Stripping Stain

It's hard to get pigment stain out of deep grain without sanding through a whole layer of veneer. Here are tips for a difficult refinishing challenge. May 5, 2011

I recently did a built-in cabinet with inset doors and drawers, shaker style. When I stained it with Minwax oil based stain, on birch, the stain was blotchy and the cabinet looked horrible. I am in the process of stripping the subsequent toning and sealer as well as the original stain. After stripping and then RO sanding with 120 grit, I can't get all the color from the stain out of the wood. I don't have the luxury of sanding much further because I'm afraid I will sand through the finish layer of the plywood. I plan on using Transtint dye (in water) after the preliminary surface wash to stain. Will the color differential in the wood surface stick out like a sore thumb? I plan on soaking overnight with bleach, but that will only take care of the dye portion of the stain and not the pigment, since Minwax is a mix of the two. Any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
We have on several occasions allowed some of the stain to remain and just worked with what was left. By this I mean we pretty well sanded the surface clean, but left the stain that was down in the grain. To get it out would in both cases have ruined the project. We applied new coats of stain on small areas and got the customer to approve the appearance before going forward. On a mahogany door we did, I believe it actually made for a better looking finish. The dark stain down in the grain made the lighter new coat of stain really stand out. Of course doing this depends on your particular project.

From contributor J:
What type of stain was it? Generally a scrub brush and acetone or lacquer thinner will help to remove the stain that is in the profiles. Otherwise think about using a glaze to help blend it in.

From the original questioner:
It was a Minwax stain, so it has dyes and pigments. I let it soak overnight in bleach and it looks like there was only very little change in the color. I'm assuming that I am dealing with the pigment portion of the stain, and from what I have read, the only way to combat this is sanding. However, this will only work if sanding through isn't an issue. For me, unfortunately, it is. I guess I'm looking at a combination of the initial Transtint dye stain and subsequent glazing after sealing?

From contributor O:
Did you try to use a brush and solvent? Pigments lodge in the pores while dyes color the entire surface. Pigments in the pores will not cause a problem with color, because they will end up that dark no matter what. You just want to make sure the surface wood around the pores is brought back to the original color or at least to a uniform color so that the stain will end up even. A soft wire brush and/or steel wool should get the rest off.

From contributor R:
Use an oil stain as part of your finish process.

From the original questioner:
The oil stain can go directly over the Transtint, sealing after the Transtint dye and oil stain?

From contributor R:
I would wash coat over the water stain and then put on the oil stain. The oil stain made the birch blotchy in the first place. The wash coat will cut down on that. Seal and toner should go on next. Remember - samples, samples, samples.