spills?), I scrambled to find answers on how to remove this oil stain.

First I dashed off a few e-mails to my Todays Homeowner gurus, which were answered with, “Um, it doesnt sound promising.” Undaunted, I went to the paint department a big box home improvement store, and was answered with “It doesnt sound promising.” Ever optimistic, I went to my favorite little local hardware store, and FINALLY, someone was able to tell me, “Um, it doesnt sound promising.”

Since I never believe anything until my knuckles are bleeding, I went home armed with some solvent, dish soap, and a scrubby sponge. I attacked the stain until I, too, could say with confidence that it doesnt look promising! The solvents didnt do a thing, but the soap and water had some success. After much scrubbing, the stain is a little lighter, but so is my floor finish, and I eventually had to stop before I turned a small stain into a huge worn spot (with a stain in the middle).

So what happened? All the experts I consulted agreed with me that a well-finished floor shouldnt have stained like that. Well, Ill tell you what happened – in typical Julie fashion, a perfect storm of well intentioned, but imperfect decisions came together:

  1. When I refinished my floors, I opted for water-based clear polyurethane. It gives a lighter, brighter finish than oil-based finishes, but its less durable. Trust me, its less durable.
Removing Oil Stains from Hardwood Floors Today's Homeowner
  • I didnt check to make sure how many coats the floor guys applied. I hired the floor company six months into a backbreaking renovation, and I was just grateful that someone besides me was in charge. Once they fired up their big sander, I headed for a hot bath faster than you can say “DIY Floor Refinishing Is For The Birds.”
  • In setting up my home office, I neglected to put down any floor protection under my desk. I spend a lot of time in my office, and my rolling desk chair had worn off the finish just enough for the oil to soak right in.
  • So there you have it – all of my mistakes offered in hopes that you can have a better experience. In the days since my scrub-a-rama, Ive had to resort to feeling grateful that it isnt the WORST flaw in my 60-year-old floors, its simply the newest one.

    So far, it doesnt seem to be affecting the sale of my house (which just went under contract!), so Im just holding my breath and trying not to spill anything else.

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