How to Fix Blotchy Wood Stain? (2 Methods)

The finish will be riddled with spots and patches if you don’t apply wood stain properly. So, how to fix a blotchy wood stain?

To fix a blotchy wood stain, apply wood glaze over the finish to even the stain and reduce the blotchy appearance. This only works if the botching is wild.

If the botching is severe, you must remove the entire finish, sand the surface, and re-apply the wood stain. It’s advised to seal the surface with a shellac-based washcoat before applying wood stain to prevent a blotchy finish. 

Why Does It Happen?

1. Wood Doesn’t Absorb Wood Stain Evenly

Some types of woods, such as Pine or Cedar, don’t accept stain well. If the wood doesn’t absorb stain evenly, it causes some parts of the surface to be lighter than others, leading to a blotchy finish.

This can also happen if the wood isn’t prepped before applying the stain, or if you apply it over an existing finish. If the wood is finished (painted), the pores are already filled with paint, so there’s no space for the stain to penetrate. This leads to some parts of the surface being darker than others.

2. Bad Prep Work

Before you stain wood, you must clean and sand it using fine-grit sandpaper. Cleaning removes dirt, oils, and dust from the surface, while sanding removes imperfections and makes the surface ready to be painted.

If you don’t prep the wood, dirt and dust will prevent the wood stain from soaking into the wood evenly, leading to a blotchy wood stain finish.

How To Fix Blotchy Wood Stain?

There are two ways to fix blotchy stain; by covering it with wood glaze or removing the finish and re-applying it.

1. Apply Wood Glaze or Varnish

Cover The Blotching Wood Stain With Wood Glaze Or Varnish

If some parts of the finish are lighter (or darker) than others, you can cover the surface with wood glaze or varnish to fix it. The idea is to touch up the light areas of the finish with a topcoat, so they appear darker and match the overall finish.

For this method, you’ll need these:

  • A paintbrush
  • Wood glaze or varnish
  • Clean rags
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Paint thinner or mineral spirits

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Sand the affected spots with fine-grit sandpaper. 
  2. Remove dust. 
  3. Thin varnish with mineral spirits before applying it. 
  4. Apply wood graze or thinned varnish over the light parts of the surface.
  5. Wait 10 minutes.
  6. Remove excess topcoat from the surface and leave to dry.

2. Strip and Re-apply The Wood Stain

Strip and Reapply The Wood Stain

If the first method doesn’t work, remove the wood stain, sand the wood, and re-apply it. To remove wood stain, sand it down with coarse-grit sandpaper or use a paint stripper compound.

For this method, you’ll need these:

  • A paint scraper
  • Paint stripper
  • Sandpaper (220-grit)
  • Wood stain
  • Rags
  • Paintbrushes

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Wipe and clean the surface.
  2. Apply paint stripper over the stained wood — ensure the stripping paste is thick.
  3. Wait 30 minutes. 
  4. Once the paint stripper has dried, scrape it off with a paint scraper (the wood stain will come off too).
  5. Sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper (220-grit).
  6. Apply a shellac-based washcoat on the wood.
  7. Re-stain the wood.

Preventing It:

  1. Sand with 180-grit sandpaper before staining.
  2. Don’t apply stain over filthy surfaces — clean the wood with mineral spirits to remove dirt.
  3. Apply a shellac-based washcoat. 
  4. Strip the existing finish from the wood.
  5. Allow each coat of stain to dry before re-recoating.

Final Words

In summary, you can fix blotchy wood stain by covering the blotches with wood graze (or varnish), or by removing the stain and re-applying it. To prevent it from happening, always sand the wood and apply a shellac-based washcoat before staining it.

Tony Adams
Tony Adams

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about,

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