If you want your floor to be darker, you can sand it down to bare wood and stain it. What should you do if you want your floor to be lighter? If you just want a lighter shade, you can use a light-colored stain. However, that stain often won’t work very well if the wood is somewhat dark. Also, staining it won’t always remove discolorations from wear and tear. In the case of ink spills, pet stains, and other types of damage, you might need to bleach them away. There are three kinds of bleach that can be used for wood floors, and each one has advantages and disadvantages.
Chlorine bleach is the same kind of bleach that you use in your laundry room. It removes dyes and stains from laundry; it will often do the same for your floors. Unlike with laundry, chlorine bleach is actually the mildest form of bleach used on hardwood floors. It might take several treatments of household bleach to get all of your stains out. If you want a stronger chlorine bleach, you could use a swimming pool chlorine. This is typically calcium hypochlorite, and it’s more effective at lifting stains. If you’re attempting to remove organic stains such as fruit juice, dyes, or inks, chlorine bleach is a good choice.
Of course, you should be very careful when using bleach. Use gloves, wear eye protection and ensure that the space is well-ventilated. It can be very caustic and irritating.
A two-part bleach will actually alter the color of the wood. It also removes some stains that can’t be removed using household bleach. Two-part bleaches are made from sodium hydroxide (lye) and hydrogen peroxide. They will bleach the wood when they come into contact with one another while on the wood. Some products suggest that you apply the sodium hydroxide and then apply the hydrogen peroxide while the sodium hydroxide is still wet. Others will instruct you to mix the two before you apply them. If you apply them one at a time, you’ll notice that the sodium hydroxide actually darkens the wood. Don’t worry, this is the natural chemical reaction. The hydrogen peroxide will lift that color out.
Oxalic acid does not bleach the actual wood. It is best for iron-based stains such as some inks, rust, and water stains. If you have pet stains that aren’t responding to chlorine bleach, oxalic acid might work better.