Professionals and Amateurs Together

Removing a Stain


I turned a bowl (finished with buffing and wax only) which my wife liked and she put some fruit in it. The fruit never got eaten and spoiled staining the bowl. How do I get the stain out? – Dave Frechette


Bruce Hamilton replies: You can try some oxalic acid bleach which is available at most good paint stores. Remove any wax with naphtha or minerals spirits first. Make sure you neutralize it with a little ammonia and water. Two table spoons to a quart will do. Avoid getting the dry crystals or sand dust in the air. It will irritate your throat and lungs. If that fails try laundry bleach. Unfortunately, turning a bowl means cutting across the grain and the end grain will soak any contaminates deep into the wood.

Bill Newbold replies: To remove the fruit stain from your bowl, use some household bleach, about a 50/50 mix with water. Several tries may be necessary. If that doesn’t work then go for some commercial wood bleach – oxalic acid. Wear gloves and EYE protection. Follow the directions on the container adding the acid to the water always, to prevent a violent reaction.

More than likely you will have to sand the bowl afterward as this will raise the grain and change the original color. Rewax the bare area with plenty of coats of wax maybe a little darker than the original if possible.Wax by itself doesn’t offer much protection to liquids or dampness.

I wouldn’t attempt to strip all of the wax off and refinish with anything else as the wax will be deep into the wood cells and is difficult to remove. It also could have silicone in the wax making for a disaster to apply a more durable finish, such as tung oil or your favorite bowl finish.

Al Breed replies: I am not a bowl maker, but the various spoons and other wooden kitchen stuff I’ve made over the years I’ve either treated with linseed oil and beeswax or beeswax alone put on hot and sometimes driven into the wood with a heat gun. The latter is extremely tough. A little wax applied to the surface of wood really has little protective value at all in the long run in my opinion.

Marty Milkovits replies: Good Luck! That stain may be there forever, especially on the end grain. I have had some limited success with Oxalic acid, but you may also end up bleaching the wood as well. Scraping and sanding may be the best alternative. Next time remember to eat all your fruits and vegetables. Its not only healthy but can save a lot of work.

DJ Delorie replies: First, you should remove the old finish. Since it’s just wax, naptha should do the trick.
To remove the stain itself, you can try several things. First, you could sand the stain off if it’s just on the surface. Second, you could bleach the stain out if the bleach won’t discolor the wood itself. Use the chlorine type bleach, not the “color safe” type and always read the cautions on the bottle. Try it on a test piece – other mold/mildew removers are worth trying too. Third, you could remount the bowl and turn the stain off.
Note that wax isn’t a very durable finish, and isn’t best for contact with food. A more durable (and washable) finish like varnish, poly, or epoxy would protect the wood from future stains.

Tags: Finishing