How to Remove Oil Based Stain from Wood

Image of a deck stain

Oil-based wood stains are darker, yet they look good on wood and above all, offer protection to wooden surfaces such as decks, tables and so much more. As it is with every human, it reaches a point where you’d love to change the look of your wooden structures by removing the stain and applying a different finish. Therefore, you need to understand how to remove oil based stain from wood. 

You must remove the oil based stain initially on your wood structures before you proceed to apply a new one. In this article, we are going to look at some of the necessary steps that you should undertake to successfully remover oil-based stain from the wood. 

Necessary Materials for The Removal of Oil-based Stain from Wood

You can remove oil-based stain from your wood surface without affecting the wood grains; in that way, you will preserve the natural beauty of the wood. So what are the materials necessary for this process?

  • Sawdust or Baking soda
  • An iron
  • Water
  • A bowl/ Pan
  • A dish liquid
  • Thick brown paper
  • Mineral spirits/ White spirit
  • A scrub brush

Step One: Prepare Your Working Area

Considering that you will likely work with chemicals in your bid to remove oil-based stain from wood, you need to get your working area ready. Ensure that you are working in a properly ventilated room.

Also, have drop cloths on your floor to protect it from spillage, especially if you are working from inside.

Step Two: Protect Yourself

Dress on in your old clothing, especially the ones with long sleeves. If you have gears like goggles and gloves, then ensure that you have them on to prevent the stains from getting into contact with your eyes and hands.

Step Three: Initial Cleaning

First, have your absorbent powder ready. Pour it or rub it over the oil-based stain to help in removing the excess oil. For most of the woodworkers, first choice and readily available absorbent powders are the sawdust or baking soda.

Alternatively, put the absorbent over the stain until it is 0.25 inches in thickness. Allow the powder to stay on the paint overnight and sweep it away the following morning. Afterwards, inspect the stain to not the changes.

Step Four: Repeat Cleaning

If by chance the stain does not go away, you should repeat the “Initial Cleaning” step as many times as possible so that you can entirely have the stain removed from your surface.

Step Five: Use the Iron and The Brown Paper Bag

In case the above steps are not productive, consider making the use of your brown paper. Place it over the stain. Use a simple Kraft paper or a brown paper bag.

At this point, consider using the iron to remove the oil. Switch the iron to its lowest heat setting then move it slowly back and forth over the paper bag. Usually, you will find that there are types of oil-based stains that will start to melt and liquefy for the brown paper back to soak them up.

As you continue moving the iron box over the paper bag, it will soon soak up and get saturated with oil. If that’s the case, replace this bag with a fresh one and continue the heating process.

Step Six

Assess your progress, and if you feel that the paper has absorbed every possible oil, it can use absorbent powder to remove the remaining oil. If there are some resistant stains on the surface, it means that the above step has not worked. At this point, you need to mix dish liquid with water in a pan or a bowl. Use your hand to swish the mixture until suds form.

Using your hands, scoop the suds from the surface of the water and put it over the surface that you are looking to treat. Use a scrub brush to rub the stain off the surface. 

Note: While scrubbing, you need to do it gently so that you don’t scratch the surface of the wood. As soon as you are through with washing of the surface, use a dry cloth to remove the soap.

Step Seven: Dry the Surface

Once you have successfully removed the stain, use a piece of damp cloth to wipe the entire surface of the wood. Dry it up with a dry towel.

Step Eight: In case the Stain Won’t go Away

Some persistent stains won’t just go away from the wood surface with the previous removal procedures. If you experience the same, consider using mineral spirits. Repeat the oil extraction procedure that we conducted above(brown paper and iron) to clear your surface off oil completely. 

Note: The use of mineral spirits should be the last option because they tend to dry wood and might destroy the finish in the long run.

Alternatively, you can create a paste by mixing some mineral spirits with the absorbent powder such as the baking soda, Spread the paste over the stain, allow it to settle over the stain for about 1-2 hours then wipe it out.

Note: Avoid soaking the wood with water while you do the cleaning. In case water gets into the wood, it might end up cracking and warping, which might not be good for your entire project. Also, we discourage the use of mineral spirits because it can damage the finish on your floor. Use it as the last option.


Much as stains help in the protection as well as enhancing the natural beauty of your wood, it comes the point where you would love to change the look and use another finish. If that happens, it would mean that you need to remove the oil-based stain from the surface of your wooden structure.

How to Remove Oil Based Stain from Wood

We have provided the steps that you can undertake to help you remove stain from your wooden surface. The steps include:

  • Prepare your working area
  • Protect yourself
  • Cleaning of the wood surface
  • Use the iron and the brown paper bag procedure
  • Using the mineral spirit as a last resort.

Even as you follow these procedures, apply every finer detail that we have provided to get your oil based stain removal effective. Afterwards, you can use any wood finish of your choice to cover the surface of your structure.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.