The Surefire Way To Banish Paint Stains From Hardwood Floors

One of the best moments in home improvement is removing the masking tape and drop cloths, revealing freshly painted walls. However, after your moment of bliss, you may notice that you've dripped paint on your hardwood floors. It's also possible that a previous painter or homeowner spilled paint on your hardwood. If this happens, there are simple ways to remove the paint from your hardwood floors, such as using household items like a gentle soap or a professional tool like a heat gun.

Before you tackle paint removal, you need to know if the paint stain is latex-based (also known as water-based) or oil-based paint. If you just finished painting, you'll know your paint type, but how do you know with old spills? There are a few ways to tell if you're dealing with oil or latex-based paint. Latex-based paints remain flexible and paint chips will bend or fold. Oil-based paints become brittle. An oil-based chip will snap when manipulated. You can also use a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol to carefully test the paint. Alcohol will dissolve latex-based paints, but won't affect dry oil-based paints. Knowing your paint type will help you determine the best approach for removing your paint stain. Do you have the supplies you need, or is this finally your excuse to buy a heat gun? Your inner crafter wants one.

Clean a spill before it becomes a stain

A still-wet spill of latex-based paint can be quickly removed with a mixture of soap and warm water. Use a clean cotton rag and get it damp, but not soaked with soapy water. Hardwoods can be damaged and warp if any water saturates the wood. Pass your rag over the spill several times, rinsing out your rag as you go. When the floor seems paint-free, pass over the area again with fresh soap and water to avoid a haze of watered-down paint that could be left behind. Then dry it off.

Freshly spilled, wet, oil-based paint can be cleaned with mineral spirits, also known as paint thinner. Apply a small amount of paint thinner to a cotton cloth or rag. Only apply it to your rag — do not put it directly on your hardwood floor. Paint thinner is powerful and can remove the finish from hardwoods if used aggressively. After applying, the paint stain will soften. You can remove softened paint with a non-abrasive scraper or plastic putty knife. Be gentle to avoid scratching your floors. You may need to repeat this process a few times to soften and remove larger or thicker spills. When all the paint is removed, clean the area with the hardwood-safe floor cleaner recommended by your floor's manufacturer or a wood-safe flooring cleaner if you don't have the manufacturer's guidelines.

Eliminate older paint stains with a heat gun

A heat gun will remove latex and oil-based paint from hardwood floors. It simply melts any paint on the surface. You may already have this handy tool to easily remove peel and stick wallpaper, or you may have bought one from The Home Depot to remove vinyl flooring. If you are new to working with a heat gun, read all the manufacturer's instructions and pay close attention to safety concerns. Heat guns are effective, but dangerous. A heat gun may reach temperatures as high as 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Only use a heat gun when the project has your full attention. Wear heavy-duty gloves. Work in a well-ventilated area, as melting paint can release fumes. Keep the heated gun at least 2 inches away from the floor at an angle. Never focus on just one spot, as heat guns can burn wood and finishes. Pass the heat gun over the stain several times and stop when you see the paint begin to bubble and react to the heat. When it bubbles, use a non-abrasive scraper to remove the paint stain from the floor. Repeat as needed. Dispose of all removed paint immediately: it may contain unsafe chemicals or heavy metals. Clean the area when all paint is removed. When your floors are stain-free and clean apply your favorite floor-preservation product to keep your wood flooring looking like new.