There’s nothing like revealing raw wood from underneath old wood stain. Whether you’re looking to refinish your furniture or leave the furniture in a raw wood style finish, here are our best tips for how to remove wood stain from furniture!
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I’m not going to sugar coat it, removing wood stain from furniture is not for the faint of heart.
Sometimes the wood stain comes off really easily, and it’s a pretty quick process.
If you want to remove one layer of wood stain from a flat surface, it should be a decently quick and painless project, like this Antique Gold Dining Table that we stripped the top.
But if you want to take on stripping a piece of furniture down to raw wood, it can be a pretty long process.
Especially if there are multiple layers of stain/paint!
Before you start your project, no matter how big or small though, here are the best tips and tricks for removing wood stain from furniture!
And, of course, the step by step process on how to remove wood stain.
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How to Remove Wood Stain
- Citristrip Stripping Gel: Amazon or Home Depot
- Cheap Paint Brush
- Gloves: Amazon or Home Depot
- Mineral Spirits: Amazon or Home Depot
- 0000 Steel Wool: Amazon or Home Depot
- Toothbrush / Wire brush: Amazon or Home Depot
- Putty Knife (for flat surfaces!): Amazon or Home Depot
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How to Remove Wood Stain from Furniture
- Protect Yourself and Your Work Area
- Brush on Citristrip Stripper
- Cover and Let it Sit
- Remove the Wood Stain
- Let the Wood Dry
- Sand Places You Missed
Today I’m sharing how to remove stain from detailed wood like the legs on this mini buffet!
This technique can be used on stain or paint.
Actually, this piece had a layer of paint and 2 layers of stain that we had to remove to get it down to bare wood. I’m sure it had some polyurethane topcoat on it as well.
Step One: Protect Yourself and Your Work Area
Work in a well-ventilated area if possible.
Citristrip doesn’t have a really harsh smell like most other strippers, but for your health, it’s still smart to work in a ventilated area.
I also like to wear my respirator to protect my lungs.
Then lay down some cardboard under the piece so you don’t get stripper and stain all over the floor.
Step Two: Brush on Citristrip Stripper
Put on your chemical resistant gloves.
Then pour some stripper onto the paper plate and use the brush to brush the stripper all over.
Brush it on as thick as you can!!
If you have a lot of stain to remove, work in smaller parts.
Trust me, you don’t want to put stripper all over the entire piece and try to work on it all at one time.
It’s a huge project to undertake!
So only put stripper on a small area first.
Once that area is stripped down to raw wood, move onto the next area.
Step Three: Cover and Let it Sit
Once you have stripper all over, grab some plastic wrap and cover the stripper.
The plastic wrap will help keep the stripper from drying out, making the stripper work longer.
Because once the stripper dries out, it won’t be able to eat through the stain anymore.
Then, sit back relax and let the stripper go to work!
I like to let the stripper sit there for about 8-12 hours, but no more than 24 hours.
The bottle recommends to wait at least 30 minutes, but I haven’t ever seen the stripper work fast enough to be ready after only 30 minutes.
You can check on it here and there by pulling off the plastic just a little bit to see if the stain is starting to lift off, bubble or get really gooey.
If it’s gooey, bubbled up or lifting off with the plastic, you’re ready to start removing the stain!
If you can’t see any of those things, and it hasn’t been 8 hours, leave it alone for a little while longer.
Step Four: Remove the Wood Stain
When it’s ready to strip, out on your gloves, and remove the plastic from a small area.
- mineral spirits
- some steel wool or scrubbing pads
- an old toothbrush or wire brush (for details)
- some toothpicks (for the details)
- and a putty knife for flat surfaces.
Dip your steel wool or scrubbing pad into the mineral spirits and start scrubbing the stripper and stain away.
If you have a flat surface, you can remove most of the gunk first with a flat plastic scraper.
But these legs didn’t leave me much room to use a scraper, so I dove in with the steel wool first.
How to Remove Citristrip Residue
The mineral spirits helps to remove the residue of the stripper and it also helps to soften any stain that the stripper didn’t lift up.
Once the steel wool is fully caked with gunk, grab a new piece of steel wool and dip it into more mineral spirits.
Removing Multiple Layers of Stain/Paint
Usually, if there is just one layer of stain, the stain comes off pretty easily, without much scrubbing.
But, once I started getting into this project, I could tell that someone had painted the whole piece with a cream color paint and then put a gel stain on top of it.
So, instead of just one layer of stain to get through, I had 2 layers of stain and one layer of paint to get through.
Which made the project take a bit more elbow grease than I planned on.
**But, that’s why I recommend to only apply Citristrip to a small area at a time!**
If you end up finding multiple layers of paint, it will take longer to strip than if there are one or two different layers of paint.
So, I just kept scrubbing away with the steel wool and mineral spirits until I could tell that I was down to raw wood.
It was also easier to scrub all of the layers off when the mineral spirits had sat there for a little bit.
It took an hour to scrub one leg down completely.
Step Five: Let the Wood Dry
After they were both completely stripped, I let them dry for a day or two.
The wood was really saturated and wet, so I let it dry completely.
Step Six: Sand Places You Missed
Here’s what they looked like a couple of days later.
There were a couple of spots that I had missed when scrubbing, so I took some 220 grit sandpaper and foam sanding pads to those areas and sanded those spots down to wood.
I also sanded the rest of the legs down to get any leftover stripper residue off.
Now they’re ready to refinish with some stain, dark wax or even paint!
Check back later to see how we finish these legs and the rest of the mini buffet!
If you’re a visual learner, check out our full video tutorial on how to remove wood stain here!
How much Citristrip do I need?
I used about half of a 1/2 gallon size of Citristrip Stripping Gel for these legs.
Obviously, if you have a lot more to remove, you’ll want more stripper.
For a small 3 drawer dresser, I have used about 1 and a half 1/2 gallons of Citristrip Stripping Gel.
What Happens if Citristrip is Left on Too Long?
Honestly, the only thing I have really noticed is that the stripper just dries out.
You can use a putty knife to remove the dried out Citristrip.
If you’re lucky, you’ll remove the stain with the dried Citristrip.
If not, just brush more Citristrip on the entire area you were working on and repeat the above steps.
I really don’t recommend letting it sit too long, but it shouldn’t be the end of the world if you do let it sit too long. 🙂
Best Wood Stain Remover
This stripper is my favorite to use because it isn’t harsh like other strippers, and you can use it indoors!
I also love that the smell isn’t super strong. But, I still like to wear a mask to protect my lungs from the smaller amount of fumes.
Plus, it really does work! But, you have to let it sit for a while so it can eat through the stain.
Seriously, 30 minutes is not enough time to let it work.
How to Restain Wood Without Removing the Stain?
If you don’t want to go through this whole process, you might be able to get away with using a gel stain instead.
Gel stain sits on top of old stain finishes, so you can leave your old finish on there.
Check out this buffet makeover to see how we use Gel Stain to Restain Furniture (without stripping!)
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