How to Strip Stain from Old Kitchen Cabinets

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  • 3-4 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 300-600
What You'll Need
Small container
Dish detergent
Stain remover
Old cloths
Wax paper
Garbage bags
Wood sealant
New wood finish

To successfully strip stain from wood, it's best to understand the makeup of this finish. Stain is made of a pigment, a binder, and a solvent. The solvent is the part of the stain that makes the binder and pigment sink into the grains of the wood. Through the process of evaporation, the solvent dissipates and the stain pigment becomes embedded in the wood. To remove the stain from the wood, a thin layer of the wood will also have to be removed. You will need to decide if it is worth that effort, or if you would rather clean and paint over the stain on the cupboards.

Step 1 - Prepare for the Stain Removal

Use the screwdriver to remove the screws securing the cupboard doors and the cabinets. Put the screws into a small container so that you don't lose any of them. Remove the cupboard doors and then remove all of the hardware on them. Fill the sink with warm, soapy water. Place all of the hardware into the sink to soak. Use the toothbrush to scrub any residue off of the hardware. Empty the sink and put the hardware on a towel to dry. If your cabinet doors have veneer coverings, it might be best to use a veneer wood cleaner rather than removing the stain. Be sure all of the wood in your cabinetry is sturdy and secure.

Step 2 - Remove the Stain

Be sure that the stain remover you have chosen is safe and recommended for use indoors. Read the specific instructions for the remover before you begin. Put on your protective eyewear and rubber gloves. Use either the paintbrush or old cloths to apply the remover to the cupboards, depending on the manufacturer's instructions. Use the sandpaper to sand down the surface of the cupboards to remove the original stain.

Take off as much of the stain as you can. Apply another coat of the stain remover. Cover these surfaces with wax paper and let them sit for a half hour. Remove the wax paper and put it directly into the garbage bag. Wipe the remover from the cupboards and then rinse them. The wax paper should help in removing more pigment from the wood. Sand the wood again.

Step 3 - Seal the Wood

Sanding and stripping is hard on wood. Once you have finished sanding, you will need to strengthen the wood surface before you can add a new stain. Apply a sealant to the wood to protect and strengthen it. Once again, read the specific instructions for the product before you begin. Allow the sealant enough time to dry when you have finished.

Step 4 - Test the New Finish

Most wood keeps some of the original stain pigment even after a lot of sanding. When deciding on the color for your new finish, be sure it will work well with any of the remaining stain. Apply a small amount of the new stain to a part of the cupboards that is not easily seen. Many times the wood inside the cabinets is different from the wood used on the doors. Be sure to test the new stain on both of the surfaces.

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