March 15, 2023

A Guide to Bleaching Hardwood Flooring

Craftsman at work, quality control of finished laid parquet floor, man removes glue stains from freshly glued wood floor

Beautiful, long-lasting, and classic hardwood floors are valuable to any home. Hardwood flooring increases your property value and offers warmth and richness to any room. While these flooring options are durable in their own right, they’re not immune to damage, like stains. Some of these blemishes penetrate the floorboard, making them difficult to remove. One great way to redeem your hardwood floor is to bleach them, and here’s how you can do that.

Bleaching Hardwood Floors

Badly-stained hardwood floors are easy to repair by bleaching them. Contrary to what most think, homeowners can choose whether to fully bleach or do it enough to reduce and remove the staining from different floor areas.

Bleaching hardwood flooring is different from pickling as its purpose is to revive a floor, not an antiquing or distressing technique. Many remodelers use oxalic acid to bleach their hardwood floors.

Oxalic acid is an organic compound from leafy green plants and vegetables, such as rhubarb. They’re affordable and readily available in powdered form. To use oxalic acid powders for bleaching your hardwood floors, you need to mix them with water. Many homeowners and remodelers create a 99.6% pure oxalic acid mixture for wood bleaching, and they’re safe to use.

In addition, you also need to consider safety when working with chemicals. Before bleaching the floors, make sure that the area is well-ventilated. Wear waterproof gloves and put on eye protection when using oxalic acid. You should also wear a mask if you’re using the acid in its dry form.

Always avoid touching oxalic acid with your bare skin, and if there’s direct contact, flush the area immediately with a steady stream of water for 15 minutes.

To finish this project there are some tools and equipment you need to prepare beforehand.

  • Clean plastic bucket
  • Scrub brush
  • Shop vacuum
  • Random orbital sander
  • Wood paint mixing stick

It’ll be easier if you have oxalic acid, a source of clean water, and fine sandpaper discs ready in the room. Having them within your reach is more convenient instead of going in and out of the area while bleaching your floors.

How to Bleach Hardwood Floors

One notable advantage of bleaching the floors with oxalic acid is that it targets the stains but leaves the hardwood plank’s natural and dyed colors and composition. You can also change the wooden floorboards color with bleach using a two-part bleach consisting of sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide. Homeowners can also change the dyes or stains they apply to their wood using chlorine bleach or sodium hypochlorite.

Removing Protective Sealants

The first step to bleaching hardwood floors is to have the solution reach the wood’s cells. It can’t do that if the flooring has paint, sealants, wax, or coats that create protective layers. Before anything else, you need this coating layer or finish removed by sanding the floor.

Sand down every part of your hardwood flooring covered in protective sealants until they’re bare. You can use any drum sander available to make the process easier. Once the floor’s sanded, thoroughly clean all dust and dirt from your floorings.

Use a Hidden Area for Testing and Create the Bleaching Mixture

Before applying the bleaching mixture on your floors, it’s best to test it in a small hidden area first. You can use parts of the hardwood flooring covered by closets or other furnishings. Typical enclosed yet accessible areas like beneath the floor-level heating register or underneath the wall-to-wall carpeting can also work. After testing your sample mixture, you can make the one you need for the rest of the room.

Combine 12 to 16 ounces of oxalic acid powder with a gallon of hot water in a clean, plastic bucket. Mix them thoroughly until you can’t see any grains. Check that no metallic materials are around because oxalic acid powder reacts to them when exposed. In addition, you should wear proper eye protection when handling chemicals. Oxalic acid is a corrosive substance that can damage your eyes. 

Applying and Scrubbing the Mixture on the Floor

Apply your bleaching mixture on the hardwood with a scrub brush. For the bleach to work, the blend should stay hot. Brush and scrub the bleach evenly on the floorboards and avoid pouring them directly on the planks.

Once you apply the mixture to the floorboard, wash off the oxalic acid-water mixture with equal parts of clean water and white vinegar. Doing this will help neutralize the bleach. After applying water and vinegar, vacuum the area using a shop vacuum. 

Dry and Sand

After you let the hardwood flooring dry out, lightly sand them down with an orbital sander and fine-grit sandpaper. Bleaching wooden floors is a repetitive process to achieve your desired results. Repeat the procedure until you remove the unwanted stains or the tone you wanted.

Bleaching Wood Floors in Austin, TX

Hardwood floors are beautiful, timeless, and durable home additions. While they’re tough and long-lasting, hardwoods are still prone to damage, especially stains. Some stains are difficult to remove, and the best way is by bleaching your hardwood flooring. The process is repetitive and time-consuming, but it will get your wanted results. Reading this guide can help clarify your concerns and help you start on your new flooring project.

Contact Kelly Hardwood Floors today for more expert opinions on all things hardwood!