How to clean hardwood floors with hydrogen peroxide

The wood floor finish is neither brittle nor indestructible. Wood floors must be properly cleaned using the correct level of solvent to protect their beauty and fine finish. Some of us (ahem) have had to learn this truth the hard way.

Although you can’t damage hardwood floors by walking on them, all wood is susceptible to staining. And you can dull a beautiful hardwood floor by cleaning it with the wrong solvent. Used properly, hydrogen peroxide is not one of those harmful solvents. In fact, it’s a very effective stain remover and reliable cleaner for hardwood floors.

There are three ways to achieve a safe hydrogen peroxide solution for cleaning hardwood floors:

No. 1: Use 12% hydrogen peroxide straight from the bottle.

#2: Mix 1 cup of 35% hydrogen peroxide (if you can find it), which is the “cleaning grade” concentration, with 3 cups of water.

No. 3: Mix 2 tablespoons of sodium percarbonate powder with 1 gallon of hot water to achieve 12% hydrogen peroxide. When mixed with water, sodium percarbonate releases hydrogen peroxide.

The hydrogen peroxide that you find in your supermarket or pharmacy is 3% hydrogen peroxide. While that’s great for most household tasks that use hydrogen peroxide, it’s not strong enough to deep clean hardwood floors.


In general, you can clean hardwood floors with a hydrogen peroxide solution and a mop or towel. Be sure to wring out the mop or towel so it is slightly damp; too much water is bad for hardwood (bad for hardwood laminate flooring, too). It is best to use a non-abrasive cloth or microfiber mop, not a natural fiber mop because it spreads too much water.

First, vacuum or sweep the floor thoroughly to remove all dust, hair, crumbs, and other debris.

Next, clean the floor in sections with the hydrogen peroxide solution of your choice (one of the options above). It does not need to be rinsed. Blot dry immediately with a separate rag before moving on to the next section.

For minor spot cleaning, pour 3% developer, the grade available at pharmacies, into a spray bottle, then spray, wipe, and blot.


Pet urine can create unsightly dark areas on the floor that are accompanied by pungent odors. Cleaning to remove the stain and odor as soon as it happens is optimal. You can usually remove both with a combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.

Spray paper towels with 3% peroxide and lay the towels on the stains, making sure the paper towel is very well saturated. Leave this on for several hours, occasionally spraying with 3% hydrogen peroxide to keep the towels moist. When you remove the towels, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on the stain and leave it there until it dries. Then vacuum up all the baking soda.


One of the problems with pet stains is that even after treatment with hydrogen peroxide, the finish has been permanently damaged and, depending on the severity, maybe even the wood. If the finish was damaged, your only option is to sand it down and then refinish the area.

You can treat permanently damaged/darkened wood by bleaching it with oxalic acid. Just know that this can lighten the wood to a shade or shade that no longer matches the rest of the floor. In this case, it is much better that you call the professionals.


If you can’t find the products listed above in your local area, visit, where I’ve posted online resources for 12% and 35% hydrogen peroxide, sodium percarbonate, and oxalic acid.

About Cheapskate Everyday

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary”. Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but the letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”