Friday, November 9, 2012

hand sanitizer on hardwood floor

I am using precious time to post on a breakthrough I had today, because I had a hard time finding information on the Internet about it and want this post to be a resource (hopefully) for someone in the same position.

BACKSTORY: Soon after Camilla's birth, two white spots showed up on our hardwood floor (solid hickory). I tried to rub them out with all the cleaners I had on hand, but to no avail. After a few days' investigation, I determined the culprit was hand sanitizer. We had set up a changing table downstairs in the family room, right next to the kitchen and, hence, the hardwood floor. The label on hand sanitizer says that the small amount of alcohol in the ingredients can damage the finish on some hardwood floors.

So I was as vigilant as I could be with the hand sanitizer, trying to make sure we wiped up every drop thereafter. I had some success, but eventually I lost the battle as more white spots kept popping up. At least once I had a disturbing dream about white spots all over our wood floor that weren't going away. But I was able to settle into mild acceptance of the situation.

CONTINUING PROBLEM: A few days ago, we found Henry indulging in the hand sanitizer by spreading gobs of it over himself and the floor. I cleaned it up as thoroughly as possible, but the next day ten new spots showed up on the hardwood floor. I was feeling a bit sick about the whole situation, not wanting to have to re-finish the floor but not excited about the abstract art creeping across our kitchen floor.

I googled information about how to remove hand sanitizer spots from hardwood floors and found two plausible suggestions: (1) use baby oil and (2) wax out the stain/damage. I tried the first suggestion with some success! The recent spots came out easily! But the old spots remained.

I went to Lowe's and asked for help finding a wax for a hardwood floor with a polyurethane finish. A waxing product does not exist for such a floor, but we did find lemon oil polish (Old English brand). I had also read that using the finest steel wool to rub in the oil would help to remove the hand-sanitizer spots. So, I also picked up a package of 0000 steel wool. I came home and tried the most inconspicuous spot first: I put a few drops of lemon oil on the steel wool, then I rubbed vigorously over the spot. It disappeared fairly quickly. Henry then helped me by finding the 15 or so remaining white spots, and I was able to successfully rub them out with the lemon-oil-infused steel wool.

I rubbed away the oil and the floor's finish looks fine--no difference in gloss or shine. If you happen to have a similar situation, this solution is great: cheap, relatively easy, and effective.