Removing old stain ???

bluestarrgalleryDecember 23, 2006

I would like to remove the stain from my bathroom cabinets and put a different color on? I have been sanding and sanding and it is taking forever. Is there a type of liquid stripper for removing stain - I know there is one for paint - but is there one specifically for stain and has anyone tried it?

thanks in advance for any advice.

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Strippers are generally for varnish/poly removal, and they will get some stain off. They generally aren't meant for stain since stain is absorbed into the wood whereas poly sits on top the wood. Have you already tried a stripper, or did you just start with sanding right away? If you started with sanding, you might want to back track and use a furniture stripper, then sand. Bix orange is good, but wear goggles/stripping gloves/long sleeves. You'll get wicked burns from the tiniest of splatters if not careful.

There's wood bleaching (see link below for article) but I've never had to go to that extreme myself. And it can be pretty harsh on wood.

Once the stripping phase is done, I'd keep at it with sanding. What size grit are you using? And are you using an electric sander or doing it by hand? Wood type will be a factor as well. Oak is often used in bath furniture, so that's a porous wood that absorbs stain readily/deeply, but is also a very hard wood, so does take some work to sand (use an electric palm and/or detail sander). Something softer, like pine, will sand readily so stain removal is a breeze.

I've found that scaling down in grit size (which would be moving up in numerical size), done in increments, is all it takes to get the stain out of the finer pores. Do a round with 120, grit. Then do a couple rounds with 150, then 180. If that method is going to be productive, you should begin seeing results when you reach the 150/180 range. Once you reach the 200 grit mark, you're more at a 'finishing' sanding stage than a 'stripping' stage, so that should be the last grit you use, or second to last (if you opt to go higher).

Here is a link that might be useful: Using Wood Bleach

    Bookmark   December 24, 2006 at 8:11AM
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moonshadow-thank you for so much information. I started with sanding and it was so dusty and taking so long I thought of a stripper. Then last night I remembered my sister has used Regents Ez Way - so I might order some of that - she said it worked like a breeze.

A cabinet shop told me the wood is alder - it is definitely not oak because the grain is not so far apart and porous. I am not sure how hard alder is considered.

The cabinet shops are so busy I can't get anyone to make me a new cabinet for my bathroom. I also wanted some door fronts for my other bathroom and hallway. I already tore out my one bathroom and want to get that done so I can start on the other one. I did leave in the cabinet until I get the tile done so the wet saw can be set up on the cabinet - so maybe I will reuse that cabinet too. I was going to put granite on top since is is a small bathroom and I hate to put granite on top of an old cabinet whose drawers don't slide very well and the fronts are old style with hinges showing and a rounded top and bottom face molding and ugly inside. I might have to though.

We did buy one of those electric sanders that looks like a small iron with lots of attachments with different shapes, but the dust is way too much. What we have sanded looks pretty good - but now for the recessed portions around the doors and edges of the cabinets - which will be another story.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2006 at 4:08PM
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I linked to a wood hardness chart below (the Janka chart), and alder is among the softest of woods. I'm not familiar with EZ Way, but hey, if it works, go for it. Don't know how old your cabs are, but if they're of good sound construction, it's well worth your time to work with them and update them. There's some pretty cheesy stuff on the market out there today, and the good stuff costs a small fortune! ;)

If your electric sander looks like a small iron with lots of attachments, you've probably got a detail sander. Good for tight/tiny/hard to reach spots. Palm sanders are good for large surface areas (a detail sander will eventually cave under the strain of doing large areas, I burned up the motor on my first one giving it too much of a workout ;) See this for different types of sanders. But again, can't stress enough how you'll get different results with different grits of paper. Best illustration off the top of my head: you're scrubbing a floor (pot, pan, tile) with a scrub brush. It gets some of the tough gunk off, but leaves gunk behind. But then if you then switch to using a rag, you'll get more of that gunk off, 'finer' bits, etc. However, you wouldn't be able to get the finer bits of gunk without getting past the larger bits of gunk via using the scrub brush first. Sanding works the same way. Low grit (coarser paper) will get 'larger' stuff off, but not finer stuff. Switch to a higher grit (finer, less course) and you'll get that finer residue off. But you have to start with the coarse grit, to get past the course finish, so you can progress to a finer grit to get the finer areas of finish off. Does that make sense?

Another tip I got from a woodworking friend (and should work well on a softer wood like alder). If you've got tight nooks n crannies that you just can't get to, even with the detail sander, take a pencil and wrap a layer of sandpaper around it. Use the pointed end to get in those really tight spots, and readjust/reroll the paper often on the pencil. Use the sides of the pencil, always go with the grain of the wood (that goes for any type of sanding) and that might just do it. Or, if you're going the stripper route, they make fine little brushes for nooks/crannies (like mini versions of the brushes you'd clean a BBQ grill with). Those get tight spots, too.

Well, good luck, would love to see a pic of how they turn out! (I love refinishing wood! :D )

Here is a link that might be useful: Wood hardness chart

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 3:12PM
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Moonshadow - thanks for all the tips. My DH said he had been using a straight bladed screwdriver with sandpaper on it. Below is the EZ-Way Restorer site. I am driving up to a California distributor to get some on Thursday - so hopefully it will work - it did on my sister's cabinets so hopefully it does on our.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ez Way Restoration

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 9:07PM
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