Hot Topics: Oil Spill Damaged My Wood Table

oil spill on wood table
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If you've never spilled oil on your gorgeously-finished oak dining room table, you're lucky. And if you have, you know the frustration of cleaning up a spill only to realize it has eaten away at the table's surface. This can happen with any finished wood surface, from coffee tables to chairs and so on.

So, what can be done? Do you deal with the eyesore on your furniture or do you repair it? These DIYers give honest advice about how to best fix up an end table with a visible oil spill.

Original Post: How can I repair this table's finish?

user987 Member

I spilled a fragrance oil on my end table. I did not realize the fragrance oil spilled for at least a few hours. When I wiped it off, the finish became much lighter in color. Also, I think there may have been a polyurethane (not sure if oil or acrylic) top layer on the end table.

In the picture, you are looking at the area of discoloration. It is circular in shape, maybe the size of a plum. (My phone does not have a flash, so you are also seeing the reflection of the lamp light that sits on top of the end table.)

What can I do to get the top of the end table to have a consistent color? What can I do to get rid of the lightened discoloration area? Do I need to find a matching stain?

Highlights from the Thread

round dining table and chairs

CarbideTipped Forum Topic Moderator

If you are lucky, it was just the top coat that was damaged. Can you feel an edge to the damaged area with your fingernail?

Take a cotton swab, moisten it with denatured alcohol (rubbing alcohol will work) and rub it on an area that won't show, and see if it softens or removes the top layer of finish. If it does, it is likely a shellac finish.

Do that test and let us know....

sdodder Member

Sorry to say, but in my experience the only way to get this to match well is to sand and refinish the entire table top. You may be able to get a partial repair to look fairly good, but you'll always see it.

XSleeper Member

Sdodder is right on the mark. The oil acted like a stripper and completely dissolved the finish, whatever it was. Almost all finishes darken in color with age/sunlight, so no repair will make it disappear or even look remotely the same. It will need to be stripped and refinished.

user987 Member

Hello CarbideTipped, sdodder, and XSleeper - not the advice I wanted to hear, but I do appreciate the insight. There are some other irregularities on the top of this and another similar end table. How difficult is a stripping and sanding job? Any ways to make it easier?

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

If you just need to refinish the top, it isn't a big deal to sand it down. Just take care to not get carried away sanding and sand through the veneer.

XSleeper Member

I would strip the top so that you only need to do a light sanding.

Read more or give advice on the original thread.