Can You Use Bleach on Hardwood Floors?

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can i use bleach on hardwood floors

Can’t bear the ugly sight of mildew and stains on your once-beautiful hardwood floor? Got some commercial bleach at home but aren’t sure whether it’s safe for use as a stain remover on this flooring type? Well- you’ve come to the right place.

Generally- using bleach on hardwood isn’t always a safe option. However, if you follow the necessary precautions, you can use bleach to restore the sparkle on your hardwood without causing any lasting side effects to your floor.

Can you use bleach on hardwood floors

Is it safe to use bleach on wood floors?

Wooden surfaces are porous- and bleach is generally not recommended for use on such surfaces. However, if you must disinfect a wooden surface, using bleach sparingly in a water solution will get the job done.

Bleach can affect hardwood floors differently, depending on the age, quality, and type of finish of the floor.

What does bleach do to wood floors? 

Bleach gets rid of tough stains on wood while enrichening its natural color. It also reverses the aging effect on wood that causes it to darken. There are three major bleach types but they all affect the wood in similar ways- through oxidation of the wood fibers and alteration of the molecules that reflect color.

These color-reflecting molecules are called chromophores- and are affected by bleach in such a way that the chemical changes its composition; causing it to reflect light in a different manner. Oxygen- which is highly corrosive and reactive- is the active ingredient in bleach, and improves the efficiency of wood in reflecting light by establishing new compounds in the wood fibers.

The various types of bleach alter wood’s light-reflection properties in the following ways:

  • Hydrogen peroxide– sodium hydroxide mixture- these two compounds combine to produce a powerful type of bleach that releases numerous free oxygen molecules that instantly oxidizes wooden surfaces upon contact.
  • Chlorine bleach– this type of bleach is just as reactive on wooden surfaces as the hydrogen peroxide- sodium hydroxide mixture, as it liberates both oxygen and chlorite radicals.
  • Oxalic acid– available in crystalline form, this type of bleach is used in a water-based solution and forms an acid that liberates oxygen radicals upon reaction with wood. Oxalic acid is the weakest type of bleach amongst the three, but it’s still rather effective at getting rid of minor stains.

How to neutralize a bleach spill on a hardwood floor?

Hardwood floors already seem hard to maintain as it is. From pet scratches to stains and debris, there always seems to be something dampening the shine on your hardwood floor. Add to that the possibility of a bleach spill and what you have is a home maintenance headache.

There’s hope for recovery- however- should you happen to spill some bleach on your hardwood floors. Below, we discuss some of the methods you can use to neutralize bleach spills on your hardwood floor:

  1. Cleaning, sanding, and staining– it’s crucial to clean up the spilled blech immediately, by wiping off the surface where the spillage occurred with a damp cloth. If the bleach has affected the original color of the wood grain, you can sand the affected surface before refinishing it with a stain that’s the same color as the original. It’s worth noting that this method is unlikely to work if the spilled bleach had already been left on the floor for too long, as it’s likely to have already caused damage to the hardwood fibers.
  2. Replacing the affected hardwood boards– if the method above doesn’t work, you can always replace the damaged hardwood pieces with new ones. While this method may be more costly, it’s the best way to restore the stain coloring uniformity on your hardwood floor after a bleach spill. With such high replacement cost considerations- however- this option is best reserved for bleach spills on more noticeable floor areas such as in the hallways and in the living room.
  3. Covering up the affected area– sometimes, re-staining doesn’t work and hiring a flooring expert to replace the affected hardwood boards seems like a costly option. In such instances, you can choose to cover up the area after wiping off the bleach spillage. Just remember to choose a covering mat whose color and design patterns fit the overall décor/theme of the room and surrounding furniture pieces.

How to disinfect hardwood floors

To disinfect hardwood floor surfaces with bleach, follow the steps below:

  • First, prep the floor surface by cleaning it with a broom or a dry mop.
  • Next, pour a gallon of water in a bucket, then add a three-quarter cupful of bleach to form a bleach solution.
  • Dip a mop into the bleach solution, then wring it thoroughly. Then use the wrung-up mop to wipe against the hardwood surfaces spotting the stains or mildew.
  • After about five minutes, you can use a dry cloth to dry off any excess moisture. If there are still stains left after this, then bleach may not be the right product to use in your case.


The type of bleach you choose for your hardwood floor should depend on whether you just want to disinfect your floor of mild stains and debris, or whether you’re going after tougher stains.

Stronger bleaches like chlorine bleach and hydrogen peroxide- sodium hydroxide mixture are recommended for tough stains, while the milder oxalic acid is a great option for normal hardwood floor disinfection.

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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