How to Remove Oil-Based Stain from Wood Step by Step

Last Updated on April 11, 2023 by Ernest Godia

Oil stains can be annoying, especially when they appear on the most visible parts of your wooden floor or beautiful wood items.

Removing these stains can be a headache when you neither know the materials to use nor the right stain-removal procedure to follow. Oil-based stains may occur on your wood due to spillages from cooking oil, oily body lotion, or greasy foods.

This article provides a step-by-step guide on how to remove oil-based stain from wood and restore the elegant look of your wood floor or wooden items faster.

What You Need (Tools and Materials)

For you to effectively remove oil-based stain from a wood surface without damaging it or creating a mess, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • Chemical stripper
  • Natural bristle paintbrush
  • Safety glasses
  • Mask or respirator
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic scraper
  • Steel wool
  • Cotton rags
  • 100-150 grit sandpaper
  • 180-grit sandpaper
  • Mineral spirits (optional)
  • Drop cloth

How to Remove Oil-based Stain from Wood Step by Step

Now that you have all the necessary supplies, follow these simple steps to remove the oil stain faster and make your wood piece stunning again.

Step 1: Set Up Your Workspace

Before you start working, the first step is to set up a comfortable and safe work area.

Since you’ll be using hazardous materials like paint stripper and mineral spirits, set up your workspace in a well-ventilated area.

Proper ventilation will prevent unnecessary concentration of fumes. Working outdoors in the open air is often best. However, in the case of indoor furniture or other interior wood items that will force you to work indoors, protective gear like nose masks will come in handy.

Lay out a drop cloth to protect the floor or unstained wood surfaces from chemical spillages which may occur in the process. Additionally, clear the clutter by removing any unnecessary stuff around your workspace that may be affected by the chemicals.

Step 2: Gather All the Supplies You Need

After setting up an appropriate workspace, the next step is to assemble all the tools and materials you’ll need in the stain-removal process.

Ensure you have all the listed supplies and bring them to your workspace.

If you do not have any of the items on the list, ensure you find a viable substitute before you start working. For instance, you can substitute mineral spirits with acetone, turpentine, or oil soaps. You can also substitute a plastic scraper with a putty knife.

Step 3: Put on Your Protective Gear

Once you have all your supplies, start by wearing protective gear.

The safety gear you need to protect yourself from chemical hazards includes:

  • A face mask or respirator: This will protect you from inhaling harmful chemical fumes from the wood stripper and mineral spirits.
  • Safety glasses: Will protect your eyes from chemical splashes, which may irritate them
  • Rubber gloves: Will protect your skin from any chemical spillage that may cause skin irritation.

You can also use an apron to protect your clothes from chemical stains.

Step 4: Clean the Stained Wood

Now it’s time to remove the oil-based stain from your wood.

The first thing to do is prepare the stained area by cleaning it to remove any dirt or extraneous material on the surface of the wood.

You can clean the wood by wiping it with a piece of cotton cloth soaked in warm soapy water, then let it dry. Alternatively, you can brush the wood with a dry natural bristled brush if it doesn’t look dirty.

Step 5: Apply Generous Amounts of Wood Stain Stripper

Once the wood is ready for stripping, shake the container well before opening it, and then pour some chemical stripper into a bowl.

Next, use a natural bristle paintbrush to apply a thick coat of the stripper to the stained surface, focusing on one area at a time.

Leave it on the surface for 20 to 30 minutes.

Step 6: Scrape off the Stripper and Wipe the Surface

Once you notice the stripper starting to bubble, scrape it off using your plastic scraper or putty knife.

Scrape it off in a straight line along the wood grain to avoid creating a mess, and use minimum pressure to avoid damaging the wood.

Repeat the process until all the stripper is off, and then wipe the wood with stripper-stained steel wool to remove the remaining debris. Leave it to dry for 24 hours.

Step 7: Sand Off the Wood

After drying for 24 hours, use medium-grit sandpaper (100-150 grit sandpaper) to sand the wood to remove any excess stripper off its surface.

Wipe off the wood dust with a tack cloth and sand it again using fine-grit sandpaper (180-grit sandpaper) to even out its surface and give it a smoother feel.

Step 8: Clean the Wood Surface

After removing all the oil-based stains from your wood, the last step is to clean the wood surface as a final touch.

Damp a clean cotton cloth in mineral spirits and use it to wipe off any dust, residual stain, or stripper on the wood.

Mineral spirits not only make your wood clean but also help:

  • Dissolve any excess stripper
  • Remove stubborn stains
  • Restore warmth and shine to your wood
  • Highlight wood grain for better aesthetics

Here is a detailed guide on staining unfinished wood to walk you through restaining the stripped piece.

Best Practices When Removing Oil-Based Wood Stains from Wood

  1. Try to leave the stripper on the wood long enough. The longer it stays on the wood, the more stain it will remove.
  2. Avoid applying too much pressure when scrapping or wiping with steel wool, as it may cause scratches and damage to the wood.
  3. Use a blunt scraper as a sharp one can gauge the wood and potentially damage the smooth surface.
  4. If the stain is fresh, use paper towels or blotting paper to absorb it so you may not have to apply a chemical stripper.
  5. Remove stains as soon as they occur to avoid getting absorbed into the wood surface, which requires some elbow grease to remove later.


How do you remove dried oil-based stains from wood?

Use a chemical stripper to remove dried oil-based stains from wood. Start by cleaning the stained surface and letting it dry. Then apply a thick layer of chemical stripper to the entire surface and scrape it off as soon as it begins to bubble and peel.

After stripping, ensure you sand the wood and wipe it with mineral spirits to get it ready for refinishing.

Will mineral spirits remove oil-based stains from wood?

Yes, mineral spirits are excellent solvents that dissolve oil and will easily remove oil-based stains from your wood.

They are also effective for other stains like adhesives, sticky sap residues, greasy food stains, and stains from oil-based lotions.

How do you remove dark oil stains from wood?

how to remove oil-based stain from wood

To remove dark oil stains from wood, apply mineral spirits to the stained spots with a clean cloth and rub them to help lift the oil stain.

This method should work for a treated or unfinished wood surface. 

Can vinegar remove oil-based stains from wood?

Yes. Vinegar can remove oil-based stains from wood due to its acidic nature. Vinegar is not only a natural disinfectant but also a tough stain remover.

Pour the vinegar on the wooden surface and let it sit for some time, then use a piece of cotton cloth to wipe the wood surface.

Does baking soda remove oil stains from wood?

Absolutely! Baking soda is a tough-stain remover and can help remove oil-based stains on wood.

Try mixing a little baking soda into vinegar and use it to wipe your wood. The combination works more effectively than vinegar or baking soda alone.

Will paint thinner remove oil stain from wood?

Yes, paint thinner will remove oil stains from wood just the same way it removes paint from walls. Soak a piece of cotton rag in the paint thinner and rub in circular motions on the stained surface until the oil stain comes out.

Removing Oil Stains from Wood Effortlessly: Final Thoughts

Now you have it! Don’t let oil-based stains that spill on your wood stress you anymore.

Use this step-by-step guide to remove stains from your wooden furniture or hardwood floors quickly and easily, or prepare your wood for refinishing to give it a more elegant look.

Did you enjoy the tutorial? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

If you have any questions about removing oil stains from wood, feel free to leave them in the comments section as well.

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