Cedar spray dissolved finish in small area

Q: I have an area of my hardwood floor where the finish dissolved and is sticky because I accidentally sprayed something on it. About 2′ by 2′. Can I repair it?

A: I’m curious as to what you sprayed. If it has dried you will bare minimum have to sand it smooth. If it has just affected the finish and not any underlying stain, if it is stained, buff away any roughness and thoroughly buff the area so you can gain adhesion of more finish coats. Try to do the entire boards affected. It will be tough to pull off an invisible repair without doing the entire room.

Follow-up: I was spraying old t-shirts with cedar spray (ingredients alcohol and cedar oil) to hang with my wool clothes to repel moths. When I tried to wipe it up the finish came up too. It is now dried, it was very sticky last night.

A: I would not have expected a reaction like this. Alcohol should not do that to a polyurethane. It will however dissolve shellac. Is this finish shellac?

Follow-up: I do not believe it is shellac because we had our floors cleaned, stained and refinished several years ago using a ‘no sanding’ method. I assumed it was polyurethane. I didn’t think shellac was still used by professional refinishers. The spot has dried and is only about 18“ square, although there are some small spots where the stain is gone and you can see the old light oak underneath.

Related Q: I left a luggage bag on my hardwood floor overnight containing a bottle of hand sanitizer. The bottle was on the bottom of the bag and leaked, and now there is a large black stain where the sanitizer leaked out. I’ve tried regular cleaners, toothpaste and baking soda, etc., with no success. Do you have any suggestions to remove the stain?

A: It seems clear this black stain is not just on top of the floor, on the finish surface or it would have wiped off. So, it has gotten right into the wood. This means the finish and stain will have to be sanded off in hopes the black mark will come out. Before doing that, you might try making up a mixture of water and oxalic acid which can be purchased from the local pharmacy. See if it will remove the stain without totally removing the finish first. In a worse case scenario you would have to replace the damaged boards.

Follow-up: I’ll give the oxalic acid to see if it will help. I appreciate your time to provide the advice.

Leave a Comment