How to Remove Scratches from Hardwood Floors

Monica asked: How can I remove scratches on my hardwood floor? They are a result of moving and dragging appliances and heavy furniture.

Scratches can quickly ruin the appeal of any beautiful, hardwood floor. There are ranges of scratches and each requires a different fix. Read through the different degrees of damage and then follow the instructions to fix them.

Surface Scratches (only the protective coating is scratched)

You Will Need:

  • Soft cloths
  • Water
  • Hardwood floor cleaner
  • Protective coating

Steps to Remove the Scratch:

  1. Surface scratches are the easiest to fix because only the top protective coating needs to be repaired.
  2. In these cases, clean the scratched area with a soft cloth and hardwood floor cleaner. The area needs to be free of any dirt and grime that could get sealed in during the later steps.
  3. Rinse with another cloth moistened with clean water.
  4. Allow the area to dry completely.
  5. Once the area is clean and dry, apply a new layer of the protective coating. This can be a shellac, sealant or other finish.
  6. Allow the surface to dry overnight.

Minor Scratches (penetrate the surface of the wood under the protective coating)

You Will Need:

  • Soft cloths
  • Water
  • Hardwood floor cleaner
  • Steel wool or fine-grade sandpapers
  • Wax wood repair stick (choose the color that closest matches your wood floor coloring. Avoid clear wax sticks.)

Steps to Remove the Scratch:

  1. Begin by cleaning the surface with a quality wood floor cleaner. Be sure to remove all traces of dirt so they are not pushed further into the wood.
  2. Use the steel wool to carefully rub over the scratched area. Only rub the scratched area, and always rub with the grain of the wood. Rubbing across the grain will increase the mark and make it more noticeable.
  3. Buff the scratched area with the steel wool until it is removed.
  4. To help the scratched area blend in, feather the edges of the scratch slightly by buffing onto the surrounding surfaces. Keep the feathering to a minimum to avoid making the area more noticeable. Your goal is only to blend in the edges.
  5. Next, rub the wax stick over the scratched area. This will fill in the scratch and help it to blend in with the surrounding area.
  6. Allow the wax to set up for 10 minutes.
  7. Use a soft cloth to buff over the area using a large back and forth motion.
  8. Finish by cleaning the area with a clean cloth.

Deep Scratches (gauges and other deep grooves)

Removing deep scratches and gauges in wood flooring requires much more work and precision. These floors need to be stripped, repaired and refinished. Unless you are comfortable with this process, it is best to call in the professionals and have the area professionally repaired.

Polyurethane Coated Floors

You Will Need:

  • Mineral spirits
  • Scouring pad
  • Polyurethane

Steps to Remove the Scratch:

  1. To remove scratches from polyurethane coating, moisten a scouring pad with mineral spirits.
  2. Gently rub the moistened pad over the scratched area.
  3. Wipe with a clean cloth and allow the area to dry.
  4. Recover the area with polyurethane to provide a fresh finish.
  5. Do not use wax sticks on polyurethane floors or apply a wax coating of any kind.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Wood fillers are available in a variety of colors. These can be used for minor scratches that have penetrated the surface of the wood.
  • NEVER wax a polyurethane coated floor. This will not allow you to refinish it in the future.
  • If there are many scratches, it may be necessary to strip the floors, buff them and restain them. This is a process that is best left to those who are experienced with the tools and steps needed to complete the job.


  1. Marvin says:

    I want to only remove the top layer of polyurethane from my wood floor. Is there some type of pad besides sandpaper that will do this?

  2. David says:

    Which grade of steel wool do you recommend?

  3. Kate says:

    Mineral spirits…is that turps or metho?

  4. Melanie says:

    Mineral spirits, also know as “white spirit” in the UK, refers to mineral turpentine. Metholated spirits refers to denatured alcohol. According to Wikipedia, “The main additive [in denatured alcohol] has traditionally been 10% methanol, giving rise to the term “methylated spirits.”

    Source: Wikipedia – Denatured alcohol
    Source: Wikipedia – White spirit

  5. Mr. Farley says:

    I have two scratches and dents (not scratches) caused by a heavy settee. Can you help?

  6. Connie says:

    How do I get rid of foot prints on my hardwood floor? I can just clean them and as soon as I do and walk on them, there are a lot of foot prints. I use Bruce hardwood floor cleaner on them, because my floors are Bruce.

  7. Melanie says:

    This is the article that you need: How to Remove Footprints from Wooden Floors and Furniture.

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