This week’s Ask The Craftsman question comes from Douglas.
“What do you recommend to remove stain from an antique mantle?”
Douglas, I’m assuming that we are not talking about pet stains here. Stains from pet urine blacken wood in a way that cannot be removed without replacing the wood. Removing a stained finish from wood is another story though.
Wood stain penetrates deep into the wood and can’t be removed just by using a chemical stripper and scraper like paint or varnish.
*Make sure to wear chemical resistant gloves when working with any chemical strippers.
For an intricate piece like a mantel, I would apply a chemical stripper like CitriStrip to the surface, working it into all the nooks and crannies and let it work its magic for a couple hours. Apply a coat that is about 1/8″ thick all over and reapply to any areas that dry out.
Any surface finish like varnish or polyurethane will bubble up and can be easily scraped off with a dull putty knife.
Get Into the Grain with Steel Wool
Once the finish is off start with ‘0’ grade steel wool. Wet the steel wool with the stripper and really work it into the wood going with the grain. You’ll have to do several passes to get everything and change out your steel wool often because it will clog up quickly.
Use a toothpick or any other implement that will fit into crevices to help remove stain from wood in those areas.
After you’re satisfied with the surface, wipe everything down with Mineral Spirits and let it dry overnight before coming back and sanding it in preparation for the new coat of stain or finish.
You can read more about working with chemical strippers in my earlier post How To: Strip Paint (Part 1 Chemical Strippers).