Oil-based wood stains can offer excellent protection to wooden surfaces while enhancing the overall look. But when it is time to change the look by, say, a new finish, you will want to know how to remove oil-based stain from wood.

Getting rid of the layer of solid stain or oil-based wood stains gives you the much-needed blank slate to work on. However, you may not get the desired results if you try refinishing a wood surface without removing the old coat of stain.

Read along to learn how to remove oil-based stains from wood.

How to Remove Oil-Based Stain from Wood

To remove oil based stain from wood, use chemical stripper. Clean the surface first and dry. Then, apply a chemical stripper to the surface and scrape it off as soon as it begins to bubble and peel. After stripping the wood, rinse properly with water and allow it to dry completely before refinishing.

How to Remove Oil-Based Stain from Wood Furniture

Like any wood stain, oil-based stains absorb into the grain of the wood, so removing them can be hard.

Also, oil stains often go together with a protective varnish; therefore, you will have to use a paint stripper to remove the varnish.

You will also require a medium-coarse steel wool and medium-grit sander to remove thin layers of wood stain.

Supplies for stripping stained wood

  • Chemical-resistant gloves like the Ironclad General Utility Work Gloves GUG
  • Safety goggles (3M Safety Glasses)
  • Safety face mask or respirator (3M Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator)
  • The best wood stain stripping products
  • Dropcloth
  • Natural-bristle paint brush
  • Dull metallic or plastic paint scraper
  • Steel wool
  • Rags
  • Fine-grit and medium-grit sandpaper
  • Electric hand sander

Also Read: How to Thin Oil Based Stain

How to Remove Stain From Wood

Follow these simple steps to strip oil-based stains from wood furniture and floors without damaging the surface.

Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace

Most paint removers for wood floors consist of harsh chemicals designed to handle varnish. These chemicals can be harmful to your health if you should inhale them.

So, ensure your workspace is well ventilated to avoid the risk of concentrating the fumes in one place.

Even better, consider working outside if possible. Except for some outdoor projects like removing oil-based paint from a wood paneling or a workpiece that is too large to move outside.

In such a case, your options would be limited to keeping the work environment well-ventilated. Ideally, open the windows or turn on the ventilation system as you work.

Aside from the ventilation, protect any other surfaces you don’t want the stain remover for wood to come in contact with. You can use a drop cloth to cover these surfaces and keep them out of reach of the chemical substance.

For instance, lay a drop cloth on your floor if you are working on a piece of furniture. This will prevent chemical spills from reaching it. Likewise, if you’re outside, the drop cloth should protect the lawn or deck from spills.

Read More: How to Remove Stains From Hardwood Floors

Step 2: Assemble Your Tools and Materials

By now, you likely already have the stripper and the rest of the items you need for this project.

If you do not have the stripper at home, you can buy one from a nearby home improvement store or your local hardware store.

Assemble all the supplies (tools and materials) in one place, so you do not have to interrupt the activity once you are started.

Step 3: Protect Yourself

The chemicals in products such as the wood stripper can be harmful to your skin if they come in contact. So wear protective hand gloves before you begin handling the chemicals.

Also, put on your old long-sleeved clothing so you won’t have to worry about getting wood stains off hands.

Since the chemicals produce fumes, wear goggles to cover your eyes and a safety mask or respirator to keep you from inhaling the fumes.

The chemical stripper may have the manufacturer’s instructions and specific recommendations regarding the kind of protective gear to use. Even though what we have recommended here should do in nearly every scenario, it still won’t hurt to read the instructions on the label.

Step 4: Prepare the Stained Area

It is best to work with a clean surface. So, prepare the stained wood surface by cleaning away any loose dirt or dust.
You may use soapy water consisting of regular laundry detergent or dish soap and clean water for this part. Then, gently dry off the stained area with a clean rag.

Step 5: Apply a Thick, Even Layer of the wood stain remover

Pour some stripper in a bowl to scoop it with the paintbrush and apply to the stained area. Make sure to check the label for the kind of material you need for the bowl, often a glass or specific metal designed to hold such corrosive solvents.

Alternatively, pour the chemical stripper directly onto the wood surface from its container. Next, spread it evenly using the natural-bristle brush.

The product container will also have instructions on how best to apply the stain remover for wood. Follow those instructions when using the product.

Work in a small area at a time if you are removing oil-based stains from a large piece of wood or furniture.

Step 6: Let the wood stain remover Sit for 15-20 Minutes.

Allow the chemical stripper enough time to remove as much of the stains as possible; about 15 to 20 minutes. You will know when the surface is ready for the next step when it begins to swell or bubble.

The manufacturer may specify a different amount of time for soaking, so take a moment to check the label for these specific details.

Regardless of the time instructions, keep checking the surface every few minutes to see if you need to add more of the product. Add more if you notice any areas drying out while you wait.

Learn more here on removing paint from wood with stain.

Step 7: Scrape Away the Stripper and Stain off the Wood Surface.

Use the scraper to strip away the loosened wood stains and varnish. Keep the pressure even and gently scrape it off in a straight line along the direction of the wood grain. Repeat the process until all the stain stripper has come off the wood surface.

Step 8: Wipe the Surface with Steel Wool

Soak a steel wool pad with the remover and use it to wipe down the surface along the grain. Try to ensure the pressure is even and gentle to remove any remaining stains.

After stripping all the stain residue, use a wet rag to clean the surface and let it dry for about 24 hours.

To avoid any blunder before sanding, check out what grit sandpaper to remove stain from wood?

Step 9: Sanding stain off wood

Once the area is dry, sand the wood surface with medium-grit sandpaper using an orbital handheld sander. Keep sanding until you achieve the desired clarity with bare wood now somewhat visible, when you have removed all traces of the stains and varnish. Switch to fine-grit sandpaper and sand to your desired smoothness.

After sanding and achieving the desired clarity and smoothness on the wood, it’s now time to responsibly dispose of the removed stain particles, wood dust, and debris. Here’s a guide on disposing of wood stain properly.

When you are done, use a damp cloth to wipe the surface to remove all the sanding dust. Voila, you now have your clean workpiece without any traces of stain.

Related Article: How to Get Wood Stain Off of Concrete

Wood Stain Removal Tips

If you wish to remove a lot of stain from wood, the secret is to leave that stripper on for as long as possible. What the stain remover does is create a slight film over the top of the piece of furniture that you’re trying to work on.

The longer you let it stay on, the more stain it will remove.

  • Always use a very dull scraper to avoid the risk of gouging the wood. Of course, you could use a phenolic or plastic scraper, but these start to wear on edge too fast. As such, an old metallic scrapper should do great.
  • Work with the grain when using steel wool on wood to avoid creating any scratch marks.
  • Always keep an even pressure when sanding or using steel wool on wood to achieve the best results.
  • When using an orbital sander, you can always use its edge to your benefit. For example, people keep the sander flat on the wood surface they are sanding. But if you want to sand a specific area of the wood, you can raise one side of the sander at an angle and use its edge to define the area you want to sand.

Learn more: How to get sharpie off wood


Will Mineral Spirits Remove Old Stain?

No, mineral spirits cannot remove the old stain. Instead, mineral spirit can only lighten the stain if it is on dark wood. Use a soaked rag in the solvent then rub it along the wood grain. However, you can use mineral spirit to remove water stains from unfinished wood.

Will Paint Thinner Remove Wood Stain?

Yes, paint thinner will remove the stain. Soak a clean cloth in a bowl with the paint thinner. Rub the thinner in a circular manner on your piece of stained wood as you refresh the rag in the solvent. Do this until the stain is out.

Will Vinegar Remove Wood Stain?

Vinegar can remove the wood stain or fail. Put some vinegar on the stained surface, let it sit for some time, and then rub using a stiff brush. If the stain fails to come out, you can opt for a bleaching agent (Oxalic acid).

What Happens if You Leave Stain on Wood Too Long?

Stains will remain tacky and not dry to touch if you leave them for too long on wood. The excess stain will redissolve into the wood but peel off again, leaving only the penetrated stains. To avoid that, here’s what to do in case you forgot to wipe off excess stain.

Does Acetone Remove Wood Stain?

Yes, acetone can remove wood stains. Acetone is an organic solvent you can use to remove stains from your wood surface. However, you must sand your surface to strip any leftovers of stain.

Can you strip stain from wood?

Yes, you can strip stain from wood. You’ll need to use a chemical stripper, then sand and refinish. Be sure to read the instructions on the stripper carefully, as they can vary. Once the stain is out, refinish the wood with a new stain or varnish, or leave it as-is for a natural look.

How to remove dark stain from wood

First, wipe the stained surface with a rag and leave it to dry. Mix some non-gel toothpaste with baking soda, making a paste. Using a clean cloth, rub the paste on the stain gently. Leave it for 10 minutes, then wipe away the residue using a damp cloth

What is the best way to remove stain from wood

The best and easiest way to remove stain from wood is using a mild soap and water solution for light stains. You wipe the area with a soft cloth until the stain is gone. If the stain is more stubborn, you might need to use a stronger solvent like acetone or rubbing alcohol.

How to remove stain from wood cabinets?

The first step of stripping paint from cabinets is making some paste with baking soda and water. Use a damp cloth to apply the paste to the stains, scrubbing along the stained section. Let the paste stay on the cabinet for some time and clean it off afterward

What’s the best Homemade wood stain remover?

The best Homemade wood stain remover is club soda and salt combination. Mix 1 tablespoon of salt with 1 cup of club soda. Pour the mixture over the stain and let it sit for a few minutes. Blot the stained area with a cloth or sponge repeatedly. It should come off pretty easily.

Can you sand off stain?

Yes, you can sand off stain. Doing so will remove the top layer of the stain, which will lighten the overall color of your stained surface. After sanding, be sure to vacuum up any dust that has been created. You may need to repeat this process a few times to fully remove the stain.

How to remove old stains from wood

Removing old stains from wood requires you to make a homemade paste with water and baking soda in the same ratio. Rub the paste into the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it off with a damp cloth. Repeat as needed until the stain is gone.

How to remove stain from wood table

You can make a homemade paste with water and baking soda in the same quantity to remove a stain from a wood table. Apply the paste to the discoloured area, leave it for about 15 minutes, then wipe away the paste and stain using a damp cloth. Finally, finish drying the table using another cloth.

Read also: How to remove wood stain from carpet.

How to remove wood stain without sanding?

One way to remove wood stain without sanding is to use a liquid or gel stripper. This will soak into the finish and loosen it. Another option is using a heat gun. The finish gets heated up, causing it to bubble up. Once it cools, you should be able to scrape it off easily.

What removes wood stain?

A popular and natural way is to use vinegar and olive oil. Combine equal parts of vinegar and olive oil, mix them, and apply the mixture to the stained area with a cloth or sponge. Rub the mixture into the stain until it is gone, then rinse the area with water and dry it off.

How to remove gel stain from wood?

Soak a clean cloth in paint thinner. Rub the paint thinner over the wood until it begins to come off. Wipe off any remaining gel stain with a clean cloth. Pour more thinner onto your rag and continue to scrub until the stain dissolves.

How to remove fresh stain from wood?

Take a cloth dampened with mineral spirits and scrub down the piece to remove fresh a stain from wood. Use a gentle circular motion, and avoid applying too much pressure, which could damage the wood’s surface. If the stain is particularly stubborn, you can reapply the mineral spirits and allow it to soak.

Also, read our article on how to remove water stains from lacquered wood furniture. You can use this information to help you prevent further damage and keep your furniture looking like new.

What if you do not want to remove the stain permanently? Can you paint on top of stain to cover it up?

Final Thoughts on How to Remove Oil Based Stain from Wood

We hope that you enjoyed this tutorial now that you know how to remove oil-based stains from wood.

If you left your stain untreated for long, you may not remove it, considering not all stains can be removed, so act quickly. We will be happy to hear any comments or observations in our interactive comments section below if you have any.

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