How To Remove Wood Stain? (5-Step Guide)

Last Updated On September 17, 2021

Want to know how to remove the wood stain from projects like hardwood floors and other wood surfaces? 

This guide has everything you need to know about wood stain removal, wood stripper, etc. in 5 easy steps for you to follow.

So, before you do remove the wood stain, I recommend you read how to remove wood stain

In this ProPaintCorner.com guide, you'll learn:

  • How to remove wood stain
  • Tips and tricks for removing wood stain
  • Materials needed to get the job done right when removing wood stain

And much more!

How To Remove Wood Stain?

So, before you do remove the wood stain, I recommend you keep reading our guide so you can give yourself the best chance at success!

What Do You Need To Know About Removing Wood Stain?

Removing wood stains is possible, but it will take a bit of finagling if you want to do the job right.

Besides, refinishing wood furniture that already has an old stain on it won't be possible until you lift the previous stain out of the wood with some wood stain remover. 

Sure, you could simply sand the surface of the wood until you've reached a new fresh layer to remove the stain, but using a chemical stripper helps you get most of the old stain without having to take off too much material from your project.


What Supplies Will You Need For Removing Wood Stain?

Here's a master list of supplies you'll need for removing the wood stain. It's quite probable that you won't end up using all of these products, but we wouldn't want to leave anything out because we want your DIY project to go as smoothly as possible.

Sandpaper

You'll want to start with something like 120-grit sandpaper when removing the wood stain.

Paintbrush

You'll want a paintbrush to apply the stain stripper evenly across the surface of your project.

Stain stripper

Use either a stain stripper product or an at-home solution like bleach or baking soda.

Be careful when using solvent-based stain strippers as they contain methylene chloride (extremely harmful to humans).

Steel wool pad

A steel wool pad makes it easy to scrub off the stain after the stain stripper has done its magic. A plastic bristle brush might also help to scrub the surface.

Plastic scraper/putty knife

Plastic scrapers will help scrape the stain off of the surface after the stripper has sat for a few minutes.

One of the good parts about plastic scrapers is that they don't cause any cosmetic damage to raw wood. A putty knife is still an option, just be careful not to make indentations in the wood surface that might be a pain to get out once you start sanding.

Varnish

You may want a varnish of choice to refinish after you've completely removed the previous stain.

Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits are always good to have around. In this case, you'll clean up the surface of the wood with mineral spirits after it has been stripped and sanded.

Drop cloth

We recommend throwing down a drop cloth in your work area to help avoid making a mess.

Baking soda

Baking soda is an at-home solution that helps remove stains. Although it's not as strong as solvent-based stain strippers, baking soda will get the job done in a pinch.

Bleach

Bleach is another at-home solution for removing stains. Do a quick internet search to find out if using bleach would be a good option for your specific type of wood and project.

Bleaching will ultimately make the color of the wood lighter, so be aware of that when considering bleach as an option.

Sponge

A sponge could be a could way to apply the stain stripper.

Chemical-resistant gloves/nitrile gloves

You absolutely need chemical-resistant gloves when working with dangerous chemicals like stain strippers.

Safety glasses

Don't take your vision for granted. Chemical strippers can contain extremely harmful chemicals like methylene chloride that you do not want splashing up into your eyes.

Cotton mask

We recommend using a cotton mask throughout this process to avoid inhaling harmful chemicals.

Furniture polish

Citrus-based furniture polish is a good way to bring out the beauty of natural wood.

Trash can

You'll want a trash can on hand to scrape stain residue into.

Damp cloth/paper towels

Use these to apply warm, soapy water to the

Clean workspace

Last but not least, make sure you have a clean workspace to help ease the tension.

Basic tools (screwdrivers, razor blades, etc.)

You'll probably want some simple tools, like screwdrivers and razor blades to help remove hardware and cut the paint masking when covering up areas that shouldn't be exposed to the stain stripper.

Did you know: Staining wood can actually increase its lifespan. This is because the stain prevents splintering, rot, and rain from destroying the wood's surface.

Re-staining your project? Here are some extra supplies to pick up!

If this is a re-stain project, you'll want to make sure you collect some additional supplies so you can avoid the extra trip to the hardware store.

Paint sprayer

Paint sprayers are a great way to re-stain your project with fast precision. We have plenty of recommended paint sprayers on our page, so you know where to go if you need some recommendations. 

Paint masker

We highly recommend you use a paint masker to cover up the parts of your project that won't be painted.

Search something like '3M paint masker' on Amazon for the best results on your next painting project.

Masking tape/paper/film

Masking tape and paper or masking film connected to your 3M paint masker is key for quickly covering up hardware and other surfaces that won't be painted.

Read More >> What Is The Best Way To Stain Wood?

How To Remove Wood Stain (5-Step Guide)

So now that you've gathered your supplies, let's walk through the step-by-step process for removing stain from your wood surface.

(Psst! You can click any of the links below to jump directly to that step.)

  1. Clean the surface with warm, soapy water
  2. Apply the stain remover, and let it sit
  3. Scrape off the stain
  4. Sand/Resurface
  5. Refinish

Step 1 – Clean the surface with warm, soapy water

Using warm water will help open the pores of the wood so that the stain more easily comes to the surface.

So, grab a damp cloth that is wet with warm, soapy water, and get that wood finish warm and wet.

We recommend using dish soap because it doesn't have lotions and other additives that hand soap sometimes has. Any citrus-based cleaner will also do the job.

Step 2 – Apply the stain remover, and let it sit

Apply some of the stain removers to the old finish, and let it sit for the recommended time according to the manufacturer's instructions. Some products might say 5 minutes, some might say 30 – it just depends. 

If you're using a household method like baking soda or bleach, we recommend letting it sit on the surface of the wood for about 15 minutes.

You'll want to remove the stain in a well-ventilated area.

Be careful not to cut yourself on sharp edges. Go slow, and make sure the stain stripper covers all areas of the project.

Step 3 – Scrape off the stain

Now that the stain stripper has worked its magic, it's time to scrape off as much stain as possible. 

It's good to scrape along the grain of the wood for flatter projects, you might need a small plastic scraper to help you get into the nooks and crannies of smaller projects like wood banisters, cabinets, etc.

Steel wool is another tool that will help bring out as much stain as possible in both tighter and larger areas.

The most important part when scraping off the stain is making sure you don't scratch the surface of the wood. It's usually not a big deal if you do because it will sand off with some sandpaper, but you get the picture – it won't be fun if you scratch an antique piece of furniture or another nice piece of wood.

Step 4 – Sand/Resurface

Dark stains especially will need extra sanding after the fact. As stated earlier in this article, 120-grit sandpaper is pretty standard when painting and staining. 

You could use smaller sanding sponges for smaller furniture products, or you could use a sanding pole with regular sandpaper attached to the end for larger projects like wood floors, siding, etc.

If you want an easy solution, you could even try an electric palm sander or orbital sander to clean up the surface of the wood. Just don't go as crazy as using a belt sander as it will create unwanted grooves in the project.

Step 5 – Refinish

After the surface is clean and smooth, it's time to resurface it to protect it from future harm.

For hardwoods, we recommend something like Miniwax Crystal Clear Lacquer over the top of a water-based stain.

There are literally hundreds of different options if you're planning on applying a new stain, so we recommend checking out our Amazon recommendations. 

We've already researched the best stains on the market, so if you want to save some time comparing products just give our page a quick skim.

Read More >> What Are The Best Paint Sprayers For Staining Fences?

Other Valuable Resources For Dealing With Wood Stain

Now that you know how to remove the stain from your wood surface, take a look at the other home improvement tips you can use for future stain projects!

Re-staining/Refinishing? You have plenty of different options!

Staining wood has gone to a whole new level since the old days. Your options for stain/varnish products have drastically increased, so you'll want to choose your stain carefully to get the most ideal results.

Here's a quick rundown on the basic stain types.

Try products like Citristrip on Amazon or at Home Depot. We've done all the research for you on our site, so click the link for the best recommendations.

In a pinch? Try used motor oil to seal exterior wood surfaces

Paint costs a lot of money. If you're in a tight spot with money, you might try painting your used motor oil onto the surface of exterior 

Used motor oil will turn the color of the wood to black, but it works really well to protect the wood from water.

Ask us a question

Do you have a question about your wood staining project? We're happy to help. Shoot us a line on our home page, and we'll be happy to get back to you. Enjoy, and good luck!

Re-staining your project? Here are a few quick steps:

1 -> Sand the wood

Use some 120-grit sandpaper to rough up the surface of the wood.

2 ->Clean and mask

Clean and mask the surface of the wood with a paint masker and a vacuum/compressed air. The idea is to get all of the sanded dust out of the wood's pores so it will better accept the stain.

As stated earlier, we like to use the 3M paint masker to quickly cover up surrounding surfaces.

You may also want to add a pre-stain conditioner to the wood to help the stain go evenly inside the pores of the wood.

3-> Apply two coats of stain

Apply the first coat of stain, wipe off the excess, and wait for it to dry according to the time recommended by the manufacturer.

After the first coat is on, and the stain has seeped evenly into the pores of the wood, it's time for a second coat. 

The second coat of stain will demand less stain than the first coat, so expect to use 40% + less stain when applying the second coat. 

4-> Polyurethane clear coat

Most painters these days are using a polyurethane clear coat over the top of their staining projects because it protects the wood from scratches, UV rays, and water for long periods of time.

All that hard work you've done removing the previous wood stain has paid off! 

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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