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Can You Use Bleach on Hardwood Floors?

Bleach is a very powerful chemical disinfectant that is often used to whiten clothes, remove stains, and sanitize household objects.

It is not ideal for all surfaces though, while you can get bleach specified for bathrooms, sinks, drains, toilets, and kitchen cleaning, it is very capable of damaging and killing other surfaces.

So if you are preparing for an intense clean on your home, you may wonder if you can use it to clean your hardwood floors too. 

PS. If you've ever wondered what is the best chair mat for hardwood floors?, we have you covered!

The Short Answer

The short version of the answer is, no. It’s generally not safe to use bleach to clean hardwood floors.

This is because bleach can break down the finish of your floors and seep into its porous fibers, which will likely cause discoloration or weaken of your floorboards.

There are plenty of alternatives that are safer than bleach, so there is no real reason to use bleach and risk the health and look of your floors. 

However, that being said, if you really want to you can get away with it, but you should only do it sparingly and take proper precautions when doing so. 

What Does Bleach do to Wooden Floors?

The Basics

Bleach gets rid of tough stains that plague your life on your wooden surfaces.

It will also enrich the natural color of the wood and reverse aging on wood, which is what often leads to discoloration and darkening of your wood. 

Bleach achieves this result by oxidization of the wood fibers while altering the molecules that affect and reflect the color, much as you would see in hair bleach. 

These molecules are called ‘chromophores’, the bleach affects these in a way that changes their chemical composition which makes them reflect light differently.

The active ingredient in most bleaches is oxygen, which is actually highly corrosive, and we breathe it in!

It is highly reactive as well, this, in turn, improves the light-reflection efficiency in the wood. It basically does the same to wood that it does to hair or clothing and fabrics. 

Issues

So after hearing that you are probably tempted to give it a go right?

Hold your horses for just one second and we will tell you what could go wrong because bleach is not all sunshine and rainbows.

 The cells in the wood are held together by lignans, which are fibrous and plant-based compounds.

When applying bleach it can break the bonds of the compounds and therefore puts the structural integrity of your wood at risk. 

As a result, you may start to find splintering, cracks, breakages, creaky floorboards, and maybe worse. This is most likely if you use bleach as a hardwood cleaning option in excess or if you use it very often. 

If you are to use bleach think of it as a treat, use it too often and you’ll spoil your wood, just like having too many candies could spoil your appetite. 

Types of Bleach

There are many types of bleach available and they all do the same sort of thing, but they may display different strengths and a few altering qualities.

Hydrogen Peroxide Bleach

This blech is made form a sodium-hydroxide mixture.

The two components here produce a powerful bleach that releases many oxygen molecules and will instantaneously oxidize the surface when it comes into contact with it.

Chlorine Bleach

This bleach is equally as reactive and powerful as hydrogen peroxide bleach is on wooden surfaces.

It differs as it releases both oxygen and chlorite radicals. 

Oxalic Acid

This bleach different and is usually available in a crystalline form, this type of bleach is most frequently used in water-based solutions.

It forms an acid and released oxygen upon react8ing with wooden surfaces. It is one of the weakest types of bleach you can get but is fantastic at getting rid of those moe minor pesky stains. 

All three of these bleaches have active ingredients, simply indicating that they are all corrosive.

They will break the bonds of the chromophores in your wooden floor and change how they reflect to light and hence alter the color. 

Each of these will differ in how they affect the wood but none of these are free of the risks they may pose to the health and longevity of hardwood flooring.

However, there is an alternative fourth type of bleach, which is called non-chlorine bleach or is sometimes known as oxygen bleach.

It is structured differently and is less toxic than other options such as the sodium-hydroxide mixed bleach. But it also means that it is not as powerful as those options in how it disinfects surfaces.

The active ingredient in this bleach is named ‘sodium percarbonate’, which when mixed with water, creates tiny bubbles that loosen stains. 

Spills!

Should you find yourself in a situation where you have accidentally spilled bleach on your beautiful hardwood floors, you may panic.

We know how you feel, the fear of having a blotchy pale patch on your floor that differs in color from the rest can be daunting. But there are some mays you can try to get rid of it or take it out of mind’s eye if the worst should happen.

Step 1- The first step is to react fast. Cleaning and sanding. All you need is a cloth and some sandpaper, it is best to keep these at the ready just in case. 

First of all, as soon as the bleach hits the floor, dart over to your sink and get a damp cloth. Wipe the surface over with the cloth and get the surface bleach off of there.

Now, if your wood is already affected by the bleach, try to sand it down a little until you find the true color. 

Of course, don’t sand down to the point where you have a dip in your floor, but if it is not too bad you should be able to find it in the first few layers of wood. 

Step 2- If this hasn’t worked and it’s horribly unsightly, it may be expensive but it can be worth it to simply replace the wood. 

Step 3- If your bank account doesn’t agree with replacing the tainted wood, the other option is to simply cover it up, it’s worth investing in a nice rug or washable mat that will be easily cleanable should it get stained or dirty. 

When Can I Use It?

Infrequent applications may be okay but you do this at your own risk.

Finishes

If you have a finish like polyurethane on your would, it can hold its own against bleach.

It acts so that bleach will simply sit on top with the stains you want cleaning, rather than it soaking into the wood. 

Age

If your wood is old, it is more susceptible to be damaged by the bleach, it is unable to resist the chemicals as much, younger wood may have more chance. 

Dilution

Bleach should only be used in this manner when it is adequately diluted. We recommend using 5 tablespoons of bleach per 1 gallon of water. 

Do not forget there are plenty of useful alternatives for bleach out there specializing in hardwood floors. 

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