How to Remove Indoor Water Stains From Wood

Water rings stained on wood

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Whether caused by overwatering a plant, a puddle left by a boot or pet or a plumbing leak, water stains on a wood floor are unsightly. If the water stain appears as a white ring, there's a very good chance you can remove it. A white ring indicates that the water has only seeped into the wax or polyurethane finish on the wood.

Darker rings and large stains are more difficult. The moisture has penetrated the finish and seeped into the wood causing it to darken. Dark rings can be removed with some elbow grease and patience. However, depending on the extent of the stain and damage to the wood, refinishing the floor or replacement of the boards may be the best option.

Once you've mastered the task of removing water stains on wood floors, those pesky rings left by a wet glass on a wood table will be simple to erase.

What You Need to Remove White Rings on Wood Floors

Supplies

Tools

How to Remove White Rings From Wood Floors

Odorless mineral spirit container in middle of disposable gloves, vacuum, cloth and mineral oil

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  1. Get Rid of Dust

    Before you tackle the white ring on the floor, use a dust mop or vacuum to thoroughly clean the area. Leaving dust and grit on the floor will only make more of a problem as you apply the cleaning solutions.

    White water ring on wood floor being vacuumed

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Time for an Oil Change

    Pour a generous amount of mineral oil onto a soft cloth. Rub the white ring(s) with the cloth working with the grain of the wood. Let the oil remain on the floor overnight. If the stain is gone the next morning, buff the area with a dry cloth to absorb any remaining oil.

    If the stain remains, it's time to take the next step.

    Mineral oil poured on white water ring and cloth rubbing it in

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

    Head to the Kitchen

    If you don't have any mineral oil on hand, you can substitute any cooking oil, mayonnaise, butter or solid shortening. Petroleum jelly also works well in a pinch.

  3. Keep Your Spirits Up

    If the mineral oil didn't do the trick, move on to mineral spirits, a paint thinner and solvent. Wearing gloves, apply some mineral spirits to a soft cloth. Following the grain of the wood, rub what remains of the white ring. Wait a few minutes and the stain should disappear.

    Finish by buffing the area with a clean, dry cloth.

    Odorless mineral spirits applied to white water ring and rubbed in with white cloth

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

What You Need to Remove Dark Water Stains From Wood Floors

Supplies

  • #100-grit sandpaper
  • #150-grit sandpaper
  • #0000 steel wool
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Water
  • Wood varnish that matches your wood floors
  • Wood floor polish

Tools

  • Tack cloth or vacuum
  • Soft cloths
  • Disposable gloves
  • Dust mask

How to Remove Dark Water Stains From Wood Floors

Materials and tools to remove a dark water stain from wood floor

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Dark water stains are much more difficult and time-consuming to remove. The process can take days so be prepared to devote some time.

  1. Sand Away

    Since the stain is dark in color, that means the water has penetrated the finish and darkened the wood. You will need to remove the finish to get to the stain. Wearing the dust mask, start by evenly sanding directly over the stained area with #100-grit sandpaper. Work following the grain of the wood while applying even pressure.

    Next, move to the #150-grit sandpaper and sand the edges of the finish around the main stain to gradually smooth the edges. Finish sanding by going over the entire area with the #150-grit sandpaper and the #0000 steel wool.

    Finally, use a good vacuum or a tack cloth to remove all of the grit and dust from the work area.

    Dark water stain on wood floor being sanded

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Lighten Up

    To lighten the dark areas, you can use either hydrogen peroxide or chlorine bleach. Do not mix the two bleaches. Begin with a 50:50 dilution of hydrogen peroxide and water. Soak a white cloth in the solution and wring lightly. Place the cloth on the dark stain and allow it to work for ten minutes. You will need to allow the floor to dry completely between treatments.

    If the stain remains, treat again with 100 percent hydrogen peroxide for ten minutes and allow to dry overnight. If the stain remains, move on to chlorine bleach.

    For chlorine bleach, start with a solution of four parts water to one part bleach. Follow the same instructions as for hydrogen peroxide, repeat the steps strengthening the bleach and water solution until the dark stain is gone.

    Dark water stain on wood floor wiped down with cloth mixed with hydrogen peroxide and bleach

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. Apply a New Finish

    When the dark stain is lifted, use a wood varnish that matches your floor to stain and seal the area. Once the finish is dry, use the #0000 steel wool to smooth any bumps between the newly cleaned area and the old finish.

    Use a good floor cleaner to bring back the shine to your entire wood floor.

    Wood varnish applied after dark water stain is removed

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee