How can you get scratches out of hardwood floors? And what solutions work well both now and in the future?
First let’s look at what you shouldn’t do. While you can put a wad of shoe polish in the floor to fill the scratch, this will discolor over time and can make a mess as soon as someone steps on it and tracks it across the rest of the floor.
Second, let’s address the potential solutions. This solution assumes you have a protective wax coating or non-polyurethane seal on the wood floor. Clean the area with hardwood cleaner. If you’re lucky, it is only a stain and not a scratch. If only the protective coating on the hardwood floor is scratched, such as the protective layer of wax on the hardwood floors, you can clean it with a moist cloth. Let it dry completely. Then apply a new layer of the sealant, shellac or protective coating. Let that dry overnight. It will look as good as new in the morning.
What if you have a polyurethane coating over the wood floor? First put mineral spirits on a scouring pad. Rub the pad over the scratched area but gently. You’re essentially removing the polyurethane from the affected area, but you don’t want to damage the wood underneath that protective coating. Clean the area and let it dry. Then re-cover the area with polyurethane. Note that you should only use polyurethane – do not use wax sticks or a wax coating on a polyurethane floor, only on hardwood floors.
Minor scratches that penetrate the protective coating and affect the wood take more effort. First clean the floor with a wood floor cleaner and remove all dirty so it isn’t ground into the wood. Use steel wool to rub the scratched area, and always rub the wool with the grain of the wood. Buff it this way until the scratch is removed. You can feather it by buffing the surrounding area slightly, but this is only to make it blend in. Use a wax stick the same color as the floor stain to fill it in. Don’t use a clear wax stick, since this will actually make the buffed area stand out in the wrong light. Let the wax set for ten minutes. Use a soft cloth to buff the waxed area. Then clean it with a clean cloth and you should be good to go.
Not everyone has a coated wood floor. If you have a minor scratch and want to apply a protective coating, apply the wax stick to fill in the minor scratch. Clean the floor thoroughly. Then you can apply the coating to reduce the impact of future scratches. You’ll probably need to re-apply the product every few months even if you don’t have to locally remove it and replace it when the protective coating is messed up. Note that this solution isn’t an option on wood laminate floors.
Over time, wood floor polishes can dull. And using mineral spirits and ammonia to remove the floor polish to fill in scratches takes effort that easily scratches up the floor further. If you find yourself trying to re-fill a scratched area that has already been filled in or have a floor that has had many scratches filled in with wax already, you need to start planning on re-finishing or replacing the floor.
Deep scratches are a greater challenge. Depending on the size and depth of the scratch, you can sand it down. Then stain the floor to make the sanded area look the same. For deep and severe scratches, you can replace the wood slats. You’ll need to strip the floor, repair it and re-finish it. For tasks like this, you should call in a professional to fix your hardwood floors.