How to Remove Water-based Wood Stain From Woodwork

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Staining woodwork creates a natural wood color for decorative trim. Removing wood stain becomes necessary if damage occurs to the finish or if the color no longer fits the room's design theme. Wood stains are available in an array of colors, ranging from light to dark. Unlike paints, stains do not sit on the surface of the wood, they are absorbed into the wood, making removal a bit more challenging.

Things You'll Need

  • Tarps
  • Light-tack masking tape
  • Chemical stain stripper
  • Rag
  • Foam brush
  • Metal scraper
  • Mild detergent
  • 240-grit sandpaper
  • Two-part bleaching agent
  • Bleach neutralizer
  • White vinegar
  • Spray bottle

Lay tarps on the floor to protect it from drips and spills. Apply light-tack masking tape on the surfaces around the woodwork. Apply two strips of tape, one above the other, to protect walls and ceilings.

With a rag or foam brush, apply a chemical wood stain stripper made specifically for water-based wood stain.

Allow the stain stripper to remain on the surface of the woodwork for the time indicated on the label or in the manufacturer's directions. Times vary depending on the active chemical. Some environmentally safe chemicals can take up to one hour, while harsh chemicals may take 15 to 20 minutes.

Carefully scrape the loosened stain with a metal scraper. Pull the scraper at a 45-degree angle along the surface, and follow the direction of the wood grain. Pushing the scraper can cause scratches and gouges on the woodwork.

Wipe the surface with a rag, and wash it thoroughly with a mild detergent and water. Allow the woodwork to dry completely. If some of the wood stain remains, lightly sand the woodwork surface with 240-grit sandpaper, following the direction of the wood grain.

With a brush or rag, paint a two-part bleaching agent onto the woodwork. The bleaching agent works to lighten the stain. Let the solution remain on the surface until it reaches the desired color. Do not exceed the time limits set by the manufacturer, or you can damage your woodwork.

To stop the chemical lightening process, apply the neutralizer that came with the bleach. Wipe the bleaching agent off the surface with a rag. With a spray bottle, apply white vinegar to the woodwork, and wipe the surface clean to remove the bleaching agent and neutralizer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear gloves and safety goggles when removing water-based wood stain.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area.

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References

  • "Creating the Perfect Wood Finish With Joe L'Erario"; Joe L'Erario; 2005
  • "Repairing Furniture"; Time Life Books, Ed.; 1997
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