Removing an Ink Stain from a Catalyzed Finish

To get ink off a finish, start with the mildest cleaners and move up slowly. January 14, 2013

I just came back from a client’s home and she accidentally left her library card underneath a glass of water on her somewhat new side tables (solid cherry tops). The end result was ink transfer from the card onto the finish. Ignoring for the moment why someone would do such a thing in the first place, is there any way to remove the marks without sanding back to bare wood? The top is well over six months old so it is fully cured. The finish as stated was MLC's Duravar satin with either two or more likely three coats of build.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
Start by trying to clean with water and dish soap. Then you try the milder solvents (mineral spirits then naphtha). If you do not achieve results from these try xylene and a Q-tip, being careful not to spread the color over a larger area. Blot the stain and don't smear it around. If this has no effect, I would carefully shave the area with a new utility knife blade. Touch the area up afterwards with a few quick shots of aerosol lacquer in the proper sheen. If none of this works, you only spent five minutes finding out.

From contributor G:
Worst case scenario would be a good scuff sanding and a recoat of the final layer of finish. You shouldn't have to strip to wood.

From contributor F:
MLC's catalyzed products, even the pre-cats, are very solvent resistant. I have used rags saturated with lacquer thinner many times and rubbed doors with no damage at all to the finish. I would try that. If that suggestion scares you try it on an inconspicuous spot first.

From the original questioner:
I think I might try the mineral spirits followed by lacquer thinner route. Hopefully that'll do the trick. It's not the end of the world if I have to re-finish it as it's a small top with no stain. I just figure if someone had run into it before it may save some time.

From contributor R:
Also, try alcohol. Some inks are alcohol soluble. Before going full strength with lacquer thinner/acetone, try a mix three or two parts mineral spirits to one part acetone. Be very careful on full strength acetone.

From contributor O:
These are some high risk suggestions given. Since the (ink) stain was/is waterborne, start with the most gentle approach. Use household bleach with a drop of detergent for a wetting agent on a small pad or q-tip and be patient. Next use oxalic acid solution (bleach) with the same application. I'd skip the naphtha/m-s and go to alcohol if bleaches fail. Only then would I look to the hotter solvents.