How to Bleach Hardwood Floors?

How to Bleach Hardwood Floors
by Jerome Foster - October 11, 2022

Whether you need to remove a stain or revitalize a space, bleaching hardwood may provide the desired effects.

The chemical procedure of bleaching hardwood floors is used to lighten the wood's hue. Age and unintentional stains may darken your hardwood flooring over time. On occasion, homeowners elect to bleach their floors in preparation for specific treatments, such as antiquing or pickling.

Learn how to bleach your hardwood floors, as well as what sort of bleach to use for the process to be done properly.

Types of Wood Bleach

On wood, there are three bleach types: chlorine bleach, "two-part" (peroxide) bleaches, and oxalic acid. Not all bleaches are equivalent. The finest bleach for your floor will depend on the color source you wish to eliminate. The problem is to determine what caused the stain and which bleach to use.

Chlorine bleach: As in the washing room, chlorine bleach will remove colors and a variety of organic stains, such as those caused by tea, blood, berry-based juices, and other foods. Using home bleach is the mildest method, although it may need many applications to be effective. Select swimming pool chlorine for a stronger chlorine-based bleaching agent (calcium hypochlorite). Purchase pool chlorine from a local supermarket or pool supply business.

Two-part bleaches: Although chlorine bleach is effective against several inks, dyes, and organic stains, it does not noticeably affect the color of the wood. To change the color of the wood, a two-part bleach is the only option. Two-part bleaches can remove stains that do not react to oxalic or chlorine bleaches. Find this bleach at your neighborhood hardware or home improvement store.

Oxalic acid: Nothing combats iron and rust stains better than oxalic acid. It also eliminates water stains (caused by the iron component of water) and some iron-based black inks but is ineffective against Indian ink made from carbon. Oxalic acid may be effective on pet pee stains. Crystalline oxalic acid is available from pharmacies, hardware and home improvement stores, and other retailers. Use pure oxalic acid for optimal outcomes.

Occasionally, references to further bleaching solutions may be found. Particularly for walnut, chlorinated lime bleaching is frequently employed. Permanganate of potash, on the other hand, produces a bleach with a lingering purple hue. Both of these compounds are widely available online and at supermarkets and pharmacies in your area. Simply dissolve the ingredients in water to form a concentrated solution. Apply paint, allow for the solution to take effect, and neutralize as with any other bleach.

Bleach Application And Safety Guidelines

Before applying any bleaching chemical to your hardwood floors, you should examine the size of the area you intend to bleach, the state of your floor, and the bleach's composition. Any bleach will slightly degrade the wood. Chemically weakened wood fibers are more sensitive to foot traffic wear and strain. Many specialists advise against bleaching wood floors for this reason.

Since it involves a confined region, bleaching stains are less harmful than bleaching the entire floor to eliminate wood color. Before applying wood bleach, the finish must be removed using a stripper or sandpaper.

If you have matching finish products, you may be able to spot-bleach your hardwood floor by removing the finish just in the problematic area, bleaching and neutralizing the treatment, then refinishing the surface and blending it with the surrounding floor.

For large stains or if the finish cannot be matched, you may opt to strip the whole floor before bleaching.

Here are some other application and safety tips to consider:

  • Some stains and blemishes give the floor character. Think twice before using bleach to remove stains: Are the stains severe enough to warrant bleaching the floor?
  • Exists a location where you may evaluate the bleach's effect on your hardwood floor? If you want to bleach the entire floor, test the bleach on a spare board first.
  • Consider sanding the present finish to remove it. Sanding the wood offers one distinct benefit: It allows you to sand away the stain instead of using harsh bleaching solutions if the stain is not too deep.
  • Redwood, cedar, cherry, and rosewood are difficult to bleach. Some exotic woods, such as mahogany, are highly valued for their color and are thus not bleachable. Also, avoid bleaching white oak. It tends to discolor when bleached, leaving you disappointed with its look.
  • Utilize the smallest quantity of bleach for bleaching wood or treating stains. Some forests respond negatively to over-bleaching. For example, walnut will acquire a green haze.
  • Follow the recommendations provided by the manufacturer when using a commercial bleaching product for optimal safety and effectiveness.
  • Always use protective eyewear and rubber gloves when handling bleaching products. Bleach is very caustic and can cause severe burns, blindness, and lung damage. Utilize with utmost care.
  • Ventilate the work area. Keep dogs and children away from the area by keeping windows open and fans running.
  • Sanding bleached wood or working with dry bleach chemicals necessitates the use of a dust mask or respirator.
  • Pour a little amount of the appropriate neutralizer (see details below) for your bleach into a small dish or pail. Place it close to your workspace and use it quickly if you spill or splatter bleach on yourself.
  • Do not contaminate brushes, rags, and other application tools. After usage, wash it promptly or dispose of it appropriately.
  • After using bleach, wash your hands and arms before doing anything else.

How Do You Strip, Bleach, and Neutralize Your Floor?

If you're fortunate, you know exactly what caused the stain and, as a result, which bleach to use. In certain instances, locating the appropriate bleach requires a process of elimination.

Start with chlorine bleach and, if required, advance to oxalic acid. If your wood is already finished, you will need to strip it and neutralize the bleach.

Here are the steps for stripping, bleaching, and neutralizing your hardwood floor:

  • Utilizing the proper product, remove the current finish: Lacquer thinner dissolves lacquer coatings (often used on contemporary wood floors), whereas denatured alcohol removes shellac. A professional paint and varnish remover are effective on the majority of other finishes. Either apply the product with a brush or soak a thick layer of paper towels or rags by pouring enough product over them. Wait for the finish to soften and dissolve before wiping it away.
  • Utilize a plastic spatula or a wood scraper as required, taking care not to gouge the wood.
  • Sandpaper is then used to softly smooth the surface and eliminate any leftover finish. Beginning with 80-grit sandpaper, and finish with 120-grit.
  • In a small bucket, combine washing soda, also known as sal soda, with hot water. Observe the proportions specified in the package instructions (purchase washing soda in the laundry aisle of your big box store). The solution is used to remove stripping chemicals and other pollutants from the stripped wood. Dry with air before bleaching.
  • Prepare your preferred bleach. Use a full-strength or half-and-half solution of laundry bleach combined with hot water (or swimming pool bleach diluted in hot water) to totally saturate the solution with chlorine bleach. To combine oxalic acid, dissolve approximately 8 ounces of oxalic acid crystals in 2 quarts of boiling water. Continue adding crystals until the solution is saturated and will no longer take any more. Follow the package directions for two-part bleaches, combining parts A and B as necessary.
  • Use a brush with synthetic bristles to apply the bleach. Avoid natural bristles, which may disintegrate, and metals, which may react chemically with the bleach. Apply a uniform coating of bleach to the wood. Place a paper towel on top to prevent excessive drying in warm temperatures. Before checking the wood's color, wait 20 to 30 minutes, or as advised by the two-part bleach solution. When the color meets your expectations, remove any residual bleach with paper towels.
  • Using distilled water, flush the area to remove excess bleach. The use of distilled water reduces water stains produced by iron in tap water. Prevent the washing water from penetrating the surrounding floor finish.
  • Neutralize the bleached region to prevent further bleaching. For chlorine or two-part bleaches, use a mixture of fifty percent hot water and fifty percent white vinegar. Two teaspoons of baking soda dissolved in one quart of boiling water are required to neutralize oxalic acid.
  • Air-dry the wood for at least 24 hours. After bleaching, sand again with 120-grit sandpaper to smooth the wood fibers, which are now rough. Alternately, apply a thin layer of lacquer on the wood and sand that instead. The lacquer stiffens the wood, making sanding easier.
  • As desired, refinish the bleached area or the entire floor.
  • In rare instances, a stain or pigment may not be removed. You are welcome to attempt many bleaching procedures, but at some time, you may need to accept the results. Consider alternatives to bleaching when bleaching does not produce the desired outcomes.

Learn here about how much does it cost to refinish hardwood floors?

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