How to Remove Wood Stain From Wood? (3 Methods)

Wood stain penetrates the wood grain deep, so removing it is hard. So, how to remove wood stain from wood?

To remove wood stain from a wooden surface, use a water-based or chemical-based paint stripper. Paint strippers have active ingredients that soak into the stain and break the bond between the particles. Once the bond between particles is broken (dissolved), you can wipe the finish off. 

You can also remove it by sanding, using a paint thinner or acetone.

Remove It Without Sanding

Can You Remove Wood Stain From Wood Without Sanding?

You can remove wood stain without sanding. To do so, apply a paint stripper directly over the surface, wait a few minutes, and scrape the stain off.  

Paint stripper is a solvent-based product that will penetrate the wood grain and dissolve the particles of the stain. Once the particles are dissolved, the coating will liquefy, and you can wipe it off. 

However, sanding is the best way to remove it. That’s because sanding will also smooth the wood surface, remove imperfections, and make it ready for staining again. After sanding, you can immediately stain the surface again. 

On the other hand, solvent-based stain removers won’t smooth the wood. Instead, the plastic paint scraper (that you need to use) will scratch and damage the surface. Also after using a solvent-based remover, you must wait until the surface dries, sand it, and then re-stain it. This takes longer. 

Also, some solvent-based removers can discolor or damage particular wood types. 

How To Remove Wood Stain From Wood?

Removing stain from wood is hard, here are three methods you can use: sanding, stain stripper, or paint thinner. Here, you’ll learn how to use each method, what you’ll need and how each method works.

1. Sand it Off

Remove Wood Stain By Sanding

The best and most effective way of removing a wood stain is by sanding it off. Sanding will remove the stain and smooth out the wood by removing imperfections. For this method, the sandpaper will sand the wood repeatedly until the stain is off.

The tools you need:

  • Sandpaper (fine-grit)
  • A duster or vacuum
  • A pair of gloves and a face mask
  • Orbital sander (for large wooden surfaces and floors)

Here’s a step-by-step guide: 

  1. Clean the surface to remove dust and dirt. For floors, use a vacuum and mop the floor. 
  2. Attach 220-grit sandpaper to a power sander. For small surfaces, you can manually sand it off. For floors, use a floor sander.
  3. Sand the surface repeatedly until the stain wears off. 
  4. Remove the dust and let the wood settle.

2. Use Wood Stain Stripper

Remove Wood Stain By Using Paint Stripper

Wood stain strippers are active ingredients that dissolve the stain and break down the bond between the coating and the surface. This causes the finish to swell and come off.

Tools you need:

  • Paint stripper
  • Paint scraper
  • Clean rags
  • Paintbrushes
  • Plastic bag

Step-by-step guide:

  1. Clean the surface to remove dirt and debris. 
  2. Apply the stain stripper over the wood using a paintbrush or paint scraper. 
  3. Wait a few minutes for the stripping compound to dissolve the finish. 
  4. When the finish starts to bubble, scrape it off using a plastic paint scraper. 
  5. Re-apply the stripping paste to the leftover.
  6. Remove the leftover paint stripper by applying mineral spirits over it. 
  7. Clean the wood with water and leave it to dry.

3. Use Paint Thinner

Remove Wood Stain By Using Paint Thinner

Paint thinners are a mixture of paint-removing chemicals and solvents. Paint thinners are designed to dissolve all paints, including stain. 

Tools you need:

  • Paint thinner
  • A pair of gloves
  • Clean bucket
  • Paint scraper
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Mineral spirits
  • A clean rag

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Damp a rag with paint thinner. 
  2. Use the dampened rag to wipe the surface
  3. Wait 10-15 minutes. 
  4. When the finish starts to bubble and tear, scrape it off. 
  5. Re-apply paint thinner to the leftover. 
  6. Remove the paint-thinner residue using mineral spirits. 
  7. Clean the wood with clean water and leave it to dry.

Other Methods To Use:


You can use acetone to remove wood stains, but acetone isn’t as effective as the other products. That’s because acetone can’t penetrate a surface too deep, so it won’t remove the entire finish. 

Paint Remover

You can use paint remover to remove a stain finish, but you must use one designed for stain removal. Also, you must read the manufacturer’s instructions to know if you can use the paint remover on wood. 


The vinegar solution is strong enough to remove a wood stain finish. But, you shouldn’t leave it on wood for too long as it can damage or discolor it.

To use vinegar, damp a rag with vinegar and use the dampened rag to wipe the surface. The vinegar-soaked rag will dissolve the stain from the surface.

Power Washing

Power washing will remove a stain finish, but will damage the wood. That’s because the pressure from the power washer can break wood, especially furniture. 


Citristrip is an industrial cleaning solvent that will remove stain. Also, Citristrip doesn’t contain any caustic agent that can damage the wood.

Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits can remove the wood stain on the top layer, but won’t remove the coating that has penetrated the grain. The same goes for turpentine.

You can use mineral spirits if you want to fade the finish before paint application. By fading the finish (or removing the top layer), the new paint will stick over it. The stain left on the wood will fill the pores and make the it water-resistant. 

White Spirits

White spirits won’t remove wood stain. That’s because white spirit is a petroleum-distilled solvent designed for clean-up and grease removal.


You shouldn’t use bleach on wood because it will discolor and damage the surface. Using bleach will make the wood unpaintable because stain and paint won’t stick to bleached surface. 


You must wait 12 hours after removing the stain before re-painting. This gives the surface enough time to dry and settle after using a solvent. If you don’t leave enough time, the solvent residue on the wood will repel the new paint you apply, leaving you with a amateurish finish.

However, the time to wait before re-staining depends on the removal method. If you remove the stain by sanding, you can re-paint the wood within 30 minutes. That’s because sanding won’t wet the surface, and will remove imperfections from it. This means you don’t to do any extra prep work.

Final Words

You can remove wood stain from wood by sanding or using a paint stripper or thinner.

Sanding removes the stain and the imperfections from the wood, making it ready to be re-stained immediately. On the other hand, paint strippers will also remove the finish, but you must wait until the wood dries before using 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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