Hardwood Floors & flooring

How to Remove Stains From Softwood

by Anita Alvarez

softwood stain removal

Knowing how to remove stains from a soft species of wood is different from getting to the root of a stain in a harder, more solid wood.

Materials like pine are softer, which means they're not only more pliable, but also more porous causing the wood to absorb moisture and liquids more easily than a sturdier wood like oak. Other softwoods like cedar, spruce and balsa are also less dense than hardwoods like ash, birch or maple, per the Janka Scale available at the American Hardwood Information Center. For the purposes of preserving the wood if your floors absorb a spill, approach the problem with one of a few specific strategies for tackling common stains.

Before pursuing more invasive strategies, first try cleaning the area to remove any dirt or grime that may be contributing to the stain. Use hot water and a bit of turpentine to lift dirt, oil or debris that's attached to the surface. Wipe the area thoroughly, then dry it with a soft, dry cloth and assess the stain again. Alternatively, you can mix Murphy® Oil Soap with hot water to remove grime without hurting the wood, and then buff the area to restore its shine.

If the floor is still showing a stain, spots or white rings indicate that moisture has penetrated through the surface's protective finish layer. Luckily, it's not necessary to remove the finish to restore the floor. Apply a dollop of toothpaste to a dry, soft wipe cloth and scrub the area, going with the grain not against it. Use another cloth to remove the remaining toothpaste, and turn the cloth over to buff the floor.

For deeper stains caused by moisture, try a more aggressive approach. Use the finest steel wool available, advises Better Homes and Gardens, and soak it in lemon oil. The oil lubricates the steel wool to prevent scratches on the floor, while allowing the steel wool to penetrate deeper into the finish to get at the stain. However, this treatment only works for stains that haven't yet reached the actual wood grain, but have penetrated through the surface more deeply than a light water stain.

Floor stains aren't always cause for alarm. If you know how to remove stains, you can keep your floors in great condition no matter how soft they are.

This article was brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive Company, the makers of Murphy® Oil Soap. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.