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How to Fix a Bad Stain Job in Three Easy Steps

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A perfect wood stain does not only add up to the character of the wood (and the furniture) but increases its lifespan as well. But what would you do if you have a poorly or badly stained wood? What are the proven ways on how to fix a bad stain job?

A wood stain process that utilizes chemicals that penetrate the pores of the wood is relatively permanent and durable. They cannot easily be removed by natural means and by aging. Because of this, they tend to lengthen the lifespan of the wood and furniture.

However permanent a wood stain is, a bad stain job can always be fixed. For an expert at fixing bad stain jobs, the process is relatively simple—remove the undesired section of the stain and apply the same chemical used to redo the area.

Most probably, however, you haven’t done a lot of stain job fixing or that you are not skilled enough to mend just a section. In this case, you will probably need to remove the entire stain, perform a process with the wood and reapply the stain.

Three Simple Steps for Fixing a Bad Wood Stain

#1 Remove wood stain with a stripper

Remove wood stain with a stripper

Wood stain strippers are solvents designed to dissolve the wood stain. Wood stains usually penetrate the pores of the wood and are quite difficult to remove with other methods.

A wood stain stripper removes even the traces of the stain that get absorbed into the pores of the wood.

If you want to fix a bad stain job in a small portion of the wood, the first thing you need to do is to cover the rest of the area with paper. This will prevent you from accidentally applying strippers in areas you don’t want to.

You can also use a tape to enclose the defective area so that you only get to apply the stripper to the least surface area as possible.

Pour a sufficient amount of wood stain stripper into the surface you want it applied to. Distribute the stain stripper evenly into the surface of the wood by using a paint brush. Be sure to be gentle with brushing the stain stripper.

Stain strippers tend to evaporate quickly, so you’ll notice that areas that are lightly applied with the solution will appear dry. In this instance, simply apply a small amount of stripper into the area and distribute it lightly with a brush.

Although stain strippers dissolve stains remarkably well, they need time to do so. Thus, allow the stain stripper to stay for 15-20 minutes. Don’t poke it every minute to test whether the stain can be removed already.

Remove Stain Stripper with Scraper

Afterward, remove the stripper and the dissolved stain from the wood with a blunt scraper. Scrape wood and catch the stripper as it falls off the edge of the wood with a container or anything similar.

The stain removal process is not finished with this step, though. Most probably, you only removed 90% of it. To finish off the job, you’ll need a steel wool.

Apply a small amount of stripper and scrub the wood (along the grain) with the steel wool. Apply more stripper if you feel like you need to.

#2 Neutralize the Stripper

Neutralize the Stripper

The process of removing the stain does not end with using a stripper. Even if you scrub the surface of the wood well with a steel wool, the chemical residue would still be present in the surface and the pores of the wood.

To continue, you need to neutralize the stripper first.

There are some ways to do that. One is to wipe the surface of the wood with sawdust. This will remove a significant amount of residue, but it will not be that effective.

Another way is to use a piece of cloth and water. Water neutralizes the stripper effectively. Simply spray a small amount of water into the surface of the wood and wipe it off with the cloth.

Afterward, use a medium-coarse steel wool or sandpaper to finish off the process. If you are fixing a bad stain job in furniture, be careful with sanding or scrubbing it with a steel wool. You don’t want to ruin the definition of the woodwork.

#3 Reapply the Wood Stain

Reapply the Wood Stain

Take note that after wood is exposed to a stain stripper, it’s texture and the size of the pores change. This affects how the wood absorbs the stain afterward. Often, the wood will have an increased ability to absorb the stain.

If you are not careful enough, the reapplied stain will make the fixed area prominent—hence defeat the purpose of staining it again.

Before you reapply the stain, you can condition the wood. You can apply the wood conditioner using a paint brush. Applying a wood conditioner ensures that the wood with absorbs the stain evenly.


Fixing a bad stain job is relatively easy. In fact, you can do it right the first time. However, each wood responds to the staining and stain-stripping processes differently. Thus, expect varying results.

Fixing a bad stain job requires more effort than just staining mainly because you need to make the fixed area as unnoticeable as possible. The steps in this article are carefully outlined to make the process as simple but as effective as possible.

Did this tutorial help you fix a bad stain job? Do you have any suggestion, comment or question regarding the process? Let us know in the comment section below.





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2 thoughts on “How to Fix a Bad Stain Job in Three Easy Steps”

  1. I like your article on fixing a botched staining job. I have not tried your method yet. I am new at this and afraid I will make a bad situation worse. I first stained my cabinet with a polyurethane satin stain using one of the recommended brush. I was attempting to go from a light color to a darker shade. Your article was on point for what I was thinking to repair the baaaad job I’ve already done. Thanks I think I’m ready to go at it now.
    Thank you and thank you again

  2. We have the nightmare from hell in our diningroom. This is the best advice we’ve seen so far. Thank you so much! We will let you know the results.

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