How to Remove Wood Stain – Easy DIY Options

Natural wood is as beautiful as it is functional, and its aesthetics only enhance by being loved and used. But sometimes, your much-loved piece of furniture can look stained, and it could affect the look and feel of the product. But restoring wood and removing wood stains can be fairly easy, and you can easily DIY this to return the furniture to its lost glory.

Using wood in home decor is a popular choice. Using natural wood can add both a rustic and elegant charm to your home decor. While wood is a hard choice and can last much wear and tear, it does need proper maintenance to keep it looking beautiful.

Before we go in further, one thing to understand is that wood stains can refer to two things that are a type of finish on the wood and the discoloration or spots on the wood, which are difficult to remove.

What is Wood Stain?

It is a semi-transparent coating to the wood, which is achieved by soaking pigment into the wood with a solvent and then setting it to bind to the wood. It provides protection to the wood and comes in different shades and colors. To add to its durability, it is advised to add a protective topcoat of varnish along with the wood stain for better results.

Different Kinds of Wood Stain Removers

Different Kinds of Wood Stain Removers

1. Solvents: These work by dissolving old finishes with chemicals. Some kinds of solvents include alcohol, acetone, and toluene. They are powerful, but unfortunately, they are the most toxic out of all the stain removers.

2. Biochemical: These are chemical cleaners with more natural ingredients. They are much safer and better for the environment. Some of these cleaners include citric acid, soy oil, etc.

3. Caustic: Caustic stain removers dissolve the finish and convert it into another substance. They can be relatively harsh than other removers.

Different Types of Equipment You Will Need to Remove Wood Stain

Getting Started on How to Remove Wood Stain

Step 1: Preparing Your Work Area

Preparing Your Work Area

Removing wood stains can be a messy affair depending on the scope of work. Make sure to cover the work area with a drop cloth to protect the surfaces. It is better to work outdoors in a well-ventilated area.

Step 2: Preparing the Wood

Removing the Protective Finish.jpg

Prepare the furniture of wood pieces for stain removal. Remove all hardware from the wood surface. Wipe the wood with warm water and soap and wipe it down with a tack cloth.

Step 3: Removing the Protective Finish


Most finished pieces of furniture or wood have a protective surface coating like lacquer or varnish, which will need to be stripped before you start working on the stain. This usually requires the use of a chemical stripper. Apply a thick layer on the wood surfaces and let it soak as per the instructions on the chemical.

This can typically take between 20 to 30 minutes. After adequate soaking time, scrape with a plastic scraper and use steel wool to wipe down the surface. Allow the wood to dry for one day.

Step 4: Sanding


After the wood has dried adequately, you will have to sand the wood. Use either sandpaper or an electric hand sander to expose the unstained wood. Wipe down with a clean cloth. Now the wood is prepped and ready for use.

Removing Different Kinds of Wood Stains

We often see spots of discoloration on the wood furniture due to regular use and wear and tear. This can be because of moisture and will need to be treated differently. Most household cleaners can help get rid of these stains.

Let’s look at some ways to remove different stains from wood effectively.

1. Water Stains

Water Stains

A water stain is one of the most common stains on wood. To remove it, we need to check if they are dark or white. Dark stains indicate that the water has penetrated into the wood, while white stains are surface stains that can be removed easily.

Toothpaste– Apply a small dab with a cotton cloth on the stain and rub. Wipe off the excess.

Mayonnaise- Apply a small dab with a paper towel on the stain and rub till the stain is gone.

Oil-based products- Use products like petroleum jelly or olive oil with vinegar to remove the stain. The oil seeps into the wood and replaces the moisture, and nourishes the wood from within. Leave it on for a few hours and wipe off the excess.

2. Dried Food Stains

Dried Food Stains

One of the most common stains on wooden tables. Regular household cleaners should suffice to clean these kinds of stains. You can also use vinegar mixed with water to wipe off the stains effectively.

3. Alcohol Stains

Alcohol Stains

Alcohol tends to leave white stains on the wood, which damages the sealant. The most effective way to get rid of these stains is to use oil-based products. Use any oil-based product like olive oil or petroleum jelly to rub the stain. Rub the stain and wipe off the excess.

4. Heat Stains

Heat Stains

A heat stain can usually be caused by a hot cup of tea, or a hot plate of food, etc. In such cases, the excess heat causes white heat stains, which causes the wood pores to expand, absorb moisture, and shrink. An effective way of getting rid of this stain is to use toothpaste. Mix with baking soda and rub on the stain and dry immediately.

You can also use mayonnaise or olive oil to remove the stain. Put a layer of the product on the stain and let it sit for a few hours. Wipe off the residue with a soft cloth and buff the wood till the stained area blends with the natural wood grain.

5. Dark Stains

Dark Stains

White stains are usually damaged to the finish on the wood surface. Dark stains are stains that develop when water or moisture reaches the wood. These are stubborn stains that are much more difficult to remove.

To start with, the dark stain with sandpaper. Once you sand out the stain, apply wood varnish and feather out the edges to blend with the surrounding wood. Finish with a good quality wood polish.

Another way to remove the stain is to use bleach. Apply lightly on the stained area and let it sit for a few hours. Remove the bleach and apply vinegar to prevent discoloration. Finish with a good quality wood polish.

Final Thoughts

It’s fairly simple to remove wood stains with easy DIY options at home. If you think the stain is stubborn or that the piece of wood is expensive and you are unsure of doing it yourself, then it is best to consult a professional. Antique furniture and vintage items tend to be more delicate and hence will need more care. Some kinds of wood, like wicker and bamboo, need special care as well.

It is essential to take care when trying to remove stains from oiled wood furniture. So whether you are updating your hardwood floors or restoring your old piece of furniture, it is best to know how to go about it in the right way.

We hope this easy DIY list has been of help in removing wood stains. Is there a technique you swear by? Let us know in the comments.

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