How to clean paint from hardwood floors

Child with green paid on hands and feed stood on hardwood floors with paint surrounding.
(Image credit: Getty)

Whether you’ve been decorating, upcycling some furniture, or simply getting into the arts, you may have unfortunately found yourself searching for how to get paint off hardwood floors. You may have put down a ground sheet, laid out some magazines, or have been as careful as possible, but the painting seems to always land in spots it shouldn't. 

Unfortunately, cleaning it up is not as easy as wiping it away with a cloth. Paint can dry within seconds, sticking to and staining whichever surface, especially hardwood flooring. But with the right tools and techniques and a little patience, there are ways to remove paint without damage. 

We've spoken to a cleaning professional for expert advice on keeping your hardwood floors clean and protecting them from potential damage. So grab your best steam mop and follow this step-by-step guide to have your floors paint-free in no time.  

How to get paint off hardwood floors  

Getting paint off hardwood floors can be more difficult than it seems. Cleaning expert Matthew Harrison from PriceYourJob offers his tips and tricks to clean floors: 

1. Determine the type of paint

Before anything, Harrison argues, the key to removing paint from wood floors is to “determine the type of paint on the floor. This will affect the cleaning method.” Whether the paint is water-based, latex, or oil-based will require different removal methods. 

What the expert says...

If you’re unsure which paint is on the floor, Harrison advises to “put a bit of rubbing alcohol onto a cotton ball before gently rubbing it over the paint." If any paint comes off, it is water- or latex-based. If no paint comes off, it is oil-based paint.

2. Clean with soap and water

If you have spilled water-based paint, then the good news is that you can easily clean it with soap and water. To do so, fill a bucket with warm water and a few drops of dish soap. Simply rub the damp cloth toward the wood grain and allow the paint to soften. If the paint feels loose but isn't coming off, Harrison suggests using a paint scraper or sandpaper to gently scrape it away, without using too much pressure in case of scratching the floor. 

3. Add rubbing alcohol and lemon juice 

If the methods above don’t work, you can use a rubbing alcohol mixture to remove paint from your hardwood floors. To do so, you’ll need to make a mixture of three parts rubbing alcohol and one part lemon juice. Harrison then states, "use a rag to cover the paint with the mixture and let it sit for around five minutes. Then scrub the paint off.” 

4. Apply heat 

You can use heat as an additional step if the paint isn't coming off. This will soften the paint so it can be lifted. You can use a steam mop or a hair dryer for more intense heat. 

5. Use a paint stripper 

If the paint is oil-based or any previous methods haven't worked, you can purchase a paint stripper from any DIY store. Use a rag to apply the paint-removing solution to the floor, which should dissolve. 

How to protect hardwood floors 

There are ways to protect hardwood floors from becoming dirty or damaged. These include limiting the amount of traffic on your hardwood floors, like not allowing anyone to walk with high heels or letting pets roam freely.

But more importantly, all hardwood floors should be sealed. Flooring professionals often use polyurethane varnish, but oil and shellac can also be used. Cleaning your floors regularly will also help them to last longer. However, “over-cleaning can sometimes run the risk of damaging hardwood floors if they get too wet too often and struggle to dry properly.”  

How to keep hardwood floors clean 

Keeping hardwood floors clean can be tasking. We get it. It’s a chore that can often get left behind, but follow these simple steps, and you can easily keep your hardwood floors clean correctly: 

1. Dust your floors

Make sure any large pieces of debris are removed before vacuuming away any dust, crumbs, and detritus that will only end up being pushed around the room during the next step: mopping. 

2. Steam mop 

Using a steam mop is the most effective way to clean hardwood floors. They use heat and fine fibers to deal with potential small cracks and tight corners in hardwood floors. You can use an average wet mop, too.  

Louise Oliphant
Ecommerce Writer

Louise is a contributing writer at Top Ten Reviews. With experience in home eCommerce, Louise worked in PR and communications before joining Future in April 2022. She now writes across Real Homes, Ideal Homes, Livingetc, Homes and Gardens, and Gardeningetc. 

Bringing bags of bedding expertise from her time working for luxury bedding and homeware brands, Louise specializes in sleep content, so you can wind down well. From buying guides and reviews to features and news, Louise is your go-to for getting a great night's sleep. Aside from helping readers get essential shut-eye, Top Ten Reviews’ also allows Louise to write content on vacuums, cleaning and other household need-to-knows. Tidy room, tidy mind, right? Oh, and she certainly won’t snooze on sales, deals, and discounts, or great designer dupes - there’s nothing better than a top-brand bargain in her eyes.  

When she’s not shopping for or trying out the latest home buy, Louise will be at one of the galleries around London. With a BA in Contemporary Art, Louise loves viewing exhibitions and getting inspired for her next artwork. Otherwise, you’ll find Louise decorating the bare space of her newly-rented East London flat, if not in her bed - which is no surprise given how comfy it must be.