Have you ever spilled paint on your hardwood floor? If you have, then you probably know that wiping it up before it dries makes the job so much easier. But, what if it was already too late? What if the paint had already dried and adhered to your beautiful wood? I recently learned the answer to that question. I also learned just what a pain in the back removing paint from hardwood actually is. So, if you have some paint you need off your wood floor, before you break out the elbow grease (which you will need in spades), read on as I test several of the ideas I found on Pinterest. And, ultimately, I’ll let you know the best way to clean paint off hardwood floors.
I should add that my paint problem wasn’t just a little spill in the corner of the room. No, it was the entire floor. Long story short, I pulled up the carpet in both of my kids’ rooms and found hardwood flooring. Yay! Unfortunately, whoever laid the carpet had painted the baseboards first with a paint sprayer. Without using a single drop cloth!
I’m fairly sure that the person or persons’ ears were ringing because I thought some pretty nasty thoughts while I was scrubbing away on those floors. I haven’t said a single one out loud, but I’ve thought plenty. If you’d like to know how I got into this mess, you can read my post on how to tell if you have reusable flooring.
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Anyway, after removing the carpet, I had quite the job on my hands. The center of the room was the only part not coated in pain and even it had drips and smears. After a bit of internet searching and a quick trip to Walmart, I got to work cleaning the floors. Like most of my projects, I was trying to keep the cost to a minimum. I didn’t have the time to rent a floor sander and do a complete refinish either. If I had, I could have just foregone the scrubbing. A sander would get all the paint off the floor, along with anything else.
Because I was trying to do this in a weekend and because the hardwood floors were in great shape, I chose just to clean the paint off. If the paint had been oil based, I would have had no choice but to use a paint thinner, which would have stripped everything off the wood. But, because it was latex, I had the option of cleaning it without stripping it.
Let me start by telling you what didn’t work
- I started by testing a section using straight rubbing alcohol. I just poured it on and used a cloth to spread it around. But I knew right away that it was too strong. While it did break down the paint so that it would wipe off fairly easily, it stripped the lacquer off, leaving only the bare wood. Since I wasn’t going to refinish the floor, I didn’t want to go this route.
- Next, I tried heat. I didn’t have access to a heat gun, not that I’d have a clue how to use it, so I broke out my trusty hair dryer. I’d hold the dryer close to the floor for 15-30 seconds and then scrape the paint with a plastic scraper. The heat did make the paint more pliable but only worked on a small section at a time. Since I didn’t have the next ten years to clean one child’s bedroom, I quickly gave up. I will say that if you have a small paint spill that has dried, this option would probably work.
- I tried using the plastic scraper without the hair dryer. The effect was laughable. Perhaps if I was dealing with one large glob of paint, the scrapper might have been able to get it up, but with all the little splatters that I had, the scraper didn’t touch them. I was afraid to use a metal scraper because it would scratch the floor.
- My last fail before I found the solution that worked best was to use mop water (water and Pine-Sol) and a washcloth. This removed some of the smallest specks of paint, but that was it. I switched to a scouring pad and had slightly better results, but it still didn’t get all of the paint splatters.
In the end, I used a combination of all the options listed above. I poured rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle and added an equal amount of water, diluting the alcohol by half. Then I filled a 5-gallon bucket with a couple of gallons of hot water and Pine-Sol. I figured the heat of the water would help loosen the paint. I continued using the scrubbing sponges instead of a washcloth. These worked great for scrubbing the paint off then I’d flip it over and use the sponge side to wipe the loose paint away. The scouring pads would soften after scrubbing a large area so I would switch it out for a new one. I think I went through about six of them while cleaning both bedrooms.
Armed with my bucket, spray bottle, scrubbers, and a plastic scraper, I set to work. Doing just a small section at a time, I would spray it with the alcohol solution, wait a few seconds, run the scraper over the section to remove the larger splatters, scrub it with the scrubber, and then wipe it with the sponge. I’d have to rinse out the sponge in the bucket several times for each section because the paint flecks liked to just relocate once they were free of the floor. So, it took several times of wiping and rinsing before I’d get all of them up.
I’m not going to lie. This was a slow process. For each room, and my kid’s rooms aren’t very large, I scrubbed for at least 10 hours. I would dump the water and refill it when it would start to cool and then move to the next section. Of course, if your paint problem isn’t as large, it won’t take you near that amount of time.
When I finally finished removing all of the paint, the floor looked pretty dull. Some sections looked worse than others. I added two coats of Halloway House Quick Shine High-Traffic for Hardwood as a cheap way of bringing back the shine I’d scrubbed off. If you haven’t tried it before, I think the pictures are enough to show that the stuff works.
All in all, I’m really pleased with how the floors turned out and even though it took a lot of work to clean all of the paint off, it was so worth it. I didn’t take a before picture of the carpet that used to cover these rooms because I was too embarrassed. Just know that it was in horrible shape, and that I’d considered calling in a hazmat team to dispose of it.
Have you ever cleaned latex paint off hardwood? If so, what technique did you use? If you say you managed to get it off without removing the finish and without having to scrub, you better provide evidence. Just kidding, I’d love to hear about it. After all, I still have one more room to do.