How to fix a bad stain job – the most thoughtful guide

Staining is not as easy as it may seem. While excellent layers of stain will give the furniture a wonderful look and prolong the lifespan of the stuff, a poor staining job will ruin everything. Of course, we humans are deemed to make mistakes all the time, and there are methods to fix them available.


However, keep in mind that you have to be careful while doing the task. Although it is possible to fix what you have done wrong, it’s hard for sure. Staining means you have to fill the pores on the wooden surface with chemical paint, so technically, it’s rather durable and can become permanent if we don’t fix it in time.

How to fix a bad stain job


What I’m saying may sound over-simplified, but it’s true. The secret of fixing a poorly done staining job is nothing complicated – removed the undesirable spot, then apply the stain again. However, such simple things require a large amount of skill. Read the three methods first, please. Each of them is meant to apply to a specific case of bad stain job.

>>> Read more: How To Paint Plywood – Best Result Guaranteed

The color isn’t what you’re expecting

If you want the spot to be darker, just apply more stain. If it is too red, there are polyurethane products that can help you balance the tone by adding more brown. What’s hard to do is to make it lighter. I’m afraid that you have to do the re-paint thing, and it’s surely trickier.

The section is streaky

The section is streaky-How to fix a bad stain job

In this case, you have to get rid of the poorly stained spot and redo it. Strip as much of the staining as possible. If the stain you have used is oil-based, scrub the section while it’s still wet to remove the streaks, then reapply the pain. Finally, wipe the excess amount away with a rag right away.

The section is splotchy

Depending on which kind of wood you are using, the absorbing ability can be different. Some species have pockets of sap in the log, so the stain will appear uneven if you are not are professional handcrafter.

In this case, strip off the color as you do in case two, but instead of reapplying it right away, seal the wood with a water-thin mixture of alcohol and de-waxed shellac. Saturate the wooden board, then wipe off the excess amount. Let the surface dry naturally for 2 hours. Next time you want to stain the surface, use a 100% pigmented stain, not ones including dyes.

How to do the tasks – Detailed instruction

If you are acquainted with the steps listed above, you may go on with confidence right now. However, if you are not sure how to do things, for example, stripping the color or reapplying the stain, you should take some more time to look at the more detailed guide below. Read them to find out how to remove the unwanted stain and redo the sections.

Dealing with the stain strippers

Stripping is one of the necessary tasks you should master before doing any staining job. To do it, you need strippers, which are solvents specifically compounded to dissolve types of wood stains. Most of the time, the paint fill up the pores on the surface of the wooden board, so it’s nearly impossible to get rid of it without special substances.


If you have the right stripper, the wood stain will be removed completely. However, we don’t want to ruin other sections where the staining job has been done excellently. To protect them, use paper to cover the rest of the surface, or use the tape to enclose the area that needs fixing.

Estimate the amount of stain stripper needed to remove the color in the area, then pour it directly onto the wooden board. Distribute the substance with a paintbrush. Make sure the solvent doesn’t stick to anywhere it’s not needed. The distribution part requires to be done quickly since strippers tend to evaporate in such a short time.

Afterward, give the solvent 15 to 20 minutes to do its task. Don’t disturb the surface each minute to check, have some patience. Then, get yourself a blunt scraper and scrape the wood. Push the unwanted stuff to the edge of the surface and catch it with a container. Then, go on with a steel wood which contains more stripper. Scrub the area with wool to remove the remaining color in the pores.

Neutralize the stain stripper

The substance is useful when you want to remove the color, but after that, it may stick to the surface and ruin your staining job again. So as not to let it accidentally dissolve your new layers of paint, we need to remove it completely before doing any further.

Therefore, you have to neutralize the remaining stripper. There are more than one ways to do the simple task. You can get it done with sawdust, which is pretty available, but not so effective. Or, you may want to utilize water and a piece of soft cloth. Spray the water on the area, then wipe it off along with the stripper.

To finish, sand the surface with a medium-coarse steel wool. Don’t do the task for a long time, because you may remove too much wood and ruin the whole surface.

Redoing the staining 

Reapplying the stain is similar to staining from scratch, but you have to be more careful since the wood texture and pore size have been changed after stripping. We should expect the absorbing ability if the surface to increase after the maneuvering. Keep the fact in mind to prevent getting the newly stained area too prominent compared to the other sections of the surface so you don’t have to repeat the vicious circle: stripping, scraping, and staining once again.

Before reapplying the stain, you should consider conditioning the wood to enable the spot to absorb the color evenly. Wood conditioner can be distributed using a paintbrush. You can buy it everywhere, from online to large department stores or local home centers.


Then, stain the enclosed area again. You should start with a thin layer first, and check the color of the newly stained area and the rest of the wooden board. If it’s too light, wait for the first layer to dry before putting another one on. Try to make the difference as unnoticeable as possible.

Final thought

Fixing a poorly done staining job is surely more complex than staining, you should know that before starting anything. Redoing something can return the perfect look to your woodworking, but at the same time, may cause havoc. In fact, each kind of wood has the different number of pores on the surface and texture, so the staining – stripping – reapplying process may vary in term of time and consistency. For example, whitewood tends to absorb the stain faster and gives better color (learn about what is whitewood here).

You have to admit that learning how to fix a bad stain job is never something complicated, and can be done in a short period of time. The problem here is how to do it perfectly. As long as you have patience, handiness, and enough care, you are totally able to master the task.