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Removing oil stain footprints from wood


Q. My husband disassembled a 1899 Pagoda Style house in NY and reassembled it in Westford. He took it down in 1980 and we moved in last May. Needless to say, it is like his child, and that is why I am writing with this question. While we were at work, someone visited our home and left oil footprints on the porch. Needless to say my husband is just beside himself. You see he rebuilt this house by himself. (no help) So his wood is like gold to him. Do you have a solution to this problem? Is there anything that will take the oil out? Thank you for your time.


Sue Brosseau
Homeowner - Westford, Vermont


A. First rub area with kitchen soap having a high lye content or saturate cotton with Hydrogen Peroxide [affil link] and place over the stain. Then saturate a second layer of cotton with ammonia and place over the first. Repeat until stain is removed. Let the area dry and then hand buff.

I too have wood floors in my house, I am assuming that you have either a wax finish or a penetrating stain on the floor.

Good Luck

Marc Banks
- Elizabeth City, North Carolina


A. One way to remove oil from wood is to soak the stain with white spirit and then sprinkle talc over it. Leave overnight then hoover up the remnants. Remove anything left with a cloth soaked in white spirit. You may have to repeat this process a few times as the deeper oil rises to the surface.If this does not work try the same process but with petrol.

Take care !

Phil Lyons
- London, U.K.

Ed. note: And be really careful using gasoline on such a thing! It's incredibly flammable ... and outdoors only, of course.

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Q. Hi, I have sydney blue gum flooring throughout my whole house that have been coating with a satin finish polyurethane coat. 6 months after coating, marks like footprints/boot marks started appearing. We have been told this effect is called "ghosting" and no one seems to know how to remove the marks. Apparently sanding back to the wood and repolishing only works temporarily and then the marks reappear. There are thoughts it could be oils on boots left on wood that causes it. Has anyone heard of this and does anyone know a permanent remedy?

Lisa Fodero
- Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


Q. Hi my name is Cindy. I recently had pre-finished hardwood floors installed in my home (Brazilian walnut). I have been going crazy with the smudge marks and footprints that I see all over my floors. I have tried vinegar and water, and various other hardwood floor cleaners, nothing is working. Do you know how handprints look on sliding glass doors, or stainless steal appliances? it's almost like that. I was so excited about having these floors installed, but now I spend all my time trying to clean them. Does anyone have any ideas? I would really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Cindy Hennessey
homemaker - Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey


Q. How to remove an oil spot from white finished furniture? Hello. I am writing to seek advice on how to remove an oil spot on my daughter's white finished dresser. It seems her lotion based medicine leaked onto the dresser and created an oil spot that is rather large in the center of the dresser. I want to be able to remove the stain without ruining the finish on the wood.

Any help advice would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Angela Lindauer
homeowner - Bloomington, Indiana

January 16, 2008

Q. Hi, I have a similar problem, not with a oil stains on the deck but with oil stains (from the back of my head) on the headboard of the bed.
I am not sure what kind of wood / what material, the headboard is made from, since it a recent purchase (not antique), I have to assume that it was made in either the Philippines or Indonesia.
The wood is an espresso color and has a matte (non shiny) finish, unfortunately I lean back against it when I watch TV and noticed about a 3-4 inch circular stain that I have to guess is from the back of my head.
I would appreciate any suggests / advice / recommendations as how to clean this stain.
Thank you,

Bob Link
- Atlanta, Georgia

February 11, 2008

Q. We also have installed a new Brazilian cherry floor.

It looks beautiful until you walk on it. It keeps foot prints like glue. We use water and a towel to dry erase the marks only to find a new set when someone walks on it. Please someone give a us a solution?

Thank you ... Fred

Fred Shelby
- Richmond, BC, Canada

June 2, 2008

Q. I spilled motor oil on bare teak decks (boat). How can I remove the stain? I've tried automatic dishwasher detergent and teak cleaners. It lightened the stain but is still there. Thanks!

Jeff Snow
hobbyist - Orrs Is., Maine

July 30, 2009

Q. My daughter spilled incense on her new dark wood dresser. How do I get this off?

Jane Taylor
- Plainview, Minnesota U.S.A.

April 29, 2011

Q. I am the lead environmental services worker at the company I work for. We have a large conference room that has tables that are used throughout the day for many different functions. The tables have developed milky white spots or perhaps spill marks on the tops. I have tried mayo, toothpaste and heat from a hair dryer. The hair dryer lightened them but has not removed them completely. Any suggestions as what to try would greatly help me out.
Thank you,

Beta Koziel-Schell
environmental service worker - Rochester, New York, USA

January 6, 2012

A. With regard to the April 29 , 2011, post: the white could be the result of water seeping into and under the finish. I've had that problem before. That a blow dryer lightens it makes sense to me because that would drive some moisture out. The mayo not working would also make sense as the fat would not displace the moisture. Try wiping some strong alcohol - like 91% rubbing alcohol - over the white area. It should disappear. The alcohol will grab the water and take it along when it evaporates. You may need to use some furniture polish afterward.

Verne Sherman
- Portland, Tennessee, USA

August 25, 2013

Q. I have an antique harvest table (100 - 150 years old) that unfortunately was used as a work bench 40 years ago. As such there is an oil stain (car motor oil) on several of the top boards. Other than that it is in excellent shape. It appears to be made out of cherry wood and is a family heritage item. Any way of removing the ancient oil stains as the rest of the table is in incredible shape?

Albert Tschirhart
- Guelph, Ontario, Canada

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