Stained and now have footprints throughout the room

Q: We sanded our old maple floors, starting with coarse grit, going all the way to 180 grit. After vacuuming the floors and cleaning with mineral spirits, we let the floors dry. Wearing clean sneakers (the bottoms were clean), we stained the floors a chestnut color. Now we have 1 coat of stain and footprints throughout the room.

Can we sand this stain down and clean and apply a second coat, or will the footprints show up again?

A: I would use perhaps an orbital sander with 80 grit and/or a polisher and remove as much of the stain possible. 180 grit is too fine. I’m surprised you got much of any stain penetration at all. Generally finish with 100 grit.

Water popping (wetting the floor) will open the grain and allow deeper more consistent colour. Wet and let dry, then stain. It sounds to me that your clean shoes were wet on the bottom. Did you clean them by wiping with a wet cloth? If so, you accidentally popped the grain and got the darker stain colour in the outline of your shoes.

Also see our recommendation to hire a pro.