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Water Spill On Hardwood Floor: A Complete Guide On What to Do

Water Spill On Hardwood Floor: A Complete Guide On What to Do

If you notice a water spill on hardwood floor then you really need to clean it up as soon as possible.

Our favorite method for this is to either use absorbent towels or a wet vacuum to remove the water, followed by disinfecting and dehumidifying the wood to remove any moisture that has been absorbed.

But how long does it take for water to soak into hardwood, and what can happen if you leave the spill for too long?

What To Do If You Spill Water On Hardwood: Step-By-Step

If you encounter a water spill on hardwood floor, follow the steps below as soon as you notice the spill to minimise the chance of further damage to your floor.

Find And Remove The Source Of The Water

Most water spills are a result of accidents like knocking over a glass of water or a spill while cooking, but sometimes it can be due to a leak.

Either way, you need to identify what caused the spill and get rid of the source, which again will most likely not be an issue but if there is a leak you will be thankful that you looked for it.

Remove Any Furniture Or Carpet In The Way

After this, it’s time to get any furniture, carpet or even rugs/rug pads out of the way as these will soak up the water or make it difficult to remove all of it.

Sections of carpet over the floor can be washed and dried similarly to rugs or most floor pads, while larger pieces of furniture will need to be dried at the point where they were in contact with the water spill.

Get Rid Of The Water

Once you’ve got the source of water out of the way as well as anything blocking the spill you need to get rid of the water itself.

Absorbent towels are the obvious choice for small spills. Simply place a couple of them over the area and let them do their thing. After a few minutes, remove the towels that are drenched and use a few fresh towels to get rid of any moisture that is left on the surface.

Larger spillages will be harder to clean entirely with absorbent towels, so it’s a good idea to use a wet vacuum if you have one. Wet vacuums are get for spills and can get most of the liquid up in a matter of seconds.

If you don’t have access to a wet vacuum then a mop can do the trick, but it will require a bit more effort. You can then use good old absorbent towels to do the rest.


After the water is dealt with it’s a good idea to disinfect the surface using a wood friendly disinfectant and cleaner.

This will help to prevent mold growth on the surface of the wood that you otherwise might ignore. This step is really simple, just make sure to use a brush that won’t scratch your floor when applying the disinfectant.


This step might seem a bit excessive, but if the spill was either left to sit for a prolonged period of time or if it occurred where there are gaps between panels, then it can be necessary to prevent structural damage.

We covered this topic in detail in this article if you want to take a deep dive into the subject.

Dehumidifying will help to remove the moisture that was absorbed into the wood from the spill which can prevent structural damage between panels or underneath them. This is done with a dehumidifier, but you can also speed this process up using fans to increase the circulation of air around the affected area.

Assess Any Structural Damage

After dehumidifying keep an eye on your floor for a few weeks afterwards to see if you notice any changes in shape or structure.

Water spills cause the wood to absorb water which makes the affected panels increase in size, leading to issues like cupping, buckling and crowning.

Cupping and Crowning

Cupping and crowning are where either the outer edge (cupping) or centre (crowning) of each floorboard rise up due to moisture content.

These can be reversed in non-severe cases though, and you can check our guide on this specific topic here.


Buckling occurs when the floorboards pull away from the subfloor, leaving a small gap between the two.

Buckling is much less likely to happen from a spill, however, and is usually found where a floor has been flooded for an extended period of time – so this is not usually something to worry about. If you do notice buckling you will have to get a flooring expert to replace the floor though.

Sand and Refinish If Necessary

If the surface of your floor is damaged from the spill then it will need to be sanded down and refinished.

This can be done by yourself, but we recommend this only for people who are experienced with their floor and know the right sealant to use.

How Long Does It Take For Water To Damage Hardwood?

So, how long exactly does a water spill become dangerous to hardwood flooring?

The answer is usually quite a boring one: it depends.

If there are gaps in the floor where the spill occurred then your floor will absorb the water very quickly which can lead to damage. On the other hand, if your floor is properly sealed then it should be protected for at least a good couple of hours, and in some cases up to 24 hours.

Surface damage can happen much faster and will usually show after a day or so once the spill is cleared up, whereas structural damage like cupping, crowning and buckling can take a week or more to take place.

How Much Water Does It Take To Ruin Wood Floors?

To ruin a hardwood floor you need a lot more water than your typical spill at home.

Ruining a hardwood floor will take not only a large amount of water, such as that from a leak or flood but also for the water to stand for a long amount of time. Older floors are more susceptible to being ruined as well when compared to newly fitted floors that are properly sealed.

Final Thoughts

If you follow the steps in this article you are guaranteed to tackle any water spill on a hardwood floor, just keep in mind that the sooner you get the water up the better.

Let us know if you have other tricks for dealing with water spills on hardwood by contacting us here.