How to Get Scratches Out Of Hardwood Floors

Scratches on hardwood floors can quickly ruin their beauty and appeal. Depending on the severity of the scratch, sanding and refinishing is not your only option to remove them. Let’s take a look at the different degrees of damage and how to address each one.

First, Know What Finish Is On Your Floor

With all the different types of floor finishes, it’s important to know which one was used on your floor so you can match them. There are several options:

  • Oil-based polyurethane

  • Water based polyurethane

  • Wax coating

  • Varnish

  • Stain

  • Aluminum oxide coating

Identifying and Repairing Superficial Scratches

A superficial scratch is one that is only affecting the floor’s finish.

First, you can try an easy DIY solution that requires two things that you likely already have: apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Mix the two together and apply on the scratch in question. Leave it on for several hours, then wipe the mixture away. If you don’t see an improvement, follow these steps to repair the scratch:

  1. Clean the scratched area. Use a soft rag and a bit of hardwood floor cleaner to ensure the floor is clear of any dust or dirt.

  2. Rinse off the cleaner. After cleaning the scratched area, dampen a rag with water and wipe off any excess cleaner. Let it dry.

  3. Fill in the scratch. Rub a wax stick over the scratch to fill it in. If needed, use a plastic putty knife to force the wax down into the scratch. Wood wax can be clear, but they also come in common wood shades.

  4. Buff the scratch. Use a clean, soft cloth to rub back and forth over the scratched area, and buff the wax. Buffing the wax will smooth the scratched area, remove excess wax, and restore shine to the floor.

Identifying and Repairing Minor Scratches

A minor scratch is one that has penetrated the surface of the wood underneath the protective coating. Follow these steps to repair a minor scratch:

  1. Clean the surface. Use a quality wood cleaner to pick up any debris.

  2. Use steel wool on the scratch. Only rub the scratched area, and always rub with the grain of the wood. Rubbing across the grain will increase the mark and make it more noticeable.

  3. Buff the scratch. Use steel wool to buff the scratch until it’s removed.

  4. Blend the edges. Feather the edges by using the steel wool gently on the surrounding surface of the scratch. Keep the feathering to a minimum to avoid making the area more noticeable.

  5. Use a wax stick. Cover the scratches with a wax stick, then let it sit for ten minutes.

  6. Buff the area. Use a soft cloth to buff the area and make it shine.

  7. Use a paste wax. If you don’t have glossy polyurethane on your floors, use a paste wax after using the wax stick. This will make the scratches even less noticeable. Next, buff out the scratches a second time.

Repairing Deep Scratches and Gouges

Repairing deep scratches and gouges in a wood floor takes much more work and precision. Floors like these will need to be sanded, repaired and refinished. This can be done in one of two ways.

Refinish the Whole Floor

This is a wise decision if your whole floor is covered in scratches and gouges. A complete sanding removes scratches, but keep in mind that this will only work on real wood floors. If you have an engineered wood floor with a real wood surface, make sure that it’s never been sanded before. These floors can only be sanded once or twice before all of the real wood is sanded off.

This process is best left to a professional unless you’re comfortable with doing it yourself.

Refinish Parts of the Floor

  1. To remove scratches from polyurethane coating, moisten a scouring pad with mineral spirits.

  2. Gently rub the scratch with the pad.

  3. Allow it to dry and wipe off.

  4. Use a colored wood putty that matches your floor. Place it in the scratch with a plastic putty knife.

  5. Sand smooth with 150 grit sandpaper after letting the putty harden.

  6. Restore the area with a fresh coat of polyurethane. If polyurethane was not used on your floors, refinish with the same coating that is already present.

  7. Blend.

Note: Do not use wax sticks on polyurethane floors or apply a wax coating of any kind.