How to Remove Stains from Unfinished Wood

Gail asked: How do I clean unfinished wood? I think it’s pine. Our dining room table has wine and food stains on it. I once used olive oil, but it did not remove the stains that well. It’s unfinished wood, so I’m not sure how to clean it and also protect the wood.

If you’ve had the misfortune of finding unwanted stains on your unfinished wood, you’ve learned firsthand why experts recommend a protective coat over wood surfaces. Whether you’ll ever be able to remove the stain depends on a couple of factors, namely, the type and condition of the wood and the kind of stain you’re dealing with, but under the best of circumstances many stains will be permanent. Still, you may improve or eradicate the stain by following these steps.

You Will Need:

  • Fine grit sandpaper

Steps to Remove the Stain:

  1. Using fine grit sandpaper, lightly sand the surface.
  2. Pause frequently to wipe away the dust and check your progress.Also, ensure you are not sanding so much wood away that you leave a depression.
  3. Repeat until the stain is gone or until you start to wear away the wood.
  4. If the sanding is noticeable, lightly scuff the rest of the surface with the sandpaper so it matches.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Pine is a soft wood and quickly absorbs stains. Harder woods are more likely to only be stained at the surface, therefore increasing your chance of successful stain removal.
  • If you get the stain out, consider finishing the wood with a clear protective finish. If you can’t get the stain out, consider applying a wood stain over the entire surface to “hide” the unwanted color.
  • Oily food stains rarely come out of wood.


  1. Bonita says:

    I have been told not to sand unfinished wood if there is oil or grease on it. The oil or grease will be “burned” into the wood.

  2. John says:

    I am making an oak table, and one of the boards has a stain on it. How can I get it out? It is too big to put in a planer, and I have sanded all I can. I could use some help with this.

  3. P.F. says:

    I have an old, unfinished steamer trunk that has damp, sticky areas on the front and back edges of the lid. Is there any way to remove this?

  4. Theo says:

    I tried this. Turns out the table was finished pine and not unfinished, oops!

  5. Rita says:

    Do you answer these questions?
    I have the same question as John from 2012. I have an old oak pew that has some water stains on the bare wood. Besides running it through a planer or sanding for days, is there anyway to remove the stains? Thank you.

  6. James says:

    My rubber sole shoes have rubbed onto the new unfinished pine floor boards. I want to varnish the floor, but I want to remove these dirt stains. I moped them with damp mop and some wash up liquid, but the stain is only partly gone. Best wishes from Jim

  7. Rosanna says:

    Hello, I would like to ask a simple way to remove a heat stain on a wood dining table, made from fresh laundry out of dryer. Thank you.

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