Sunday, March 14, 2010

Disaster averted - rubbing alcohol meets hardwood floor

I live in a very lovely apartment which features hardwood floors. As floors go they're all right, but you can tell that they've had a pretty long life, with a number of layers of varnish thrown on top of the old ones. Still, when I moved in, the floor was shining and lovely.


It did NOT have an ugly white splash stain on it! Not until I so-carelessly knocked a bottle of rubbing alcohol over. When it first happened, I didn't know I was in trouble: I worried it might eat the varnish a bit, and quickly got some wet towels to rub it up. But when it dried.. oh, when it dried:



No matter how much I rubbed it with soap and water, it kept drying to that horrific tone. It FELT fine to the touch, but clearly the finish was damaged. I dug around on the internet for advice, but didn't get much. One post recommended buying some chemicals to strip the damaged area, and then refinish the floor. Another post recommended using powdered pumice & linseed oil to abrade it. I started thinking .. I didn't have those, but I DID have baking soda and mineral oil. I decided to make a paste and try it out, before starting to muss with chemicals:

It worked!!!! It took a few passes and some elbow grease, but the floor is SO much better. This picture doesn't show the final state - I went over it one more time. If you get your nose down to the floor you might see some faint white spots, but all in all, I'm really relieved.  

YAY baking soda & mineral oil!!!!

59 comments:

  1. You're not only crafty and foody, you're chemistryey!

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  2. WHOA! That is so freakin cool. I will definitely remember that.

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  3. thanks for the tip! it worked for me!

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  4. Awesome! Thank you for this tip, we had a similar situation occur and we were really worried about the floor!

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  5. Hi,

    Was wondering if this would work on my timber flooring damaged by Isopropyl alcohol based stains that caused the affected areas to look dull and rough... from the unaffected areas that are smooth and with Matt finish... not the shiny... glossy type of finish....

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  6. Hi Faustine, I really don't know if it will help, but it probably won't be worse - you can test on a tiny bit. When I applied the oil and baking soda it removed the very top damaged layer of finish. It seems like this would remove the damaged layer and reveal the smooth matte finish on your floor, but I don't know. Good luck!

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  7. Thank you for the tip! We didn't have mineral oil so we used baby oil and it worked great.. Thanks again!

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  8. Do you simply make the paste, apply it and let it dry or rinse it off?

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  9. I'm pretty sure I made the paste, rubbed it on, and wiped it off right away. The baking soda scraped up the damaged varnish and the mineral oil conditioned the newly-exposed varnish (that's my theory anyway!).

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  10. So far this has improved my floor sooo much ! I lost a night of sleep over my floor because I am a renter. Thanks so much for the tip

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  11. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about and your mileage may vary, etc. Bad alcohol damage to my finished hardwood floors. Fixed it with Scotch Brite cleaning pads (the ones with yellow sponge on one side and abrasive, dark green pad on the other) and Old English Oil (any furniture oil or paste wax would probably work). Warning (to go with the disclaimer above): the dark green side of these pads is very abrasive, and the technique is far more aggressive than many of the other methods posted is various places. I used very little of the oil so as to better monitor the effect of the abrasive pad. The alcohol damage seems almost to disappear, though I know that the pad must leave fine scratches. I expect wax to make the repair permanent.

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  12. thanks....this method worked wonders...was freaking out over alcohol spill on my grandmothers wooden dresser that she told me not to ruin...nice no cost method to fixing a problem...and to think another site told me to add ammonia...so glad i didn't do that

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    1. Yup I saw the ammonia thing .... doesn't work

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  13. Thanks. Just worked on antique dresser. So smart. What a life saver.

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  14. I am looking on how to remove it on wood but black painted wood , would it still help or would it make it worse .

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  15. Hi Celina,

    It probably depends on how thick the black paint is. I think this would remove the damaged finish, and if there is a layer of paint beneath it then it will probably look better if not perfect. Good luck!

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  16. This is brilliant! Works like a charm.

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  17. You used baking soda, not baking powder, correct?

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  18. Yes, I used baking soda, but I think either would work - you just want something that is a little gritty to remove the very top layer of damaged varnish, so I grabbed what I had on hand.

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  19. Recently some spilled rubbing alcohol on our wood floors and I found this blog. Didn't have the items shown but I made a mix of Flour and corn oil. It actually did the job!

    A gritty powder combined with an oil..nice combo. :)

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  20. I'm so glad it worked for you! I love that this ages-old blog post keeps getting revived :)

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  21. Big sigh of relief - visiting my mother for holidays and what happens but a doggie poop accident which she only noticed after tracking all over her hardwood bedroom floor. I panicked and doused with rubbing alcohol, my go-to for doggie cleanup. And shortly, her floor looked just like the pix. I got the lecture about how the whole floor would have to be refinished and why aren't my dogs trained and if I'd just had kids, at least they'd stop having accidents at some point. Eeesh. Thank goodness for this thread - her floor looks all better now. Rather than possibly concede she might have been mistaken/excessive, she's now giving me the silent treatment. Ah well. But boy am I glad to not have a ruined floor on my conscience . . . huge thanks, Beth!

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  22. You must have had a heart attack!! Glad this post helped make it all better!

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  23. Brilliant! It worked on my coffee table! I used Pledge Orange Oil instead, because that's all I had. Worked like a charm!

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    1. yay, I'm so glad it sorted out your table!

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    2. It worked very well. I used baking soda powder and corn oil to make a syrup. Thanks a lot for sharing

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  24. It worked thank you so much!

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  25. Very glad to find this! Spritzed rubbing alcohol around my living room furniture because my friends just found bedbugs at their place and I wanted to make CERTAIN I didn't have any at home (alcohol kills them in about 7 seconds, btw!), and wound up with definitely no bugs, but white drip spots all over the living room. Will be trying your method as soon as I get home tonight!

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    1. Oh NO what a mess!!!! You must have been horrified. This should work perfectly, though, but it sounds like it'll take a while to get all the spots :)

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  26. Worked...thanks saved an argument my husband will never know i spilt alchol on floor.

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  27. This worked great...thanks so much!

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  28. We are getting ready for our final move-out inspection, and my (then 2 yr old) son painted the hardwood floors with purple nail polish. I wonder if this method would work to take it off of the surface?

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    1. Hmmmm It's certainly worth trying! I suspect that you might need to use nail polish remove to get it off the wood, and then the method above to repair the damaged wood finish. Good luck!

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  29. I used olive oil and baking soda paste for a isopropyl alcohol stain on my dining room table. It worked great! Still a faint outline of original stain if you look at it a certain way (high gloss table) but the original ugly white stain is gone! Thank you!!!!

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    1. I'm so glad it worked! this post is truly my gift to the internet :)

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  30. Thank you so much. What a lifesaver. We are renting a cabin on vacation and my kids got marker on the wood dining table. I used hairspray to remove the permanent marker off.....and yeah, white stain from the alcohol. I grabbed mineral oil and baking soda and the paste worked like a charm! Whew.

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  31. All I used was a wipe and a scraper..didn't even scratch the floor.. the alcohol came up in flakes.

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    1. I used tooth paste first because it is a mild abrasive. Most of the white came off but then finished with the mineral (aka baby) oil & baking powder. Ajax or Comet would probably substitute for the powder. I still have a slight discolored stain (but not white) that can be seen if back lit, but since it is not too noticeable I will leave it alone because further attempts at total removal may make the patient sicker. Incidentally, tooth paste is a great way to remove stains from stainless steel appliances- just be sure to rub straight with the grain of the steel and try first on an inconspicuous area. DO NOT rub in circles or you may leave a noticeable circle.

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  32. W.O.W! I accidentally spilled 91% rubbing alcohol on my hardwood floor and luckily, found this page on Google. The baking soda & baby oil brought the varnish right back! :o)

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  33. Thank you sososo much!
    Used GRAPESEED OIL with BAKING SODA on beautiful varnished wood floor and it solved my problem.
    I am eternally grateful.

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    1. Hurrah! I think any gritty substance + long-lasting oil will work. I'm so glad it fixed your floor!

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  34. OMG you saved me a big fight with my dad. I had white spots all over my bedroom floor from rubbing alcohol! I was using only baby oil on the spots. It kind of worked but you could still see the spots clearly. But now, thanks to you, I mixed the baby oil and baking soda and now everything is gone :) You're a lifesaver!!!

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  35. Hi, my dog chewed a pen on the hardwood floor finish. The pen has stained into the finish. Will this work to get the pen stain off or will I have to use rubbing alcohol on the stain first?!

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    1. Hi Jasmine - I would skip the alcohol if you can, I'm totally guessing here but it seems like using something a little gritty will help get the ink off the floor without further damaging the finish, and the oil will help smooth out the surface. Good luck!

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  36. This works on acid stained concrete as well! Thanks for saving the beautiful floor in my rental (and my security deposit!)! Your advice is so appreciated!

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    1. ooooh that's good to know!!! I'm so glad it worked!

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  37. OMG, you are a LIFE SAVER!!! I just destroyed my fiancee's coffee table. He knows I hate that damn table, but he would have been PISSED. I didn't have mineral oil, but I used Canola Oil, and so far it looks like New! cross your fingers for me! Hopefully he will never know.

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    1. ha! what's the matter, is it a wagon wheel like in When Harry Met Sally??? (I'm glad it's fixed!!!)

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  38. Wonderful trick! I was foolishly attempted to sanitize our wooden dining table with 70% alcohol and was horrified by the resulting white stain. I tried the toothpaste method first, which helped but didn't get all the white out. Then I used baking soda+grapeseed oil and the result was amazing! The treated area looked so good that I ended up buffing the entire table and now it looks like new! Thank you so much for the great post!

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    1. It's funny but I never thought of using it as a refinishing treatment!

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  39. I forgot to mention that I used this remedy after half a bottle of rubbing alcohol fell onto my wood floor! So this wasn't an easy clean up, this was heavy duty and Beth was ON POINT again. Thanks Beth!

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    1. Whew, sounds like that was quite a project! I'm so glad this helped!

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  40. Thank you so much for posting your wood floor home remedy, Beth!

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  41. I have always used 1/2 c. alcohol in 2.5 gallons hot water to clean my wood floors and never got the white stains everyone is talking about. Can't remember where I read about it but it leaves my floors beautiful. Now it kinda freaks me out.

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    1. Oh, surely that's so well diluted it's not a problem! Just be careful pouring the alcohol if you're anywhere near the wood floors! ;-)

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