Trying to remove a dark urine and feces stain from a hardwood floor.
November 30, 2016 3:51 PM   Subscribe

How can I remove a large dark urine and feces stain from a hardwood floor? From a human, not a pet.

A relative collapsed on the floor of their apartment recently where they remained for several days before being discovered and rescued. The person is recovering. But the area where they were laying has been stained dark brown and black by feces and urine.

What would be the best way to remove the stain? Google searches turn up a few products, but do they work? And will they remove stains on wood caused by human, not pet excreta?

Paramedics suggested washing the stain with milk to remove the odor. That was done, and the smell is almost completely gone. But the stain remains.

If you have direct experience and can offer advice, that would be greatly appreciated. If you are speculating and have never personally tried to remove this kind of stain, I respectfully request that you please say so in your answer. Thanks in advance.
posted by zarq to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So, uh, we worked on a house in which we found out a person had died and gone undiscovered for a long time. The carpet had been changed, but the wood floor beneath had a dark, unmistakably human-shaped stain. Nothing worked, really, other than renting a sander and removing the top surface of the wood. Even then, it was noticeable if you were looking for it. A darker semi-opaque wood stain helped. This is probably no help to you if this is a rental apartment.

Maybe the products you're referring to work well for stains that are relatively recent. We have no idea how long this stain had been there--possibly many years. The best I can suggest is to contact a company that specializes in this sort of thing (example) and paying for their services.

I'm beyond happy to hear that this person is doing fine.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:12 PM on November 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

So very sorry for what you and your family have been through, and very glad to hear that your relative is doing better.

I am the owner of both a (very occasionally) leaky Chihuahua and a house with hardwood floors. When we bought the place a year ago, there were a few suspicious dark spots on the wood, and I was very eager to make sure that our dog didn't add more, so before we moved in, we had the floors redone with an extremely durable urethane coating. I ended up having professionals do it, but before I made that decision, when I was researching this issue, the best online resource for info about DIY wood floor repair and maintenance that I could find was Pete's Hardwood Floors. They're out of Minneapolis, and they're wonderful.

Here's what Pete's has to say about urine stains. It looks like your options at this point are sanding and patching. (Last year, Pete's mentioned that they were going to do some trials of a promising anti-ammonia burn product in the near future. As far as I can see, all references to that are now gone from the site, so I'm guessing the trials either didn't happen or didn't go so well.)

I can tell you from my own experience that professional sanding lessened, but did not completely remove, many of the stains.

And to answer your other question: I think that what's true for animal excreta will also be true for human excreta, w/re this. The issue is the wood reacting with ammonia, which is a primary component of both human and animal urine.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:26 PM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

From a sort of similar issue in a family member's rental property, they ended up getting put in touch with a flooring company that specialized in reclamation/restoration/remediation (this was in a small town, where getting a biohazard/crime scene remediation company in would have been a fairly significant ordeal).

The issue with a wet stain is that it goes into the grain and water-damages the wood along with the staining, and it doesn't really come back out without some sort of extracting force alongside whatever solvents might be applicable for the proteins involved (it does not, for the most part, matter what sort of living thing the proteins came from, the issues are the same), and you still have the issue of the damage to the wood. My relative chose in situ treatment (there was some sort of machinery involved in that, aside from sanding) and cheaped out on the refinishing and honestly, it looked like part of the floor had distinctly had something done to it that the rest didn't. You wouldn't know what exactly, and that was her priority, but it definitely looked like there had been a spill or leak.

All this to say I don't think this is simply a thing you can buy from a shelf in a store that will fix this. And of course you run the risk of trying something and having it make the problem worse or making other future options impossible, so if at all possible you're probably better off getting either a biohazard specialist or a contractor with experience in old or difficult remodeling issues to at least talk to you, if not look at it, before you start putting anything on it. At the very least, they will be able to tell you if there IS a cutting-edge product and whether it's likely to work for your situation, and what the absolute ideal order of treatment/repair is.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:32 PM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Pet and human waste are the same, so it's definitely worth a shot using an enzyme cleaner like Nature's Miracle. It should be able to finish cleaning up the smell.

I do agree with above posters that you may need to contact a professional.
posted by radioamy at 4:34 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Twenty-five years ago, I tried everything on the market and consulted a pro re pet stains on a maple floor—wasted a lot of time and money. The only thing that worked was sanding and refinishing, and even that did not get some of the deeper stains.
posted by she's not there at 4:38 PM on November 30, 2016

We have a corner of our floor where one particularly bad pet-not-human accident occurred. We tried everything and nothing removed the remains of the stain. It had eaten through the polyurethane, and the difference in finish exacerbated the problem. We talked to a floor specialist and they said we would have to sand down and refinish to remove it completely.
posted by Mchelly at 4:49 PM on November 30, 2016

I have been told that with some wood floors, it's possible to flip over the affected planks and refinish the undersides to match the surrounding area. Haven't tried it myself, but maybe worth an inquiry.
posted by bunji at 5:04 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have this problem with my dad's house + pet urine/feces. The good news is that the smell will pretty much come out over time. The bad news is that you really do need to sand/refinish to make it look "normal" again. We've decided to just toss an area rug over there because it's one big floor that goes through a few rooms and getting it all redone was more than we wanted to deal with. Sorry you are dealing with this.
posted by jessamyn at 5:07 PM on November 30, 2016

Might be helpful to research hoarding clean up to get a sense of how cleaners deal with longer-term pet waste damage where the substances had a chance to penetrate the flooring (mammal excreta are all pretty much the same so I think it's worth researching pet techniques). Reddit has a fairly active Hoarding thread where some posters have experience cleaning up hoarded homes, it might be a good place to ask. Glad your relative is ok!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 6:00 PM on November 30, 2016

A guy here in town had a good business with fixing hardwood floors where someone had had a carpet over it, and the pet had used the carpet repeatedly. He'd cut out the center area of the finish floor, and the install a distinctly different wood flooring. What was left was a border of the old floor around the sides of the room, and a different flooring in the center. They were quite attractive.
posted by rudd135 at 6:03 PM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Call a professional flooring company and get them to cut out the damaged planks and replace/refinish that small part of the floor if enzyme products do not work.

Specifically, I would rent a carpet steam cleaner that sprays steam/detergent then sucks up liquid. Hit that spot with the steam cleaner. Then I would saturate the spot with enzyme cleaner and place a dehumidifier near it. All that liquid and heat is going to fuck up the wood a little, so don't be shocked. You are trying to remediate a serious stain. It is what it is.

After 2 days of drying, check the stain. Is it visible? Does it still smell?

If NO - Congrats! Give it a light extra fine sand (or skip if the wood is OK-ish) and retouch the finish on the floor. Ask an artsy friend to help if you don't feel comfy with this part. There are a bajillion furniture and floor finish products. Ask a friend if this is not in your wheelhouse.

If YES - Call a pro and have them cut up that part of the floor and replace it.

I'm handy so this is what I would do.

Like everyone else, I'm glad your relative is doing better! It's really nice of you to take care of this for them. I believe because the stain is new that you can get it out and save the wood. Good luck!!
posted by jbenben at 6:07 PM on November 30, 2016

bunji: "I have been told that with some wood floors, it's possible to flip over the affected planks and refinish the undersides to match the surrounding area. Haven't tried it myself, but maybe worth an inquiry."

This will only work on face nailed floor boards; and then only those that don't have reliefs (wide grooves) milled in the bottom. Boards without visible nails incorporate a tongue and grove that is closer to the bottom than the top which allows more sanding without exposing the groove (tongue and groove flooring also almost always incorporates relief on the bottom) and therefor won't be level with the existing flooring (and if relieved won't be flat).
posted by Mitheral at 9:08 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Local flooring guy was able to remove some stains in our 70-year old oak floors by pulling some sections and replacing with a matching wood. The expensive option is to do that using age-matched wood reclaimed from other local properties... the cheap option, which we used as we were patching/replacing about 1/3rd of the floor, was to use new wood with the same width, and then carefully stain to color-match as best we could. It's not perfect, but it looks quite nice.

(The REALLY expensive option is to have someone pull the entire floor, then use a mix of new and old wood to make a semi-random stripy pattern of intermixed ages of wood... it looks REALLY cool when done but you don't want to pay for that)
posted by caution live frogs at 11:58 AM on December 1, 2016

One thought you may wish to pursue, as disturbing as this may sound, is to call the police and ask who they employ as crime scene cleaners. These people are probably expert at dealing with such situations as you're encountering. (Inspired, somewhat, by Spotless.) I wish you luck and hope this helps.
posted by WCityMike at 3:50 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

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