can you use bleach on wood

Can You Use Bleach on Wood? [Here’s What to Avoid]

Wood is used as a beautiful finish within homes across the world. Maintaining the beauty of the wood is a task all on its own. Sometimes you are looking to clean up hardwood floors, and sometimes you are working with an exterior project that needs some TLC. Often, individuals present questions about what the best chemical may be to clean these surfaces or finishes. Can you use bleach on wood? Here’s what you need to know.

As a general rule bleach is not recommended for cleaning wooded surfaces or wood floors. Chlorine bleach can be used for removing mold or other dark stains but after applying and allowed to dry, the surface needs to be cleaned with water and then sanded afterward. Unlike Chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide bleach will alter the wood’s natural finish.

Also, something else to keep in mind is the fact that bleach is often not the most effective way to disinfect wood. Many folks have commented on the ineffectiveness of bleach for getting rid of mold for most woods, and many prefer using other kinds of disinfectants.

The reason for this is that wood is a porous material, which means that the spores will probably be embedded inside the wood. Bleach will probably only be successful at cleaning the wood’s surface, but not the entirety of the piece of wood in question.

Stick around for more insight, and we will cover other basics and present some safer, less damaging cleaning alternatives you can use to bring your wood back to a nice finish. I will also talk about the other uses of bleach on wood.

Reasons Why Bleach Should Not Be Used on Wood

Like I stated previously, bleach is generally known as a harsh chemical. Although bleach is universally recognized as a fierce and excellent cleaning solution, that doesn’t mean it works in every scenario or application.

In fact, with cleaning wood surfaces or finishes, I would highly recommend against it as we illustrated previously.

Bleach could easily take a beautiful hardwood floor or other surface and cause it to show undesirable fading, color changes, and other potential damages which we will cover next.

Color Damaging or Color Discrepancies

One of the most significant reasons we advise against using bleach on wood is the chance it could discolor or show signs of fading on your hardwood or other surfaces.

In most situations, you only want to use bleach on other surface types or different floor types. You could safely use bleach on different surfaces such as ceramic tile, vinyl, and even linoleum. Using bleach on other porous surfaces is where you get yourself into trouble and run into discoloration.

Some experts state that depending on the age of the wood, you may be able to get away with a “one-time” use or cleaning with bleach but, it’s best to avoid this altogether for optimal results.

Exceptions to the rule

One time I used bleach was on stubborn deep grayish-black spots I had on my pine window trim. My issue was that the pine window trim turned gray and black in some areas from excessive moisture. (I had to re-apply polyurethane once completed). It didn’t take care of all of the affected areas because I didn’t get to the trim soon enough but it did help.

Check out our article on how to remove water stains from wood and see how to bleach could be used for removing those deep-set black watermarks. Of course, refinishing will be involved when doing so and that’s why we argue against it unless you absolutely have to.

Like with everything there are exceptions and using a diluted mix listed below may be helpful but do so sparingly and be careful so you don’t end up removing the finish.

Only Use A Diluted Mix If Bleach Will Be Used

Again, although it’s advised against, bleach is sometimes used when appropriately diluted with water.

To do this effectively is easy. Here are the steps that you need to follow. Start by merely mixing your solution together in the following manner.

•    Mix Your Solution of ¾ cup bleach with 1 gallon of water.

•    Wipe or Wash Your Floor First and Allow to Sit for 5-10 Minutes

•    Clean Floors with Your Bleach and Water Mixture

•    Rinse Well Following Cleaning Phase and Allow To Air Dry

Due to The Risk, It’s Advised to Test a Small Section of Floor First

Another trick that you can use if you must use bleach is too try a small area first that would not be noticed easily. A great spot to find a space like this could be an area that’s typically covered with a rug or another piece of furniture.

This will allow you to test if the bleach is going to cause any harm to the floor before proceeding to the larger areas of the floor that will be seen daily. Also, always ensure that when using bleach that you are working with a well-ventilated area to avoid adverse health risks.

We have covered a few things thus far into the post. First, we have discussed that if bleach can be avoided on wood that it should be.

Additionally, we have covered that if bleach must be used that only one good way exists to do so properly.

Now let’s forget about the bleach altogether and discuss other alternatives you can use, so you don’t have to worry about any damage taking place what so ever.

4 Less Damaging Alternatives to Bleach

As promised, I wanted to deliver a few alternatives you can consider using instead of bleach. Below, I’m going to break down four other methods you should attempt to implement before making the bleach a go-to approach that you want to use.

#1- Vinegar and Water Works

Instead of using bleach, you can turn to the next most popular household item that is frequently used for cleaning and other purposes. Vinegar.

Vinegar and water are a much safer approach for your floors. It won’t leave streaks and won’t cause the same damage that bleach could cause. Not to mention that it’s a cheap alternative and doesn’t pose the same health risk that bleach can cause in poorly ventilated rooms.

#2- Steam Mops can Certainly Get the Job Done

steam mop

Your next option is to use a steam mop. Steam mops have been around for a long time and are very useful for cleaning wood surfaces such as hardwood floors. You won’t have the same risk involved with using bleach.

The key with steam mops is to avoid placing too much steam or water over one area without cleaning it thoroughly. This is known to potentially damage other woods such as laminate or cause bubbling to take place beneath the finish.

If you do decide to take this approach, be sure to do your homework and read the recommendations that should be detailed with the steam mop that you intend on using for the job.

#3- Don’t Neglect the Oldest Trick in The Book, Soap and Water

Soap and water are an often-overlooked way to clean wood. The reason for this, I’m not sure. It’s still an effective although time-consuming method. Bust out an old set of carpenter’s knee pads or purchase some and clean the floors the old-school way.

Mix together a soap and water mix. Use a scrub pad and bring your floors back to life with some good old-fashioned hard work. The same rules apply when using soap and water to clean your wood floors.

Do not allow water to sit for too long in one area of the floor and be sure to rinse thoroughly and air dry before traffic is permitted back onto the surface.

Although perhaps the most burdensome method, it’s undoubtedly a better alternative than using bleach on any wood surfaces.

Plain and simple.

#4- A Mop and Murphy’s Oil Soap Can Be Very Effective

Another method you can attempt to use is to use a mop and murphy’s oil soap. All you need to do is mix your soap according to the directions. Simply saturate your mop in the solution and beginning mopping your floors until you have the desired result.

Ensure no water build-up is present in any one area and allow to air dry.  This is another proven and straightforward method that would be considered superior to using a solution that includes bleach.

Final Word, Do Not Use Bleach on Wood When It Can Be Avoided

I know that we covered the damage that bleach can cause to wood surfaces and that’s 100% true. However, if it’s a situation where you plan on using bleach, make sure to follow the steps and guidelines laid out in this post and always be sure to use the diluted water mix at a bare minimum.

Also, ensure you start with a small area and test the results before moving forward.

With all the other alternatives you can choose to implement compared to using bleach, that’s certainly the direction I would go and would recommend finding the option that works for you best.

Be sure to check out our wood related finishing articles like how long does it take polyurethane to dry and danish oil on pine.

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