How to Remove Oil-Based Stain From Wood (Step-By-Step Guide)

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Oil-based stains can be a real headache when removing them from wood surfaces. If left untreated, oil stains can penetrate deep into the wood and cause permanent damage. 

But, there’s no need to worry! I’ve dealt with these stubborn stains numerous times and with the right approach, it’s entirely possible to eliminate them and bring back the wood’s original allure. In this step-by-step guide, I’ll delve into proven strategies to effectively remove oil-based stains from wood.

6 Effective Ways to Remove Oil-Based Wood Stains

Baking Powder

Start by applying hot water to the oil stain and allowing it to sit for a few minutes. Next, create a paste by mixing baking soda with water and spreading it over the stain. 

baking powder

After around a minute, wipe the paste with a moist cloth and apply the right wood care products.

Oven Cleaners

Oven cleaners, which contain soda, can be effective as well. However, it is important to exercise caution when using them, especially on small surfaces. Ensure you use it in a well-ventilated room, protect your shoes, and wear household gloves.


If the oil-based stain on the wood is not too heavy, sanding with 60 or 40-grit sandpaper can be an effective solution.

Soda Crystals

Clean the oil stain from the wood using a mixture of hot water and soda crystals. Note that for every liter of water amounts one cup of soda crystals. Rinse the area with fresh water. Finally, lightly sand the surface if necessary to restore its original texture.


Wipe the oil stain using a cloth ball soaked in a mixture of half water and half ammonia


90-Degree Alcohol

Clean the bowl with a cloth soaked in 90° alcohol to remove grease. Then, use fine steel wool to scrub the wood surface and vacuum it.

Safety Precautions to Know

Exercise caution when handling ammonia. Avoid inhaling its vapors. Only use ammonia in a well-ventilated room, and wear household gloves to protect your hands.

Steps to Removing Oil-Based Stains From Your Wooden Pieces

To remove oil-based stains from wood, you can use one of the many chemical stain strippers or solvents available on the market. Here are the basic steps and materials you’ll need:

What are the Tools You’ll Need?

tools and materials for removing paint on wood

With all the required materials at hand, follow these straightforward steps to quickly remove the oil stain and restore the beauty of your wooden piece.

Step #1: Prepare Your Work Station

Before beginning work, it is important to establish a safe and comfortable work environment. To ensure the safe use of hazardous materials like mineral spirit and a paint stripper, set up your workspace in an area with good ventilation. 

This will reduce the concentration of fumes. If working outside is not feasible, use protective gear, such as a nose mask. 

When working on indoor furniture or other interior wood items indoors, cover the unstained surfaces of wood or floor with a drop cloth to prevent chemical spills. Additionally, clean up the workspace by removing any excess items that may come into contact with chemicals.

Step #2: Ready All the Material You’ll Need

Once you have created a suitable area to work in, the next step is to gather all necessary equipment and supplies for the task of removing stains. 

hand planed Cherry wood

Make sure you have everything you need and bring it to your workspace. If you lack any item on the list, find a suitable replacement before starting. For example, you can use oil soap, acetone, or turpentine and a putty knife instead of a plastic scraper.

Step #3: Put on Safety Gear

Before beginning the task, make sure to put on appropriate protective gear. To guard yourself against any chemical hazards, you should wear the following:

Rubber Gloves

To prevent skin irritation from any chemical spillage

Safety Glasses

To keep your eyes safe from any chemical splashes that could cause irritation.

Respirator or Face Mask

To safeguard your respiratory system from inhaling the toxic fumes of the wood stripper and mineral spirit.

respiratory mask

Step #4: Strip the Oil-Based Stain Using a Degreaser

Be cautious and consider purchasing degreasing spray in advance as a preventive measure, as it is more effective when applied immediately after the stain appears.

First, soak up the liquid with kitchen towels for fresh oil stain. Then, mix water and dish soap to clean the stain. The grease-dissolving ingredients will help remove stains from your wood. For untreated wood, it’s advisable to dry the stain with a hairdryer carefully.

To dissolve the old thick layer of furniture oil, use a water/soda solution and wipe the wood thoroughly with a lint-free cloth. Allow the wood to dry before proceeding to the next step.

Step #5: Clean Your Wood Using a Neutral PH Soap

Following the initial treatment, I recommend cleaning the wood with a neutral pH soap tailored to the specific wood type you’re dealing with.

For outdoor wooden fixtures like terraces or garden tables, I typically opt for an outdoor-specific soap. It’s beneficial because it not only cleans the wood but also nourishes it and offers some protection against insects.

soap and water

For indoor surfaces such as parquet, furniture, and staircases, a ready-to-use interior soap will suffice. In instances where a stronger action is required, a concentrated soap that can be diluted with water may also be used.

Step #6: Begin Applying Your Stain Remover or Stripper

When the wood is prepared for stripping, shake the container of the wood stain remover before opening it. Then, pour some of the chemical strippers into a separate glass or metal container.

Then, utilize a paintbrush with natural bristles to thoroughly apply the stripper to the stained area, working on one section at a time. Work in small sections of approximately one square foot with wood flooring or heavy furniture.

Step #7: Let it Sit

Allow the stripper to sit on the surface for a duration of 20 to 30 minutes. However, if necessary, reapply to prevent the wood surface from drying out.

Step #8: Start Scraping it From the Wood

Once the stain stripper begins to bubble, use a plastic scraper or putty knife to scrape the residual stain off. 

scraping top coat

Make sure to scrape in a straight line following the grain of the wood to minimize mess, and do not use too much pressure to avoid damaging the wood. Repeat this process until all the stripper has been removed. 

Step #9: Wipe the Stain Particles Off the Wood

Use a moist cloth or stripper-stained steel wool pad to remove any remaining stains or debris from the wood surface, then allow it to dry for 24 hours.

Step #10: Apply a New Layer of Stain

After your bare wood furniture has thoroughly dried, applying a fresh coat of wood stain can rejuvenate its appearance. Now, when it comes to applying this new coat, here’s how I usually approach it:

Step #11: Sand the Wood Surface (If Needed)

To effectively remove an oil layer from wood, sanding is the ideal solution. Start with medium grit sandpaper (80) and gradually progress to the finer grit (120). If the fine grit sandpaper clogs quickly, it may be because the oil has not thoroughly dried. 

sanding wood layer

Allow the oil to cure for another two weeks before sanding it completely. After sanding, wipe down the wood surface with a damp cloth and let it dry. Repeat the sanding process if necessary, but take caution to avoid causing damage to the wood. 

Sanding should only be used as a last resort and done gently.

Step #12: Tidy Up the Wood Surface

After removing all oil stains from the wood, it is time to clean the wood surface for a polished touch. Use a clean cotton cloth dampened with mineral spirits to wipe away any dust, leftover stain, or stripper on the wood. This not only cleans the wood but also: 

Step #13: Apply a Protective Coating

After completing the sanding process, the wood will be left unprotected and susceptible to staining. To restore protection, you have three options: 

applying polyurethane

A colorless wax oil keeps dirt and water from getting into the wood and ruining the color. The choice will depend on your desired result. To apply the wax oil, use a sturdy brush or roller and remove any excess oil.

I’d recommend applying at least two coats for the best protection. Remember, drying times can vary based on room temperature and airflow, so it’s always good to be patient between coats.

Extra Tips When Stripping Oil-Based Stains From Wood

Here are some tried-and-true tips I swear by for effectively removing oil-based stain from wood:

preparing Citristrip Stripping Gel

Stripping Oil-Based Stains Without Damaging Wood

Now that you know how to remove oil-based stains from wood, here are some steps to avoid damaging the surface:

mixing soap and water
  1. Mix detergent with hot water and stir until a generous amount of foam forms.
  2. Soak a cloth in the foam, squeeze out any excess water, and 
  3. Use it to rub the stain gently.
  4. Wipe down the wood with a damp cloth.
  5. Once all of the foam is removed, use a hair dryer to dry the surface and eliminate any signs of moisture quickly.

Removing Oil-Based Stain on Raw Wood

To clean an oil stain from raw wood surfaces, follow these steps:

  1. Remove any excess oil with a dry cloth or rag.
  2. Once dry, wipe the surface with a sponge or cloth soaked in warm water and soap.
  3. Gently rub to ensure that all dirt is removed.
  4. Finally, thoroughly clean and dry the stained area with a dry cloth.
grease on wood

Cleaning modern wooden furniture with smooth surfaces is typically easier and faster, as the composition of these materials makes them slippery and prevents the absorption of liquids or substances that could harm the furniture.

However, it’s important to avoid allowing the oil to dry, as this will make it more difficult to remove the stain and require more effort.

Removing Fresh Oil-Based Stains From Wood

Wood is the primary material used in most of all furniture. While cleaning it isn’t complicated, certain considerations must be taken to prevent damage, especially when dealing with an oil-based stain from wood that is more challenging to remove.

To delicately remove a newly applied oil-based stain from wood, you should follow these steps:

water and detergent
  1. To start, choose a good detergent.
  2. Add it to hot water. Ensure to create a foamy solution before pouring the solution on the oil-based stain.
  3. After obtaining the foam solution, soak a sponge or cloth in it.
  4. Don’t forget to get rid of the extra water, we just want it to be slightly damp.
  5. Rub carefully on the stains.
  6. Then, rinse the soapy area with a clean cloth or dampened cloth. 
  7. When you are done rinsing the area and removing all of the foam, quickly dry the surface to avoid any damage from humidity.

Getting Rid of Dried Oil-Based Stain Remnants on Wood

When faced with this issue, sanding is not effective. The most efficient method for removing greasy oil stains from wood is to use a special chemical product, which is available from most manufacturers.

Select the appropriate wash from the various special washes offered for your specific type of wood. A useful tip for removing a stubborn oil-based stain from wood is a mixture of mineral spirit and flour.

water and soap solution

The key components of the solution serve to break down the oil molecules within the wood’s pores.

  1. Before using a chemical solution such as mineral spirits, carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure to wear appropriate protective gear [1].
  2. Mix the mineral spirit and another substance to form a paste, then apply the solution to the oil stain with a special roller, brush, or spray, being careful to avoid spreading it to other areas.
  3. Observe the reaction, and foam should form as a result of the breaking down of oil molecules.
  4. Carefully remove the remnants of the chemical reaction with a dry cloth or brush and rinse the wood with warm water.

Removing Oil-Based Stains from Hardwood Floorings

Maintaining the beauty and finish of hardwood floors requires more than just wiping and dusting. It’s also crucial to tackle and remove any unsightly stains.

maple hardwood floor

To effectively remove oil from hardwood, you need to understand both the flooring and the oil and have the right tools at hand.

Step #1:

To remove oil stains from a wooden surface, use paper towels, newspaper, or blotting paper to absorb the excess moisture and oil. Blot the stain with a clean cloth or blotter.

Step #2:

Apply dry cleaning fluid to the stain using a cloth and let it sit for five minutes. Alternatively, create a solution of hot water and mild dish soap, form soap suds over the stain, and work it into the stain as much as possible.

Step #3:

Mix detergent and warm water to form a foamy solution, then rub the stain with the solution and rinse with water.

Step #4:

Rub the soap suds into the stain as thoroughly as possible, bearing in mind that some finished wood surfaces may not be able to absorb soap. After that, rinse with clean water.

mixing soap and water

Step #5:

Let the surface dry and assess for any remaining stains. It can be hard to tell if the stain has been completely removed when the wood is still damp.

Step #6:

For persistent stains, use turpentine and specialized cleaning products designed to remove oil-based stain remnants from the wood with a cloth, gently rubbing the solution onto the affected area. Afterward, rinse thoroughly and let the area dry completely.

For persistent stains, use a stronger solution. Mineral spirits, also known as Stoddard solvents, can effectively remove tough stains and are readily available at a local hardware store. Apply the mineral spirits to the stain using a cloth and rub it in.

Read More: How to Remove Black Urine Stains from Hardwood Floors 

Different Oil-Based Stain Types & How to Remove From Wood

Engine Oil

To clean an engine oil stain from wood, you can follow these steps:

Cooking Oil

To clean cooking oil from wood, you can follow these steps:

olive oil

Linseed Oil

To clean these oil stains from wood, you can follow these steps:


To clean a butter stain from wood, you can follow these steps:


To clean gasoline stain from wood, you can follow these steps:

motor oil for chainsaw


To clean mayonnaise stains from wood, you can follow these steps:

Different Types of Wood Stains

Water-Based Stain

Water-based stains contain water-soluble aniline dyes made from coal tar that easily dissolves in water, making it easy for woodworkers to obtain colors. 

They also contain high-quality pigments that enhance the grain of the wood and have fewer chemical particles, making them environmentally friendly. However, they can be challenging to use as they dry quickly, especially on larger surfaces.

Oil-Based Stain

Oil-based wood stain is popular due to their deep penetration and long-lasting effect. They often include linseed oil and varnish, with linseed serving as a preservative. 

applying oil based stain

The presence of Aliphatic hydrocarbon makes it easy to identify oil stains as they form thin layers on the wood’s surface.

Lacquer Wood Stain

Lacquer is a popular traditional film-forming topcoat that adds shine to wood and is typically applied over dried stains. Unlike shellac, it is more durable but requires multiple thin application layers. 

However, handling lacquer can be difficult as it produces harmful and toxic fumes that can be dangerous if not handled with care.

Gel Stain

Gel stains differ from traditional stains in that they sit on the wood’s surface rather than penetrating it. While the application feels much like painting, the beauty is that gel stains allow the wood’s natural texture to shine through.

coating wood with gel stain

Varnish Wood Stain

Gel stain and varnish wood stain are both surface-level stains, but varnish does not seep into the wood as much as gel stain does. Therefore, a traditional stain is often applied first to provide the base color, and then varnish with added coloring can be used for further enhancement.


What is the easiest way to remove stain from wood?

The easiest way to remove stain from wood is by using a gentle soap and water mixture for light stains. Simply wipe the affected area with a soft cloth until the stain disappears. For tougher stains, a stronger solvent such as acetone or rubbing alcohol may be required.

Will vinegar remove wood stain?

Vinegar can remove wood stain because of its acidic properties. As a natural disinfectant, vinegar also can effectively remove stubborn stains. The acetic acid in vinegar can act as a mild solvent, breaking down some stains over time.

Simply pour it with olive oil on the stained wooden surface and let it sit for a period of time before wiping the area with a cotton cloth.

Can you use mineral spirits to remove old wood stains?

Mineral spirits do not have the ability to remove old stains. However, they may be able to lighten dark stains. To use, apply the solvent onto a rag and rub it along the grain of the wood. 

On the other hand, mineral spirits can be effective in removing water stains from unfinished wood.

Is paint thinner effective in removing stains?

Yes, a paint thinner can be used to remove the stain. Soak a cloth in a bowl containing paint thinner. Rub the thinner onto the stained wood using circular motions and refresh the cloth in the solvent as needed. Repeat the process until the stain is gone.

What happens if you let stain on wood sit too long?

Stains left on wood for an extended period will not dry completely and remain sticky. The surplus stain will soak back into the wood, but only the absorbed stain will remain when it peels off. To prevent this from happening, follow these steps above if you forget to remove excess stains.

How can you get rid of dark oil stains on wood?

Remove a dark stain by wiping the stained surface with a clean cloth and allowing it to dry. Then, mix non-gel toothpaste with baking soda to form a paste. Use a cloth to gently rub the paste onto the stain. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then wipe away the residue using a damp cloth.

Can you remove wood stains without sanding?

You can eliminate such stains without sanding by utilizing a liquid or gel stripper, which will penetrate the finish and make it come off. Another approach is to employ a heat gun, which heats the finish and causes it to blister, then you can scrape it off once it cools down.

What’s the best homemade stain remover on wood?

An effective homemade wood stain remover is made by mixing salt and club soda. 

Combine 1 tablespoon of salt with 1 cup of club soda, pour the mixture over the stain and let it sit for several minutes. Blot the stained area repeatedly with a cloth or sponge, and the stain should come off easily.

How you can remove wood stains from cabinets?

To remove oil-based stain from cabinets, begin by creating a paste using baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the oil-based paint stains using a cloth, scrubbing in the direction of the stain. Allow the paste to sit on the cabinet for a specified amount of time, then wipe it off.

More Tips and Tricks


Hopefully, I have successfully introduced the best methods for you to learn how to remove oil-based stains from wood. Test them out and determine which one suits your needs best.

Once you have effectively remove oil-based stain from wood furniture, you may want to prevent similar incidents in the future. To fortify your wood against such mishaps, think about applying a protective layer, like varnish or another treatment, to boost its resistance to stains.

robert headshot

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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