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How to Clean Oil Off a Wood Floor

How to Clean Oil Off a Wood Floor

3 Ways to Clean Oil Off a Wood Floor

Wood floors are an essential element of modern, stylish home design, and can really add to the ‘look’ of your house or apartment. However, an unsightly oil stain in the wrong place can ruin the effect, or cost you your deposit if you’re renting. This can be especially problematic since oil can soak quickly into the grain of the wood and produce a stubborn stain. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to clean up in this situation.

Method 1

Cleaning a Spill Immediately


  1. Act quickly. The faster you can deal with a spill, the better. If you wait for too long, you may have to buy special cleaning products or your floor may be damaged.[1]

  2. Spread kitty litter on the floor to mop up the spill. If you do not have access to kitty litter, you can use sawdust or baking soda. Kitty litter will work best as it is specifically designed to be absorbent. The more of the spill you can mop up immediately, the less likely it is to soak into the wood grain.[2]

    • If you do not have access to kitty litter, sawdust or baking soda, you can use newspaper or kitchen towel to blot up the spill.
    • Use gloves for this step to make sure the oil does not cause skin irritation.

  3. Wait 30 minutes for the kitty litter to soak up the oil. If you have used paper towel or newspaper, skip this step.[3]

  4. Clean up the kitty litter with a vacuum cleaner. Repeatedly vacuum the floor from different directions to ensure that all the litter (or comparable absorbent material) is picked up. Also skip this step if you have used paper towel or newspaper.[4]

  5. Mix a mild dishwashing detergent solution in a bowl. Use regular dishwashing detergent or a similar cleaner designed to cut through oil. Mix one teaspoon of detergent for every 4 cups (950 mL) of water. Use your hands to mix up the solution and create soapy suds.[5]

    • Do not use water-based cleaning products for this step. Oil and water don’t mix, and using a water-based cleaner will spread the stain rather than clean it up.

  6. Use a cloth to spread the detergent suds on the stain. Do not place too much water on the wood as this may damage it further. Use the cloth to gently work the suds into the woodgrain to break down the grease. If necessary, you can scrub the area using a soft brush.[6]

    • Wipe the soap away with a cloth dipped in clear water.[7]

  7. Use a cloth to clear up the suds/oil mixture. Ensure that you use a soft, dry cloth or towel. Once the suds are removed, dry the wood gently and thoroughly. Allow the area where the spill was to air dry completely. If possible, open a window or use a fan to speed the drying process.[8]

    • If the grain of the wood is raised after the floor is completely dry, smooth it with fine sandpaper.[9]

Method 2

Dissolving Older Spills


  1. Use tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) for a wax-finished floor. If the stain has penetrated into the woodgrain, you have a wax-finished or a penetrating-finished floor. TSP should be easily available at hardware stores.[10]

  2. Use odorless mineral spirits for a surface-finished floor. Paint thinner is a common and easily available example of a mineral spirit product. If the stain has only penetrated the finish (the top layer of the floor) and not the wood itself, you have a surface-finished floor.[11]

  3. Ventilate the room and put on rubber gloves. Open a window or use an electric fan to provide airflow through the room when using more powerful cleaning products. Rubber gloves can prevent skin damage or irritation.[12]

  4. Work the cleaning product into the stain with a cloth. Place a limited amount of the cleaning fluid on a clean cloth. Rub the cleaning product into the stain in the direction of the wood grain.[13]

    • If the stain persists, repeat this step.

  5. Allow the stained area to air dry. If possible, use a fan or open a window to aid the drying process. Wait until the area is completely dry before proceeding to the next step.[14]

  6. Apply a wax polish to provide a protective seal. Squirt a small amount of wax polish on to the affected area. Rub it into the wood in a circular motion using a soft cloth. Doing so will also help restore the lustre of the varnish.[15]

Method 3

Treating Stubborn Oil Stains using Fuller’s Earth


  1. Sprinkle Fuller’s earth powder over the stain. Fuller’s earth is a type of clay used for absorbing oil. Leave the Fuller’s earth on the stain for 10-15 minutes.[16]

  2. Treat extra-stubborn stains using a paste of Fuller’s earth and water. Mix Fuller’s earth with a small amount of water and spread it over the stain. Leave the paste for 24 hours. Dust the paste periodically to ensure it does not pick up dust and stick it to the floor.[17]

  3. Clear off the Fuller’s earth with a brush or palette knife. If you used the powder only, use a clean cloth or a stiff-bristled brush. If you used a paste of Fuller’s earth and water, use a palette knife to ease the dried paste off the floor.[18]

    • If using a palette knife, be careful not to scratch the floor while easing off the Fuller’s earth paste.

  4. Clean the floor with detergent. Mop the floor using a regular household floor cleaner (e.g. Flash). This will get rid of any Fuller’s earth residue.[19]

  5. Use sandpaper to gently sand the stained area. You only need to do this if any oil still remains on the raised woodgrain. If you do use sandpaper, be careful to only sand down the raised sections of the woodgrain where oil persists. If necessary, use wax polish to restore the wood’s lustre.

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