Using Hydrogen Peroxide to Clean Hardwood Floors

If you’ve had hardwood floors in your home for longer than about five minutes, you’ve probably heard or read about all kinds of solutions and ways to get and keep your floors, cleaner, shinier, better, etc.

It’s pretty tough to mention hydrogen peroxide while suppressing the urge to sing its praises. Its use as an antiseptic on topical cuts, scratches, and abrasions is widely known. Where oral care and hygiene are concerned, its benefits are touted by dentist and ear, nose, and throat specialists.

However, depending on your reasons for using hydrogen peroxide on hardwood floors, and the results you’re after, there might be a downside.

Read on to learn about cleaning hardwood floors with hydrogen peroxide, its benefits, and drawbacks.

The Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide on Wood Floors

According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), hydrogen peroxide is an effective antiseptic that also kills fungi, mold spores, yeast, viruses and bacteria.

Because these dangerous organisms are known to be present on floors the world round, using hydrogen peroxide as a homemade wood floor cleaner is an excellent choice.

Moreover, although the term, “homemade” suggests that some sort of alchemy or mixing of substances, is involved in creating hydrogen peroxide, in truth, having a jug of it on hand is as easy as picking it up on the next trip to the supermarket for only a few dollars.

Among the other benefits of hydrogen peroxide — when applied to floors and other surfaces, it’s a very effective and environmentally safe, kid-safe, and pet-safe cleanser and antiseptic.

Also, most people who use hydrogen peroxide to clean hardwood floors report that their floors look new.

Still, cleaning hardwood floors with hydrogen peroxide can have unintended results.

Will Hydrogen Peroxide Damage Hardwood Floors?

No, it won’t.

The word, “damage” might be a bit over the top because unless full-strength hydrogen peroxide is applied, there are very few negative effects that can’t be remedied. So the worst that can be said is, “hydrogen peroxide can be something of a trouble-maker.”

One of the negative effects is clouding. The chemical properties of hydrogen peroxide can have a bleaching effect. Thus, people with floors that are polished with wax or oil, or sealed with acrylic or urethane coating might find that using hydrogen peroxide caused the finish to become cloudy and dull — but this is very rare.

When applying hydrogen peroxide to unfinished floors to remove pet, food, or other types of stains, it’s possible for some of the surrounding wood to also become involved in the process. Hence, the result can be an unintentionally lightened area of wood.

However, a cloudy finish can be screened and recoated, and bleached wood can be stained to match the color of the rest.

Another negative aspect ─ prolonged exposure to moisture can cause hardwood floors to cup, buckle, lift, or become water-stained. Moisture can even cause mold growth or wood rot.

Yet, although hydrogen peroxide is a watery substance, if used to clean the floor’s surface, it isn’t necessary to apply very much of it. If you work in small sections, the floor can be clean and dry long before moisture has time to do any damage.

If used in the right concentration and in the right way, the benefits of using hydrogen peroxide to clean hardwood floors outweigh the risks.

How to Clean Hardwood Floors With Hydrogen Peroxide

Firstly, you’ll need to decide whether you want to clean your hardwood floor or just the surface layer of your floor, e.g., wax, oil, or lacquer-type finish.

Sometimes only the surface layer of the floor needs to be cleaned. This is usually characterized by a dull, dingy, or scuffed-up appearance.

In other cases, the wood itself might be stained. There are too many types and causes of stains to list them all, but pet urine is one of the more common types. Pet urine is characterized by an area(s) that is/are blackened.

This blackened look usually indicates a chemical reaction has taken place where uric salts or crystalized urine came into contact with the hardwood’s tannin. Because there’s less tannin in softer woods, the stain may be a grayish color.

To Clean The Surface Of A Finished Hardwood Floor:

Firstly, whatever you do, whatever you try, test it in a small, inconspicuous area.

Next, you’ll want to remember to clean the floor in sections.

Stuff You’ll Need To Have:

  1. Cleaning-grade hydrogen peroxide (35%)
  2. Spray bottle
  3. Microfiber mop and several extra mop heads.
  4. Vacuum with floor accessory attachment. (It’s that sort of flat one with little, tiny rollers and a fringe or felt on the bottom. …Yes, that one.)

For Cleaning Stains From An Unfinished Floor, Add:

  1. A roll of cellophane and
  2. A roll of paper towels or several terry cloth rags.  

Stuff You’ll Need To Do:

  1. With the floor accessory attached, vacuum the floor. Be sure to get close to the baseboards to remove any hidden dust and debris.
  2. Mix a solution of ½ cup peroxide and ½ gallon of water.
  3. Fill the empty spray bottle with the solution. Set the rest aside.
  4.  Spray a thin film of solution over the first section of floor.
  5. Use your microfiber mop to wipe the section dry.
  6. Spray and mop the next section and the next until you’re done. If your mop head         becomes too wet to dry the floor, replace it with a fresh, dry one.         

There. All done. Feel free to invoke your bragging rights in the comments section below, before and after photos, the whole shabang.

Huh? What? Oh yeah! The rest of the solution. Use it to clean and disinfect the rest of your home’s surfaces, of course!

To Clean An Unfinished Hardwood Floor

Assuming you’ve sanded the floor down to the raw wood, you’ll be pleased to know the toughest part of the job is behind you.

  1. Saturate several layers of paper towels with hydrogen peroxide.
  2. Lay the towels over the stain or a section of it.
  3. Lay cellophane over the towels. Use something heavy to keep the cellophane in place over the soaked towels.
  4. Check the underside of the towels occasionally to be sure they haven’t become too saturated by the stain to keep absorbing it. If they have, replace them with fresh ones that have been soaked with the peroxide solution.
  5. Allow the towels and cellophane to remain in place up to eight (8) hours.
  6. Remove the towels and repeat the process for each section of floor or stain to be cleaned.         

Note: There’s no requirement of completing the entire eight hour process before starting the next section. To clean several sections or an entire room full of sections, the work can proceed in phases.

Once the floor is completely dry, it will need to be stained to match the color of the rest before a new finish is applied.

Of course, if you’re unsure of your proficiency at color matching or of any of the steps in the process, you can always let a professional flooring expert do the job.