How to Fix Hardwood Floor Scratches: DIY Tips and Tricks for Effective Wood Floor Scratch Repair

By Fortino Rosas / July 15, 2022 / 0 Comments

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    How to Fix Hardwood Floor Scratches

    Are you looking for effective ways on how to fix hardwood floor scratches? Let our guide help you!

    Hardwood floors are among the most chosen flooring options because they give a rustic atmosphere that’s visually appealing to a lot of people. They can also last longer than other types of flooring (up to 100 years or more) with proper care and maintenance.

    So in this guide, we’ll show you DIY hardwood floor scratch repair tips and tricks to get rid of marks, scuffs, and gouges to keep your flooring looking lovely!

    Steps on How to Fix Scratches on Hardwood Floors

    Here are the general steps on how to get scratches out of wood:

    Step 1. Start the Hardwood Floor Repair by Cleaning the Area Thoroughly

    Dirt and grime on your flooring can worsen the scratches. So the first thing you need to do is clean the area thoroughly.

    1. Use a vacuum with an attachment designed for hard flooring to pick up large dirt particles.
    2. Use a dry dust mop to pick up the remaining particles.
    3. Apply a floor cleaner and rinse it off after.

    For more detailed steps on how to clean hardwood, check out this link. If you have engineered hardwood flooring, follow the steps in our engineered hardwood cleaning guide.

    Tips

    • Never use water to clean hardwood floors as this will cause damage in the long run.
    • Make sure that cracks are also dirt-free.
    • If your flooring has a wax layer, remove the wax before starting with your repair tasks.

    Step 2. Understand the Type of Finish Your Floor Has

    Depending on the type of finish and/or coating your flooring has, you may need to put more effort into repairing scratches and avoiding specific products.

    For instance, if you’re looking for ways on how to fix scratches in polyurethane hardwood floors (the common hardwood floor finish), you need to avoid wax sticks. (More on the ways to fix hardwood floor scratches later.)

    So before you repair scratches, check if your flooring is coated with the following:

    In addition, unfinished hardwood flooring is easier to repair compared to pre-finished options. This is because the protective coating that you have applied to your unfinished flooring will be easier to sand. 

    On the other hand, multiple aluminum oxide and urethane layers on pre-finished hardwood will make your flooring tougher. This will make your floor harder to sand and will require more blending efforts.

    Step 3. Hide Surface Scratches in Your Flooring

    After you’ve determined the type of coating or finish your flooring has, fix scratches that have only affected your floor’s finish first. This includes fine scratches caused by your pets’ nails and those caused by sliding furniture across your floor which often leaves white marks.

    Below are the different methods on how to remove light scratches from hardwood floors:

    • Cover the scratches using wax sticks or paste wax.
    • Use scratch-minimizing products or rub a raw walnut on the area if you have a light-colored flooring.
    • Hide scratches by using blending sticks, wood stain pens, or a matching fine-tip permanent marker.
    • Sand by hand and cover with the blending techniques we’ve mentioned earlier.
    • If the coating surrounding the scratches is still okay, rub a wood stain or apply a new coat of wood finish on the affected areas.

    The detailed steps for each method are specified in the Ways on How to Fix Scratches on Wood Floor section of this blog.

    Tips

    • Scratches that are parallel to the hardwood’s grain are easier to blend compared to cross-grain scratches.

    Step 4. Fix Deep Scratches in Hardwood Floor

    For numerous scratches that have penetrated the protective coating of the wood, you might need to sand, repair, and refinish your entire flooring. This method is also effective in repairing uneven spots and ridges on your flooring to flatten them down.

    Here’s how to fix deep scratches on wood floor including gouges caused by dog claws and sliding heavier appliances and furniture across your floor:

    • Strip off the finish and refinish.
    • Sand the scratches with fine-grained sandpaper.
    • Buff the scratches with steel wool.
    • Fill in deep gouges with a wood filler.

    Tips

    • Apply wood stain and finish after sanding, buffing, or using wood filler to fix the scratches.
    • Sanding won’t work on engineered wood floors because they shouldn’t be sanded in the first place. But if sanding is your last option, you can’t do it more than twice because this will remove all of the real hardwood surface of your flooring.
    • Sanding is best left to the professionals to avoid damaging your floor.

    Step 5. Replace Badly Damaged Hardwood Floors

    In case the scratches are too severe to fix, your last option would be to replace the entire damaged floorboard.

    11 DIY Ways on How to Fix Scratches on Wood Floor

    Now, let’s look into the more detailed ways of fixing hardwood floor scratches here.

    1. How to Fix Scratches on Hardwood Floors Using Vinegar and Olive Oil

    This DIY solution is effective in removing small scratches that are not noticeable unless you get close enough. It’s also great if your flooring’s finish is relatively new and don’t want to destroy it.

    • Mix the same amounts of olive oil and apple cider.
    • Dab some of the solution into the affected area.
    • Leave for around a day before rubbing it out.

    2. How to Remove Scratches From Hardwood Floors Using Walnut or Coconut Oil

    You might not believe it but rubbing a walnut over a scratch on wooden floors is effective in camouflaging them. Walnuts have brown dyes and natural emollients that don’t only enhance but also repair worn scratched hardwood floors.

    • Use your fingers to warm up the walnut oil.
    • Rub the walnut into the scratches in a circular motion.
    • Leave it for a few minutes before buffing it with a cloth.

    Aside from olive oil, coconut oil also does well at minimizing marks on freshly sanded or unfinished floors. Just use a sponge or brush to apply a thin coat over the scratch, leave for a few minutes, and buff it out.

    3. How to Remove Scratches From Hardwood Floors Using Paste Wax

    Applying paste wax on scratches will make them virtually invisible. They are usually available in natural colors but also come in tinted options for dark wood scratch repairs. They blend well with your floor which makes everything look flawless.

    • Grab your chosen paste wax and apply a thin layer over the scratches.
    • Leave it for around 20 minutes.
    • Buff the excess wax off.

    NOTE: You can only use paste wax on floors without an ultra-matte or glossy polyurethane finish.

    Also, here’s a video on how to repair hardwood scratches using hard wax for your reference:

    4. How to Use a Wood Scratch Repair Kit to Hide Scratches in Wood

    Wood scratch repair kits include blending pencils and stain markers that work like paste wax. Their main advantage is they are easier to apply and more affordable than paste wax. Plus, they are specifically designed to fix light scratches on your floor.

    Wood scratch repair kits also come in multiple colors which you have to play with to find the perfect color combination for your floor. So, the crucial step is choosing the right color that best matches your flooring. 

    Tips

    • Unlike paste wax, it’s easier to switch between stain shades with blending markers or pencils to achieve more accurate colors that match your floor’s grains. You can use lighter markers/pencils for some spots and darker ones for others.
    • You can mix floor colorants if you want to get the perfect shade.

    5. How to Cover Hardwood Scratches Using Wax Sticks

    Wax sticks come in packs for both light wood and dark wood so you can use several colors for floors with varying tones.

    • Rub a wax stick on the scratch. Use a putty knife to completely fill the scratch.
    • Leave the wax for a few minutes.
    • Use a soft cloth to buff the colored areas to remove excess wax. You might need to use elbow grease to do this if buffing didn’t work.
    • We recommend applying paste wax over the area to make the scratches more less noticeable.

    NOTE: Just like paste wax, you can’t use wax sticks on polyurethane-finished floors.

    6. How to Fix Scratched Wood Floor Using a Wood Scratch Filler

    Wood fillers are ideal for deep holes that you can fill, sand, stain, and finish. Although they come in different colors, you need to blend them to exactly match your floor.

    • Use a putty knife to press the filler into the hole/scratch.
    • Smooth it down and wipe off any excess filler while it is still wet.
    • Leave the filler to dry for around two hours.
    • Sand the area down and apply the right stain color using a stain pen or wood stain. You can also apply a polyurethane coat for better results.

    Tips

    • Plastic putty knives are softer than metal ones which can damage your floor. But if you are still worried about a plastic putty knife aggravating the scratches, you can lightly sand its corners to make them rounder.

    Below is a video on how to fix hardwood scratches using stain pens, wax sticks, and wood fillers:

    7. How to Hide Wooden Floor Scratches Using Wood Stain

    For scratched wood floors that don’t have a finish but are stained, re-applying wood stain can effectively hide the scratches.

    Wood stains come in gel, water-based, oil-based, and combination options:

    • Gels: These will not penetrate the surface so it is ideal for painted wood.
    • Water-Based: Available in various shades for easy application.
    • Oil-Based: Slow-drying and can be hard to use, but they offer the longest-lasting and richest colors.
    • Combination: Designed for wood floors with polyurethane finishes.

    Here are the steps to reapply stain over scratches:

    • Choose the appropriate stain type and color for your flooring through patch testing.
    • Ensure proper ventilation in the area.
    • Get a rag and put a small amount of stain on it.
    • Rub the rag over the scratches until they disappear.
    • Wipe off the excess stain using another clean rag.
    • Let the stain dry completely for 12-24 hours.
    • Applying a coat of polyurethane finish might be necessary to add an extra layer of protection.

    NOTE: Certain hardwood species like maple, pine, birch, and fir typically won’t take well to stains.

    8. How to Cover up Scratches on Wooden Floors by Refinishing

    Applying a new coat of hardwood finish helps hide light scratches from your flooring. Choose a finish that closely matches your floor’s original coating. Also, take note that you will have two options when using polyurethane finishes: oil or water-based polys.

    Below are the steps on how to refinish your flooring:

    • Vacuum dust particles from your floor.
    • Wipe the area with a damp sponge or lint-free cloth. (Dampen with water if using water-based polyurethane and mineral spirits otherwise.)
    • Stir the can of finish first before application. Do NOT shake it as this will cause air bubbles to form which will result in uneven coats.
    • Use a bristle brush to apply a thin coat to flat surfaces.
    • Coat contoured surfaces using a soft cloth. Brushing contoured surfaces will create drips.
    • Use aerosol polyurethane to coat less accessible spots. Make sure to spray 8-12 inches away from the spot.
    • Let the first coating dry for a day before sanding it with fine-grained sandpaper to get rid of uneven coats, bubbles, and drips.
    • Apply a second coat and repeat the process.

    Tips

    • Always go with the grain when applying the finish.
    • For imperfections or dried drips that can’t be removed using sandpaper, use a razor to shave them off.
    • Keep dust particles away while applying the finish.
    • Make sure the room is well-ventilated to allow proper air circulation.

    Here’s a video tutorial on fixing wood scratches by staining and refinishing:

    9. How to Strip Off the Finish to Get Rid of Scratches

    For badly scratched floors covered by multiple layers of wax, polyurethane finish, or paint, fixing the scratches would be easier if your strip off the finish first.

    • Get a stripping agent of your choice and follow the instructions on how to use it.
    • Use fine-grade steel wool and rub it in the grain’s direction to remove excess stripper from your floor and clean the area.
    • Patch the area with a matching wood stain and apply a polyurethane coating.

    10. How to Repair Hardwood Floor Scratches by Sanding

    When sanding your floor, you’ll need fine-grit sandpaper (120 to 220-grit sandpaper would suffice).

    • Sand the scratch in the grain’s direction.
    • Clean the area thoroughly after sanding.
    • Apply some wood stain over the area. You can also use a walnut if you’re not confident about using stain.
    • Apply polyurethane finish to complete the repair.

    In cases where you need to sand your entire floor, you might need a floor sanding machine to make the process easier and faster.

    NOTE: Sanding will only work on solid hardwood floors, not on engineered hardwood because this will remove all of the engineered wood’s real wood surface. But if you have engineered wood flooring that has over 1mm-thick real wood surface, your might be able to sand it completely but ONLY ONCE.

    11. How to Buff Out Scratches on Wood Floor With Steel Wool

    Another alternative to sanding using fine-grained steel wool to buff the scratch:

    • Buff the scratched area using the steel wool. Rub with the wood’s grain to avoid increasing the marks.
    • Feather the scratch’s edges to blend them.
    • Cover the area with a wax stick and leave for 10 minutes.
    • Get a soft cloth and buff the area.
    • For non-poly finishes, you can apply paste wax and then buff the area again.

    Fix Scratches in Hardwood Floor With the Help of a Professional

    If nothing of the ways we have mentioned worked for you or you don’t want to take the risk of damaging your floor further, contact a professional. Fixing widespread scratches and badly damaged floors is labor and time-intensive anyway, so leaving the task to the pros is the wisest thing to do.

    Why Do My Hardwood Floors Scratch So Easily?

    The scratch resistance of hardwood floors will heavily depend on the type of wood they use which determines how hard they are. Softwoods like fir, spruce, and pine scratch easily compared to hardwoods like birch, maple, and oak. Hardwoods have a higher Janka Rating (hardness rating) so they can resist scratches better.  

    The grain pattern can also influence your flooring’s scratch resistance. Tight grains, such as those of oak, are more scratch-resistant.

    Prevention Tips: How to Minimize the Need for Wood Scratch Repairs

    1. Remove dirt and grime from your flooring regularly.
    2. Use area rugs and entry mats.
    3. Use protective pads when moving furniture.
    4. Put felt pads under table and chair legs.
    5. Keep your pets’ nails trimmed.
    6. Avoid spiky shoes, cleats, and stilettos.
    7. Better yet, avoid using shoes on your floor.

    FAQs

    How Do You Get Scratches Out of Hardwood Floors Without Sanding?

    Below are some ways on how to fix scratches in hardwood without sanding:
    1. Dabbing some olive oil and vinegar solution
    2. Rubbing walnut or coconut oil
    3. Filling in with a thin layer of paste wax, wood filler, or using wax sticks
    4. Using blending pencils or markers
    5. Staining and/or refinishing

    You can find the detailed steps here. Take note that you don’t need to sand shallow scratches. But if you’re dealing with deep scratches and wide gouges, sanding and refinishing may be necessary.


    How Do You Fix Deep Dog Scratches on Hardwood Floors?

    For shallow scratches, you can remove them by applying a wood stain or blending markers and pens. You can also use the DIY olive oil plus vinegar recipe and the walnut method we’ve mentioned here. But for deep dog scratches, you will need a wood filler and refinish your flooring.


    Does Murphy’s Oil Soap Remove Scratches?

    Floor Trends trusts Murphy’s Oil as a natural and gentle cleaner for even finished and waxed hardwood floors. It’s for effectively cleaning your flooring including marks, stains, and scratches without leaving a dull residue.


    Can You Use Magic Eraser on Hardwood Floors?

    You can use Magic Eraser to get rid of scuffs but not on finished hardwood floors as its abrasiveness can remove the finish completely. But if you intend to use it on unfinished floors to remove scuff marks, it should be safe.

    Just follow these steps:
    1. Add water to the magic eraser.
    2. Squeeze out extra water from the product.
    3. Test it on a small area on your flooring before proceeding.
    4. Swipe the product across the scuffs you want to remove until you see the marks disappear.


    Does Vinegar and Olive Oil Fix Wood Scratches?

    Yes, mixing equal parts of vinegar and olive oil does a great job in not only repairing scratches on hardwood floors but also in moisturizing and restoring their shine.

    Final Thoughts

    Hardwood floors are durable and can last for decades, but they are prone to damage. This makes proper cleaning and maintenance important to ensure that your flooring will reach its expected lifetime. So hopefully, our guide on how to fix hardwood floor scratches was able to help you restore the beautiful aesthetic of your flooring.

    About Fortino Rosas

    Chief Floor Critic, 32 years of experience in flooring installation and sales

    Fortino Rosas is an independent flooring contractor with 32 years of experience in residential and commercial flooring installation and sales. He joined the Floor Critics team to share his expertise with our readers. Fortino has acquired vast knowledge and skills in the areas of product selection, space planning, and installation. He has installed flooring in residential, government, and commercial office projects in the Midwest. Visit Website.

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