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 methods.
Removing Oil Stains
You Will Need:
- An absorbent powder (choose one):
- Baking soda
- Corn starch
- Corn meal
- Wheat germ
- A vacuum
- Hydrogen peroxide (optional)
Steps to Remove the Oil Stain:
- Cover the stain with a thick pile of absorbent powder. (Choose a powder from the list above. Any will work, but it is best to choose one what is closest in color to the color of the wood in case some of it gets into the grain of the wood and can’t be removed.)
- Leave the powder for a few hours or overnight. If needed, cover the plastic wrap to prevent the powder from blowing off in the wind or stop a cat from walking through it.
- Vacuum or sweep up the powder.
- This can be repeated as many times as needed to fully remove the stain.
- One site user suggests applying a small amount of mineral spirits to the stain first using a cloth, then covering with the powder. Try doing that if using the method dry (without mineral spirits) hasn’t worked. Be sure to wear gloves and ventilate the area when working with mineral spirits.
- Another site user reported having success using hydrogen peroxide. Apply the peroxide onto a cloth, then blot the stain.
Removing General Stains
You Will Need:
- Mineral spirits
- A cloth
Steps to Remove the Stains:
- Always wear gloves and ventilate the area well when working with mineral spirits.
- Wet a cloth with a small amount of mineral spirits.
- Wring the cloth out so it’s only damp, not dripping.
- Blot the stain with the damp cloth until it is gone.
- Add more mineral spirits as needed.
Removing Difficult Stains
This process should only be used on solid wood. Wood veneer might be too thin to sand and you would risk sanding through the veneer to the plywood.
You Will Need:
- Fine grit sandpaper
Steps to Remove the Stain:
- Using fine grit sandpaper, lightly sand the surface.
- 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.
- Repeat until the stain is gone or until you start to wear away the wood.
- 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.
- If the wood is just generally dirty, check out our guide How to Clean Unfinished Wood.