How to Handle a Water Spill on Your Hardwood Floor

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how to handle a water spill on a hardwood floor

Water and hardwood floors don’t mix.

This is why large water spills or leaky pipes are a big deal. Fortunately, if you act quickly, a water spill can be cleaned up without any problems. If you don’t catch it quickly, though, that spill can lead to permanent damage.

Here’s how to handle a water spill on your hardwood floor.

Key Takeaways:

Start by drying the floor as much as possible with a paper towel. Then, disinfect with a mop and a branded cleaning solution. Then, dry the floor again with a dry towel or dry mop. Finally, run a dehumidifier for a few hours to safely remove any leftover moisture.

Quick Fix: What to Do About a Water Spill on Your Hardwoods

If you have a large water spill on your floor, first, soak up the standing water with towels. If there is too much water, use a wet/dry shop vac to suction the rest.

After the water has been entirely removed, mop your floors with a disinfecting cleaner to prevent mold growth. Hand dry with a towel.

How to Remove Water from Wood Floors: Step by Step

water spill on hardwood floor

Find the Source

The first thing you need to do is find the source of the water spill. If you know the source and have dealt with it, move to the next step.

If you don’t know the source, it could be a leaky pipe you need to fix. If you fail to deal with the pipe, the water will keep coming, and the water could permanently damage your floors.

Remove the Water 

As soon as you see the puddle of water, you need to act fast to remove it. If you don’t, your hardwood floors could warp or grow mold on them.

Start by soaking up the water with towels. If your towels are quickly becoming saturated, bring in a wet/dry shop vac and vacuum the remaining water. Be sure to thoroughly suction in between the planks to remove any trapped water.

If there is furniture or other water-soaked items on the floor, remove them. Place them off of your wood flooring where they can dry.

Disinfect and Dry Your Floor

I know – I just told you to remove all the water from your floor, and now I’m telling you to add some back. But there is a good reason.

When water sits on your floor, it can cause bacteria growth, resulting in mold or mildew – you need to stop this before it starts. To do so, mop your floors with a disinfecting cleaner.

After you’ve mopped, completely dry the floors with a dry mop or towel.

Run a Dehumidifier

If your spill was small and you caught it quickly, you can probably skip this step. However, for larger spills or spills that set for hours, you need to run a dehumidifier.

Dehumidifiers suck up the humidity in the air and help dry out your hardwood floors – this especially important if water seeped underneath them.

Optional: Test the Wood with a Moisture Meter

If you’re worried that your spill has done damage, you can check your hardwood floors with a moisture meter.

You can find wood moisture meters for less than $20 at most home improvement stores. These tools will tell you how much moisture is in your wood floors, giving you a good idea of whether you’ll need to take further measures.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can water sit on hardwood floors without causing damage?

There is no set time. This depends upon the type of hardwood you have as well as the finish. Some finishes are better than others at repelling water.

However, if the water sits on your floors for longer than 24 hours, you’ll likely deal with some type of damage or mold growth. The sooner you can remove the water, the better.

Can mold grow under hardwood floors?

Unfortunately, yes, mold can grow under hardwood floors. This happens when moisture gets trapped under the floor. The leading causes are flooding or a spill that wasn’t promptly cleaned up.

What does mold look like on hardwood floors?

Mold often shows up as black dots on hardwood floors. However, it can also look white, yellow, or green and may even have a fuzzy appearance. You’ll most likely see mold growth in places where the floor has been exposed to an excess amount of water.


If you’re wondering how to remove water from a wood floor, the answer is the sooner, the better. When you’re quick to clean up spills, you can prevent damage. 

Take the necessary precautions and completely dry your floor. If you wait too long or don’t clean up the spill properly, your floor will warp or grow mold.

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Katie Barton lives with her husband and three daughters in an 1800’s style log cabin in southern Ohio. She thinks cleaning is relaxing and is considered the organizing go-to person by her family and friends. She runs the blog Cabin Lane where she shares about cleaning, decluttering, and minimalism. See full biography here.

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