Home Improvement : Repairing Wood Floors Without Refinishing : Lemon juice, lighter fluid will help camouflage scratches, remove stains, spots.

<i> For the Associated Press </i>

If scrapes and scratches mar your wood floors, you can usually correct the problem without a complete refinishing job. Floorboards that are badly damaged can be fixed by removing the old section of flooring and replacing it.

You can remove most stains from wood floors without sanding off the finish. First, try commercial furniture cleaners. If these don’t work, pour some cigarette lighter fluid onto a clean, soft cloth and rub the stains.

For water spots that resist these methods, try rubbing them with cigarette ashes and lemon juice. Or, rub with a mixture of rottenstone, which is a powder used for polishing metals, and light oil.

You should be able to remove minor cigarette burns with rottenstone.


Hairline scratches can be camouflaged with a wax-like, tinted touch-up stick available at hardware stores. On dark-colored surfaces, dip an India ink pen in iodine and apply to the scratches to conceal them.

Fill With Putty

To fix a deeper gouge, clean out the damaged area and fill the cavity with color-matched wood putty. Apply shellac, polyurethane or varnish over the putty to match the existing finish.

To replace a floorboard, drill a series of large holes across the center and against the grain of the damaged board. Avoid drilling too far into the subflooring. If there is no subflooring, try to center the holes over a joist to give support to the replacement.


You can also remove the board by splitting it down the center and along the grain with a chisel.

Floorboards fit together with a tongue and groove joint. Use a sharp chisel to cut off the tongue of the board being replaced, then remove the board. Alternately, use a chisel to split the board along its grain, then pry out the pieces. Cut a replacement board to size for a snug fit and carefully test it against the opening.

Turn the replacement board over and chisel off the lower half of its groove so that it will fit over the tongue of the adjoining board. Coat the tongue and groove with glue. Insert the tongue of the replacement board into the groove of the old flooring, then drive the board into the opening with a wood block and mallet.

Glue-Coated Nails

Drill pilot holes for nails at each end and along the side of the new board. Make holes smaller than the nail you’ll be using. Drive in glue-coated nails and sink the nailheads. Fill the nail holes and the joints with color-matched wood putty.

To refinish the new floorboard to match the rest, sand carefully and vacuum the dust. Apply clear sealer or a stain to match the adjoining flooring. (Some stains come combined with a sealer.) When dry, buff with fine steel wool. Remove dust and apply polyurethane, shellac or varnish.

Allow to dry at least two days, then buff with steel wool again. Apply two coats of paste wax, followed by a buffing with lamb’s wool. Some polyurethanes do not need to be waxed. Check the label.

For information on the source for this article, write Reader’s Digest, P.O. Box 700, Pleasantville, N.Y. 10570.