How to Get Wood Stain Off Your Skin (Best Methods)

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Woodworking is quite enjoyable, but dealing with those stubborn stains on your skin and clothes can be a bit of a hassle. While these stains do tend to fade over time, they can be rather unsightly and, at times, even irritate your skin.

So, I’ll share with you some valuable insights on effectively removing wood stains from your skin and clothing. Keep reading! 

Identifying the Type of Wood Stain on Your Skin

Iron Oxide Wood Stain

Iron oxide wood stain, made from oxidized metal and iron oxide, is one of the most popular stains on the market. When applied to wood, it creates a natural-looking black color through a reaction between iron oxide and the wood’s natural tannins.

Tannic Acid Wood Stain

Tannic acid consists of tannin, a pigment extracted from the bark of a tree. It is used to pre-stain low tannin woods so that chemical stains can be more effective during staining the wood.

Testing the Wood Stain on Your Skin

First, apply a small amount of water over the stained area to find out what type of wood stain it is. If the skin absorbs it, then a water-based solution will be your best stain remover.

wood stains on hands

If the water does not absorb into your skin, you will need to remove the stain with a solvent that has an oil base. Furthermore, you will need to use more powerful products with a higher pH level.

How to Remove Wood Stains From Your Skin With These Solutions

You can use either a chemical-based cleaning solution or a natural one to remove any wood stain from your hands. A chemical solution will remove the stain faster, but it may be more dangerous; a natural cleaning solution may struggle to remove it, but it will be safer.

Solution Type
Natural Cleaning Solutions
• Vegetable oil
Chemical Cleaning Solutions
• Turpentine
• Mineral spirits (Can be used for both oil- and water-based wood stains)
• Citric acid
• White vinegar

• 80% denatured alcohol
• 80% acetone
Solution Type
Natural Cleaning Solutions
• Vegetable oil
• Citric acid
• White vinegar
Chemical Cleaning Solutions
• Turpentine
• Mineral spirits (Can be used for both oil- and water-based wood stains)

• 80% denatured alcohol
• 80% acetone

Natural Cleaning Solutions

These natural and non-abrasive cleaning solutions are best for anyone with sensitive skin. Natural cleaning solutions may include a sodium carbonate called soda ash, olive oil, wood ash, lemon juice vinegar, laundry detergent, and natural oils.



natural cleaning solution for wood stains on hands

#1: Vegetable Oil for Oil-Based Stains

When attempting to remove patches of wood stain on the skin, food-grade oil will work [1]. Soak a cloth or rag in the oil. Rub the entire stain and rinse your hands with water and dish soap.

#2: Vinegar for Water-Based Stains

Employ plain white vinegar for this task; it’s a handy remedy in such situations. Start by generously applying the vinegar to the affected skin. Next, grab a piece of steel wool or a scrubbing brush with stiff bristles. 

Gently scrub the stained area, being careful not to overdo it. Once you’ve worked on it for a bit, rinse off the vinegar thoroughly. To complete the process, take some vegetable or natural oils and apply them using circular motions. This technique should effectively remove the stain from your skin.

#3: Citric Acid for Water-Based Stains

You can find citrus in most supermarkets and hardware stores. The powdered form of citric acid is easy to use and requires only a few simple steps.

Make a paste by adding ½  teaspoon of water to a whole teaspoon of the citric acid powder. Apply this paste to the water-based wood stain and scrub; wash it off with water and dish soap.

Chemical Cleaning Solutions

If you have tougher skin and can handle chemical-based solutions, you will be in for a much easier job that will take half the time. Here’s how to get wood stains off the skin with the use of chemical solvents:

chemical cleaning solution for wood stains on hands

What I Like

What I Don't Like

#1: Acetone for Water-Based Stains

Acetone or nail polish remover, is a water-based chemical cleaning solution that is less harmful than the others. If you don’t have acetone with you, a good alternative you can use is rubbing alcohol. 

First, ensure that you have a sufficient amount of acetone nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol on a piece of cloth. Then, rub the fabric in a circular motion until you can remove the stain from your skin.

#2: Turpentine for Oil-Based Stains

Turpentine is derived from tree resin and is less harmful to the skin. Turpentine, paint thinner and petroleum-based solvents are highly effective for removing an oil-based wood stain on the skin.


To remove the wood stain off the skin, dip a cloth in a turpentine solution, rub it in long sweeping motions (from left to right), and wash it off with water and unscented dish soap.

#3: Mineral Spirits for Oil-Based Stains

Mineral spirits are a quick wood stain remover but are the most toxic. They may cause chemical burns, so you should only use them as a last resort. 

Remove stains by dipping a cloth into a small metal bowl of mineral oil or mineral spirits. Apply long and sweeping motions, then wash it off with soap and warm water as the stain loosens.

#4: Stain Absorber

For removing wood stains from your skin, make a paste out of a stain absorber. It can lift stains off your skin by absorbing the pigment into the mixture. Adding a chemical solution to the paste is optional.

Removing Wood Stain From the Skin With the Brush Method

Another solution is the use of a brush. You have to loosen the pigments with warm water, soap, and steel wool before attempting to remove the stain from your hands.

washing wood stains with warm water and soap

Apply your acid stain remover solution and gently rub with a softer brush until the stain fades. 

Other Methods to Try

Makeup Wipes

A highly recommended alternative to try are high-quality eye make-up remover kits. Rub the makeup remover wipes or add the solution on a damp cloth to wipe off the excess dried wood stain, then, cleanse with soap and water.

Washing Ash

For removing stains, mix one part of the washing soda with three parts of water and stir. Dip a clean rag into the mixture and rub it into the stained area. Wash off with dish liquid soap and water and dry with a paper towel. 

Baking Soda

Pour one part of water and add baking soda to create a paste. Use a soft-bristled brush or toothbrush to apply to the stain, rub until it comes off, then wash with soap and water.

Safety Precautions

If you have sensitive skin, avoid chemical-based cleaning solutions because a few drops of such solvents can damage your skin.

person holding a paint brush

Test the chemical on a small area of your skin, and if you feel a burning sensation, you may want to stick to natural remedies. A bowl of water or a nearby faucet should always be available if you start to feel the burn.

Additional Tips

How to Protect Your Skin From Wood Stains

Prevent wood and ink stains on your skin by avoiding stained wood. Also wear protective gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, a protective jacket, and long pants. You should also wear a safety eye mask, and a respiratory mask when working with chemical solvents.


Does wood stain stay on the skin permanently?

Even the most stubborn stains on your skin will eventually fade away on their own. The skin is a self-exfoliating, self-regenerating organ. Thus, any water- and oil-based stain will not stay on your skin permanently.

Does wood stain have any health side effects if applied to the skin?

If you are a casual DIYer who occasionally gets stains on your skin, you should not be concerned about long-term health issues. If you work with wood staining every day and it spills frequently, you should watch your skin and see how it feels in case of any problems.


When it comes to tackling ink stains on wood, you have a choice between natural and chemical removal methods. Which method you opt for can depend on your priorities, including safety and urgency.

If you have highly sensitive wood surfaces and want to err on the side of caution, I recommend starting with the natural removal options outlined in this guide. These methods can be gentler on the wood and are a prudent choice for preserving the integrity of your wooden surfaces. 

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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