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Milky Finish After Staining

Posted by mleighp (My Page) on
Thu, Apr 18, 13 at 16:30

Hello Everyone,

I am in need of some help.

I decided to try my hand at staining the cabinets in my kitchen and after prepping and laying down two layers of the stain I am getting a milkly looking finish as seen in the picture.

I am using General Finishes Java Gel Stain.

To prep the cabinets I cleaned them off with disinfecting wipes, then I lightly sanded them, then I cleaned them off with a tack cloth. To apply both layers of gel stain I used a sock. I let 24+ hours go between staining sessions.

For reference I live in west Texas where average high temps have been in the upper 70s to upper 80s with humidity levels below 20%.

I am not sure how to get rid of the milkly look that is already there or even how to prevent it from happening on future cabinets.

Any help for this new comer to staining would be greatly appreciated.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Milky Finish After Staining

Disinfecting wipes, srsly?
I suspect that, right there. Who knows what chemicals are in the wipes (soaps, detergents?) and in what manner they are reacting with the oil stain.

RE: Milky Finish After Staining

Disinfecting wipes? Those are for cleaning up food spills, not prepping wood for staining and painting.

Please tell us what brand and what are the ingredients, so we can figure out how to get rid of their chemical residue (by applying other chemicals, of course).

I cleaned my cabinets with soap and water to get the water-soluble dirt off, then scrubbed them well with mineral spirits and medium-fine steel wool to get the soap residue and oily crud and grime off. That had the side effect of also acting like sanding so i didn't have to sand.

Then I wiped on two thin coats of gel stain, then wiped on a couple of coats of the gel topcoat.

On the rest of the cabinets, do not use the wipes. Use any non-oily dishwashing soap (Dawn original formula is good - avoid the ones that claim to condition your hands as you wash because they are oily)

RE: Milky Finish After Staining

Sticky tack cloths can also leave a contaminating residue that can interfere with water based finishing materials.

RE: Milky Finish After Staining

question: Is this before or after applying a top coat? If after, what top coat did you use?

As an aside, you can increase the working time of an oil-based gel stain (unless they've changed it, GF Java is oil-based) is to add a teaspoon of mineral spirits to a pint of stain.

Also, using steel wool can leave shards of steel that can rust and leave rust spots. After a finish is OK, during finishing process is risky, particularly for water-borne finishes or light colored finish schedules.

RE: Milky Finish After Staining

"To prep the cabinets I cleaned them off with disinfecting wipes"


Often alcohol (isopropyl or denatured), maybe some lanolin, soap in some.

NOT likely to be compatible with finishes, oil or water based.

My wife use a kitchen spray cleaner on some doors and trim once.
Whatever residue it left curdled the new latex paint within minutes of application.

I finally had t wash everything down with TSP (now restricted in some paces) and HOT water to get it clean enough for paint.

The only time I have seen something this this previously was after a TSP wash that was not rinsed correctly.

There was enough TSP on the surface to wreck new latex paint in minutes.

RE: Milky Finish After Staining

Hello Everyone,

Thank you for the help. Seems like it must have been the wipes. I used Colorox wipes to be exact.

@lazygardens: The ingredients in the wipes are:

Nonwoven Substrate
Alkyl C12-18 Dimethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride
Alkyl C12-14 Dimethylethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride
C12-14 Alcohols Ethoxylated Propoxylated
Citric Acid
Sodium Bicarbonate

Hopefully you can figure out other chemicals that I can use to remove the damage I have done. Thank you for the tip about using Dawn. I can assure you I will not be using any sort of wipes on any of the other cabinets.

@bobsmyuncle: This is before applying any sort of top coat. All I did was wipe them down, sand them down and apply two coats. I started seeing the weird streaks after the second coat was applied. Thank you for the mineral spirits tip I will be buying some and definitely be trying it.

@brickeyee: I guess I assumed I had removed any residue of the wipes with the sanding process but you are probably right. I bet there was just enough left on the surface to react with the stain just like with the TSP.

I was also wondering if maybe not stirring the stain would cause the particles to separate in the can and cause the weird streaks? I read that that can happen with polyurethane but was unsure if it could happen with an oil based stain.

Once again, thanks for all the help everyone!

RE: Milky Finish After Staining

" was also wondering if maybe not stirring the stain would cause the particles to separate in the can and cause the weird streaks?"
Any stain that uses pigment must be stirred throughout application (and before you start) to maintain consistent color.

It is a PITA and one reason against using pigment stains, especially on large surfaces.

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