How To Remove Scratches From Wood Flooring

All wooden floors start out beautiful.

But over time dog scratches, cat scratches, chair scratches or even scratches from boogieing too hard can ruin the appearance of a wooden floor.

So here you find yourself trying to find out all about repairing wooden floors.

In this post we’ll teach you how to get rid of minor scratches.

We’ll show you how to repair more serious deep gouges.

And we’ll let you know when it’s time to call in the professionals.

Let’s get started.

Wood Scratch Repair 101: How Deep Is Your Scratch?

If the kings of disco sang about repairing wooden floors then it would go like this…

Because the first thing you need to assess when repairing a scratched wooden floor is how deep the scratches are.

Here’s the thing…

Is the actual wooden floor scratched or is only the wood FINISH scratched?

And if the scratch is through the wood finish how deep into the wood is it?

Are we talking a minor scuff or a deep gouge?

The depth of your scratches and amount of damages changes the best repair method for you.

It’s usually best to try the easier methods first to see if you are happy with the result.

So we’ll look at superficial scratches before moving on to more serious damage.

What Type Of Finish Was Originally Used On Your Wood Floor?

The second thing you need to consider is how was the wooden floor originally finished. This changes the repairs options open to you.

Types of hardwood floor finish are:

  • Oil-based polyurethane (can flake off, has a plastic feel, glossy)
  • Water based polyurethane (can flake off, has a plastic feel, glossy)
  • Varnish (can flake off)
  • Wax coating (Matt finish, very smooth)
  • Oil finish (You can still feel the wood grain with your fingers)

Polyurethane and varnish are transparent protective layers that cover a wood floor. It’s like having a thin sheet of plastic over the wood. Polyurethane is common on modern hardwood floors.

These are durable finishes but eventually they require full sanding.

Hardwood floors that have been oiled don’t have this transparent layer. Oiled floors never need re-sanding but they need frequent re-oiling.

The repairer must match the repair technique to the original finish. Otherwise your floor scratch repair job will be very noticeable.

For example, it’s no good doing a polyurethane repair job on a oiled wood floor that never had the plastic coating in the first place!

So don’t blindly follow repair instructions without making sure they are right for your floor finish.

How To Fix Light Scratches On Wood Floors

Superficial light scratches on hardwood floors are the easiest to get rid of. Often the appearance can be improved simply by polishing.

There are a few tricks to try:

Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Cleaning the scratched area is always the first place to start to remove dust and dirt.

A good hardwood floor cleaner might improve the appearance of light scratches.

The Walnut Floor Scratch Repair Method

According to Ron Swanson using a walnut is one way to fix light scratches on wood floor.

Quick Fix gave this floor scratch repair technique a go and it worked pretty well:

Bobby also fixed light scratches using a walnut.

Since it’s the oil in the walnut that is hiding the scratch you can use any oil.

Trying some olive oil and a rag to buff out scratches on hardwood flooring is always a good place to start if the scratches are light.

Remember the stain is on the wood. If the scratch has penetrated the finish it may have scrapped off the stain.

In that case you’ll need to re-stain the scratch to hide it.

The Stain Pen Method

The next level up repair is the stain marker or furniture pen technique.

Stain pens don’t repair scratches. They just hide them.

But if a scratch is invisible then that’s good enough for me.

Make sure you pick the right color of stain marker to match the color of your floor.

This video will show you the kind of results that you can expect:

This the the Minwax wood finish stain marker that was used in the video above:

This the the Minwax wood finish stain marker that was used in the video above:

And the funny carpenter has a good demo on using stain pens to make light scratches disappear from wood flooring.

If your floor was originally waxed or oiled you can make small repairs just by applying more oil.

How To Fix Minor Scratches On Wood Floors Without Sanding

Removing scratches from hardwood floors without sanding is possible.

Ben demonstrates in this video the screening and coating technique.

This applies an additional layer of polyurethane to flooring that already has a polyurethane coating.

Scratches in the wood finish can be repaired by applying more finish.

Yes the comments are funny because the video is titled “How to Refinish a Wood Floor Without Sanding” but the first thing Ben does is to start sanding the floor.

But his sanding is not a full sanding to remove the existing polyurethane coat. It’s simply a quick roughing up of the surface so that the new layer of polyurethane well without peeling.

This refinishing technique works well to repair surface level scratches on a floor without sanding it first.

Rubbing a scratch with steel wool and applying more wood finish will get rid of it. Remember to clean up the dust from the surfaces before applying more lacquer.

However if the floor has deep scratches right into the wood it’s not a good method to use.

A full refinishing of a floor with complete polyurethane removal, sanding back to the bare wood, restaining, and reapplying polyurethane is best left to a professional.

At the very least it’s a job requiring power tools that you probably don’t own.

But you don’t always need to refinish an entire floor.

If your wood finish is scratched you can simply lightly key the existing finish areas using sandpaper or steel wool.

If the wood has been scratched stain it using a matching stain color.

You can then reapply a layer of polyurethane.

This method actually removes the groove of the scratch. It’s a full scratch repair.

Barney demonstrates restraining scratches and the results in this video. It’s the best method to fix scratches on wooden floors and easy to do even for a DIY beginner.

If your scratches are deep you’ll need to fill them too.

How To Repair Deep Scratches In A Wood Floor

Sometimes a scratch is so bad you have a noticeable cavity in the wood.

Even reapplying wood stain and applying a wood finish would leave a visible mark on the floor.

In that case you’ll want to…

Fill In The Scratch With Wood Filler

Check out how to use wood floor scratch filler as demonstrated by Kermit the frog:

Wood fillers are available in many different colors. Choose one to match the color of your hardwood flooring.

Use a putty knife to push the filler into the scratch.

Let the wood putty dry then sand lightly. You don’t want putty on the surface of the floor. The goal is only to fill area of the scratch or chip.

Then apply the matching wood stain and the final clear wood finish.

By heating wood with steam you can cause it to expand and repair dents in wood floors. This is next level stuff!

The Verdict

Scratches on hardwood floors come in all shapes and sizes.

First assess how bad the damage is then choose the right technique to remove scratches.

Make sure you’ve stained the wood with a color that matches.

Hopefully now that you’ve read this guide you be able to do basic DIY repairs to remove most hardwood floor scratches.

Sometimes it only takes a few minutes to rub in some stain with a cloth and apply a protective coat.

First try oil, then if that doesn’t work choose between trying to hide the scratch with a wood stain pen or redoing the polyurethane coating.

That’s it!

With a little effort your wood floor will be “stayin’ alive” for a long time to come and you won’t need to see scratches as such a “tragedy” 🙂

Cool beans man! Catch you on the flip side!

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