9 Tips for Removing Scratches from Wood Floors


Learn how to keep your wood floors beautiful.

Wood floors can bring beauty and value to your home with good care. Natural wood is always at risk of surface wear, water marks, and deeper damage. Of course, prevention is key. Use area rugs or soft protective pads when moving furniture, remove shoes whenever possible, and keep pets’ nails clipped.

Floor finishes can protect floors from everyday wear and tear, but it is important to know what finishes are in place to maintain them. For example, consider a wood floor installed before 1970, which may have been finished with varnish or insect glue. This finish can be glossed with a paste or liquid wax or oil. If the old finish has visible scratches, it can be stripped or sanded and then refinished with a polyurethane product. Be sure to use only water-based silicone polishes on polyurethane-finished floors.

Also, if the wear and tear is severe, you may need to take the time and effort to completely refinish the floor, but in most cases this is a job best left to a professional. Fortunately, the following scratch repair methods can be used to minimize or completely remove less serious scratches and discoloration and restore your wood floor to its former glory.

  1. Gently clean hardwood floors.

Dust can also cause more serious scratches. Avoid using brooms or abrasive trowels, and do not wet the floor with water or liquid cleaners. Instead, use a soft mop or vacuum cleaner (with appropriate attachments) to remove dust, hair, and surface debris. To clean, add two to four drops of liquid soap to one quart of water, mix in a spray bottle, spray onto the polyurethane-finished floor, and distribute the solution with a dry microfiber mop. Then spray lightly with water and wipe with a soft, dry cloth. A commercial, non-toxic wood cleaner that is safe for polyurethane-finished floors can also be used. Water-based products containing biodegradable cleaners, such as Begrease (available at large home improvement stores and on Amazon), are best.

  1. Buff out scratches on wood floors.

With a little effort, wood floors can be revived. All that remains is to polish the damaged areas with fine grit sandpaper. First, sandpaper in the direction of the floor’s grain. The stain that was scraped off during the sanding process needs to be reapplied, so choose an out-of-sight location (under the bed, in the wardrobe) and patch test with a wood stain that is the same color as the floor. Once a suitable stain is found, the next step is to patch test the polyurethane finish.

Water-based polyurethanes (check examples on Amazon) dry quickly and their clear, glossy finish is great for new floors, but as the floor darkens over time, the contrast can become too strong.

Oil-based polyurethane (check examples on Amazon) has a strong odor but dries yellowish and darkens over time, which may be appropriate for older floor colors. Make sure the sanded area is smooth and thoroughly cleaned before applying the stain finish.

  1. Paint walnut over wood scratches to hide them.

Walnuts contain excellent natural emollients and brown dyes that can repair cracked or damaged wood and enhance its appearance. Warm the oil in the nuts with your fingers and rub it in small circles over the worn areas of the floor. Allow the oil to sit for a few minutes, then wipe it off with a soft cloth. Coconut oil also minimizes scratches on unfinished or freshly sanded floors. Apply a thin coat of coconut oil with a brush or sponge, let it sit for 5 minutes, and then wipe with a soft cloth to give the wood a richer look.

  1. Make effective air fresheners with grocery ingredients.

Combine baking soda and olive oil to reduce or eliminate scratches on the wood. After vacuuming thoroughly, apply a few drops of olive oil with baking soda to the scratched area. Wait 5 minutes and then gently buff with a soft sponge. Clean the area thoroughly with a damp cloth and then wipe with a towel.

  1. consider using flooring products that specialize in scratch repair.

Scratch Away ($10.99 for 8 oz., available at Lumber Liquidators) is ideal for repairing, cleaning, and polishing scratches on wood and laminate floors, as well as reducing stains and scratches caused by shoes, pets, and furniture scrapes. Also popular is Old English Scratch Cover ($4.82 for 8 oz., available at Amazon), which is available in both light and dark woodgrain tones. This oil protects and hides scars. All that is needed is to apply it to a clean wood surface with a soft cloth.

  1. Stain the scratch with wood stain.

Wood stains are available in oil-based, water-based, gel, and mixes to make deep scratches less noticeable. Oil-based stains are slower drying and harder to work with, but offer the richest, longest-lasting colors. Water-based stains come in a variety of shades, are easy to apply, and easy to clean. Hybrid stains are designed for polyurethane finishes and can be used on a variety of materials, including previously painted wood, because the gel does not penetrate.

Choose a stain formula that matches the wood surface and completely fill in the scratches with liquid color. Remove excess stain with a Q-tip and allow to dry. Stain markers and mixing pens are also available, but playing around with color combinations may help you find the perfect match for your floor. Apply to scratches according to package instructions, wipe off excess, and allow to dry thoroughly.

  1. Polish and repair with special care products.

Minwax Hardwood Floor Reviver (32 oz., $24.97, available on Amazon) helps restore the beauty and shine of hardwood floors without sanding or polishing. Clean the surface, apply with a clean paint pad (like this product), and allow to dry. Available in high and low gloss, choose the one that suits you best, and the formula will last for 3-6 months.

  1. Remove the lacquer and start over again.

Flooring that has been covered in layers of polyurethane, wax, or paint and is in pretty bad shape can be stripped to restore its unfinished beauty. Choose a liquid stripper such as Safest Stripper by 3M in Raw Smoke (32 oz., $14.02, available on Amazon). Follow the product instructions carefully and wipe in the direction of the wood grain with fine-grit steel wool to remove excess stripper. If you are stripping only a portion of the floor, also perform a matching test of the stain and polyurethane coating to be applied after the stripping process is complete.

  1. Repairing deep scratches on the flooring

If the wood has deep scratches, try using a product like Bondo ($18.15/oz. on Amazon) – a wood filler that can be sanded, stained, and painted. You can also use a stained latex wood filler such as DAP Plastic Wood ($9.48, 32 oz., DAP). The filler comes in a variety of colors and may need to be formulated to match the flooring exactly. This method is best for small, deep holes and can be used to fill, sand, stain, and finish the hole to make the flooring perfect again.