Can You Clean Hardwood Floors With Bleach?

It’s a common misconception that bleach can be used to clean hardwood floors. After all, bleach is a powerful cleaning agent that can disinfect surfaces and kill germs, so it stands to reason that it would work on hardwood floors, correct? Wrong.

Bleach is actually one of the worst things you can use on hardwood floors. Here’s why.

Why Bleach is Bad for Hardwood Floors

Bleach is made up of chemicals that are harsh on hardwood floors. In fact, bleach can actually damage the finish of your hardwood floors and cause them to discolor over time. In addition, bleach is a strong odor that can linger in your home long after you’ve used it, and it’s not exactly the most pleasant smell to have wafting through your house.

Bleach is an incredibly powerful cleaning agent that can be used to remove stains from laundry and hard surfaces. Its active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, breaks down the chemical structure of the wood at a molecular level, causing discoloration and weakening the material. Bleach can also break down certain finishes which would then leave the hardwood susceptible to damage from other chemicals or water.

You might not notice the bleach damage to your hardwood floors right away, but eventually, you will see it.

Here we’ll explain how to tell when refinishing and restoration are possible options for your floor.

Identifying a Bleach Stain

When you use bleach – either in hot water to mop your floors, or undiluted after spilling it directly on the hardwood – the wood will start to lighten. The amount of lightning might depend on what treatments your floors have had, but it will always happen over time.

If you’ve noticed your hardwood floors lightening from exposure to bleach, or if you’ve already noticed discoloration and damage, it’s time to consider refinishing or restoration.

Refinishing your hardwood floors involves stripping the existing finish off of the wood and applying a new layer of protective coating. This can restore the look and extend the life of your floors.

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Depending on the severity of the bleach, stained hardwood floors can appear differently. For example, if only the finish has been bleached, then there will be less damage compared to when the bare wood fibers have been corroded by the bleach.

While a bleach stain will appear lighter, as the color is drawn out of the surface by bleach, there might also be some changes to the floor’s texture. This happens depending on whether the finish or wood was corroded by the bleaching agent. In any case, using bleach on your hardwood floors will damage them and can create repair problems that cost both time and money.

If you come across a wet bleach stain, blot it with a clean towel to immediately stop the spread. Be mindful that any existing color on the towels will be removed as well. Once it’s dried, take stock of how deep the bleach has damaged wood, its surface area, and if there is any finish or prior stains remaining. If the bleach has damaged your hardwood floors, invest in refinishing or restoration services to restore their beauty and strength.

To avoid bleach damage on your hardwood floors in the future, be sure to always use a mild, pH-neutral cleaner designed specifically for wood when cleaning. This will help keep your floors looking beautiful and protected for years to come.

Should You Restore Or Refinish Your Hardwood Floors?

Bleach stains and other chemicals can sometimes cause significant damage that will require professional restoration. If the bleach stain has penetrated past the finish or outer layer and corroded the wood itself, then replacement of the affected floorboards is necessary. However, if exposure to the wood surface was only for a short period of time, or if there is no warping or irregularities present, then restoration may be possible.

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Restoring Hardwood Floors

Restoration of your floors will often involve replacing, treating, sanding, staining, and finishing the damaged floorboards. It is possible that you may also need to sand, restain, and refinish unaffected floorboards in order to maintain a uniform appearance for your floors.

To avoid bleach damage in the future, it is important to take proper precautions when using bleach and other chemicals on your hardwood floors. Always use a pH-neutral cleaner, and wear protective gear and clothing.

Refinishing Hardwood Floors

Refinishing is a process of restoring your hardwood floors without needing to replace any boards. In order to achieve an even finish, the entire floor must be sanded down and refinished with a new coat of protective coating.

If you are looking for a more durable, long-lasting solution to bleach damage, or simply want to refresh the look of your hardwood floors, then refinishing may be the best option for you. To find out more about refinishing your floors and getting started, speak with a professional flooring contractor in your area. They can help assess the condition of your floors and provide an estimate for the cost and time needed to restore your hardwood floors to their former beauty..

A professional refinishing service can use high-quality sanding tools, buffers, and dust control equipment to get the job done quickly. Depending on how difficult it is to access the floor and what types of finishing materials you want to use, refinishing can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Alternatives to Bleaching Your Hardwood Floors

The best method of preventing bleach stains on hardwood floors is to not use bleach at all. There are four kinds of household bleach, and only one doesn’t ruin hardwood floors. The most caustic type of Bleach, chlorine should never be used on any kind of wood surface..Two-part bleaches are generally only for the most difficult set-in stains and will damage hardwood as well as other porous surfaces it comes into contact with.

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Non-chlorine bleach is a weaker, but less dangerous form of bleaching agent that can be used safely in diluted amounts. It uses oxygen as its main ingredient, and it is not as harmful to people or the environment as other types of bleach. If you have common stains, non-chlorine bleach may work well for you.

Rather than using harsh bleach on your hardwood floors, which could damage them, consider trying one of these more gentle alternatives.

If you’re looking to disinfect your floor surfaces, Chlorox makes Swiffer-like wipes that are free of bleach but still kill 99.9% of bacteria.

For greasy floors, try dish soap and hot water instead. And to remove sticky residue, use a Mister Clean Magic Eraser sponge dipped in 4:1 water to the vinegar solution.

When using any cleaning agents on wood flooring, always check the label first to make sure the product is safe for hardwood. If it isn’t, consider replacing the flooring piece or refinishing the entire section.

Another option is to use wood floor cleaning products specifically designed to clean hardwood surfaces without using bleach or other chemicals. These cleaners often combine a mild soap cleanser with gentle abrasives that remove dirt, grime, and common stains from your floors without damaging the surface.


Bleach is a harsh chemical that can damage your floor’s finish. Instead, opt for a mild soap or detergent for everyday cleaning. For tougher jobs, use a diluted vinegar solution. Simply mix 1/2 cup of vinegar with 2 gallons of water and mop your floor as usual. The vinegar will cut through tough dirt and grime without damaging your floor’s finish.