Hardwood floors are fairly resilient, especially when their finish is properly maintained. But wood is a porous material, and certain chemicals can damage it. Bleach is one of those chemicals that shouldn’t have prolonged contact with a hardwood floor. But if you’ve spilled bleach on hardwood floor, you haven’t necessarily ruined it.

Act Fast

If you have ever spilled bleach on fabric, you know how quickly the chlorine can damage the fibers. A tiny splash of bleach can result in faded spots on many fabrics. But bleach doesn’t interact with wood as fast as it does with fabric.

You have some time to take action if you spill bleach on hardwood floor. However, you should still resolve the problem as quickly as you can. The longer you wait, the more likely the bleach is to damage the material.

Use absorbent cloth or paper towels to clean spilled bleach on hardwood floors. Try not to rub or push the bleach into the wood. Instead, use a light touch, and let the fibers soak up the liquid. Keep a bucket or garbage can close to contain the towels. Make sure that you don’t drip the bleach-soaked towels onto other flooring, upholstery or furniture.

Continue to rinse the area with fresh water and clean towels or a mop until all of the evident bleach residue has been removed. Avoid stepping on the mopped area so that you don’t track the chlorine in other parts of the house.

Neutralize the Bleach

Did you know that hydrogen peroxide neutralizes bleach? It deactivates the active ingredients and stops the fading action. Therefore, you should treat your floors with it before the bleach has time to discolor the material. 

In a bucket, combine one part hydrogen peroxide to 10 parts water. Soak a towel in the solution, and rub it over the spill. Then, soak a fresh towel in the solution. Lay it over the affected area of flooring for 10 minutes. Remove the towel, and rinse the spot with fresh water. Dry the spot with a towel.

This method won’t affect an area that has already become faded by bleach. However, it will stop the bleach from decolorizing the wood if it hasn’t already.

Evaluate the Finish

After the floor has dried, assess the condition of the finish. If there is no fading after 24 hours, you may not have to do anything else. You have successfully removed the bleach.

But how does the protective finish look? Is the material duller in the region of the spill than other areas? You might need to restore the finish in that area to make it match the rest of the floor and replenish any damage that was caused by the bleach.

Scratch repair kits may work to repair small areas of discoloration. Follow the instructions on the label to use these products, and test them on an inconspicuous area first.

Are You Sure It’s Bleach?

Do you have some faded spots on your hardwood floors but you don’t remember spilling bleach on them? Hardwood is prone to fading from other factors too.

Sunlight can fade hardwood floors. If you don’t have UV protection on your windows, pay attention to the parts of your home that are vulnerable to direct light exposure. These areas can lose color and become brittle faster than the rest of the flooring.

Moisture damage can also create faded spots on the floor. Have you been tossing wet towels into the same corner? Do your raincoats drip from their hooks in the hallway? Wiping up any liquids from hardwood floors quickly can prevent blemishes and lightened areas.

Avoid using harsh or abrasive cleaners on hardwood flooring. Ammonia and vinegar can cause discoloration over time. Abrasive products can scratch or dull the surface. Even using oils and waxes can cause your floor to look dull. 

How to Repair Faded Floors

Whether bleach or something else has discolored your floors, you have a few options for fixing the problem. The simplest solution is to cover the stain with furniture or a rug. This will conceal the blemish, but it doesn’t resolve the issue. If you’re selling your home or simply want to restore your flooring to its original condition, you’ll need to perform a more thorough repair.

One option is to refinish the floor. Sanding the surface of the hardwood removes superficial discoloration. If the bleach has sunken into the floorboards, though, the faded spots might disappear easily from sanding. You might have to replace the floorboards.

In many cases, you can swap out the planks in the affected area, recycling the old hardwood and installing new boards. You might not have to redo the whole floor. However, a professional flooring expert can give you specific advice for improving the appearance of your hardwood floors.

Can You Use Bleach to Deep Clean Your Floors?

Flooring gets dirty quickly, especially if you have kids or pets. Even if you sweep regularly, you might want to deep clean your hardwood floors from time to time. For example, you might need to sanitize the area where you keep your cat’s litter box or remove bacteria from a food spill under the kitchen table.

Is it safe to use bleach in these cases?

While there is some controversy about whether bleach is safe to use on hardwood floors, most experts agree that you can use it sparingly. Combining 5 tablespoons of bleach with one gallon of water produces a strong enough solution to use for disinfecting purposes. You can mop your hardwood floors with this solution periodically.

However, keep the following guidelines in mind when using bleach on hardwood floors:

  • Bleach with oxalic acid is the most gentle on hardwood floors.
  • Don’t use too much water or allow water to pool.
  • Don’t use undiluted bleach.
  • Use the diluted solution to spot clean areas.
  • Rinse with a damp mop and fresh water.
  • Dry the floor completely when you’re done.

The Dangers of Using Bleach to Clean Hardwood Floor

Using bleach to clean a hardwood floor can be risky. If your flooring has a penetrating finish, such as linseed oil, it can soak up the bleach. Flooring with a surface finish, such as polyurethane, stands up to bleach better. However, repeatedly cleaning these types of floors with bleach can damage the protective finish over time. This leaves the floors vulnerable to further damage. 

Bleach isn’t the best product to use on hardwood floors. It raises the wood grain. This impairs the texture of the wood, making it more likely to crack and splinter. Older hardwood floors and those with existing damage are especially prone to bleach damage.

Although you can use bleach to clean a particularly icky stain, other products may produce better results. Look for cleaning solutions that are designed for hardwood floors. Clorox makes one that contains no bleach but kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. Keeping a product like this on hand will help you tackle spills and messes without risking damage to your investment.

If you want a type of flooring that stands up to bleach, you might prefer a material such as vinyl or ceramic tile. These are especially water resistant and can take a beating, whether it’s from foot traffic or deep cleaning with bleach.