Staining a Hardwood Floor with Vinegar and Steel Wool
Staining a Hardwood Floor with Vinegar and Steel Wool

Hi, Joe Glavin with Philadelphia Floor. The National Wood Flooring Association and the Philadelphia Floor Store hosted a seminar on finish application and color. Jason Elquest of Blackhawk Floors led the presentation on a variety of finish applications and coloring of hardwood floors. In this segment we will be focusing on the unique use of steel wool as a coloring technique for hardwood floors. This is steel wool and straight vinegar. It soaked for three days. It did change color. If you soak it overnight, which is usually what I do––and I usually just get the pads, if you have some steel wool pads or something, throw them in there. 3/0 steel wool tends to work the best, just from what I’ve seen. Usually let it sit overnight, it still even is clear the next day. This has actually changed colors a little bit. You definitely need to strain it because the steel wool particles will break down, so you want to strain it. And I would strain it a couple of times. It gives you that gray-aged look. Does anybody believe that vinegar and steel wool will change the color of a floor? Okay. So, if you are doing something like that, this is basically what we used to use before some of these reactive stains. So, if you had a beveled edge floor and wanted to create a French blade you could go through with a solution like this and essentially paint it on all the seams, come back and scrape it smooth, sand off all the color that you don’t want on the face, which is the same way we do a lot of our handscraped French blade floors, where we go through and the floor is already handscraped, we go through and add this solution to the floor and wipe it on–– it’s going to turn charcoal black, or charcoal gray, and then we scrape off what we don’t want to have on the floor. So it’s kind of like that reverse painting, where you scrape off what you want to see the image of––that’s pretty much what this is. I’ve never used a paint sprayer before, but I’m sure you could. I would probably use a T-bar after the fact to kind of just smooth everything out. So essentially what you want to do is just get everything covered. You can leave heavy spots on this. You just want to have pretty consistent color on everything. [inaudible] a T-bar, but you could use a mop. We just use a T-bar to smooth it out. You just want a nice, consistent color. You probably could. I’ve never done it. This goes on so fast that we just usually do it all by hand. And that’s it. We’ll let that do its thing, it’ll change. That’s the board. The solution we used here is iron acetate–– the result of mixing white vinegar and steel wool. The same solution could be achieved by mixing nuts and bolts or nails with vinegar. The solution works best on white oak. The varying extractives in white oak, such as tannin, enhance the charcoal color of the reaction. Like many reactive solutions for coloring wood, the mechanic is largely dependent on the species and how much extractive is available for the reaction to occur. Floors stained in this manner should be coated with a solvent-based finish, such as dewxed shellac, oil-modified urethane, or a conversion varnish. To learn more about the seminars available from the National Wood Floor Association and those hosted by the Philadelphia Floor Store, go to

27 thoughts on “Staining a Hardwood Floor with Vinegar and Steel Wool”

  1. brandon rosa says:

    Is there an exact mixture of equal or greater or lesser parts to one another???  Please do tell, this is only thing I don't want to mess up.  Wondering if I have too little steel wool if it will be too light and vise versa for dark.

  2. Bricktamblin04 says:

    Is it safe to coat apoxy clear on top after the staining?

  3. Pario says:

    Could you please redo the video with the proper white-balance/color correction. The warehouse lights are skewing the color so we can't see the real effect. You can color correct in FinalCut Pro and iMovie fairly easy. I assume you are using a mac given the theme music 🙂

  4. john smith says:

    It is suitable for pine wood

  5. Justin Norton says:

    how would this do on a red oak?

  6. Tracy Stewart says:

    you could still see all your lap lines. My customers would never except that blotchy look. The color was great, application needs work though. it is usually very easy to make a sample look good… but, when applied I the real world it is so much harder. I think this was a fail.

  7. ReclaimedPalletCreations says:

    Im trying this on a reclaimed pallet project in the future!

  8. Rob Mul says:

    Does not work. Steel wool was in vinegar 2 weeks and never changed colors

  9. Tracy Stewart says:

    I would water pop the floor first let dry over night in a warm home(65). When applying the solution keep the fresh edge wet. In the video he was applying the solution to dry which gives a double stain look everywhere he started and stopped.

  10. ♡ Francoo ♡ says:

    will it work on maple wood?

  11. Kittah's says:

    I'm planning on sanding down an old pine table.. Will this work for me??

    Also I want a white stain as well.. Please help

  12. Tammy Renaud says:

    Pretty cool but my mix turned out to be black. lol glad it was a test run.

  13. luis vilca says:

    Hi guys. Question. How can I make it. Shining., I stained my floor and looks great but not shining

  14. Pappa Beats says:

    Conversion varnish for flooring? Wow. Hard to pull that off in a residence. Those products are usually for industrial shop use only with proper equipment on cabinets.

  15. Bojan H says:

    FreaKINg love this, my cabinets will get this:)

  16. Todd Ferrell says:

    Can this be applied with a wool applicator

  17. Todd Ferrell says:

    My floors came out almost black. My wife loves it

  18. Yura Kovalec says:

    do it yourself , go to woodprix page and learn how .

  19. Egor Biletskiy says:

    I made it, learned on woodprix website. great solutions I think.

  20. Vadym Volodko says:

    Woodprix is nice for that.

  21. Andrew Graham says:

    6% vinegar?

  22. Richard Upinya says:

    does the vinegar have an adverse effect with with water based poly? would love to try this.

  23. Dee Nies says:

    Does anyone know how this would look on birch?

  24. Sir Nuggets says:

    Anyone know if you could use a gel stain or maybe a toner on top of this to achieve a different shade or would the acidity of the vinegar stain interfere with that or cause problems later on? Also if you were staining birch in this manner would it come out blotchy like birch normally does, or would you need a wood pre-conditioner before applying this type of staining?

  25. Sae LaVerdad says:

    is it permanent or would it bleed onto your socks?

  26. Ritercrazy says:


  27. Changing Things says:

    Wutter based.

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