Bleaching Water Stains Out of Oak

      A refinisher succeeds in restoring oak cabinets using a hot, saturated solution of oxalic acid. August 14, 2007

Question
I am refinishing an oak kitchen and the client wants it back to its original state. It has water damage that has caused the grain to go black. I stripped and scrubbed with a bristle brush, but still can't remove it 100%. The client wants no color whatsoever. Any tips on cleaning oak?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
Form contributor C:
In my opinion, you are trying to do the impossible. Oxalic acid will help lighten (bleach) iron stains (the most common that will blacken oak or other dark woods), but it is extremely difficult to remove all of the darkening unless it was very minimal to begin with. I have painted over such stains but this is a highly skilled art and still less than perfect. I'd be quick to let my client know that you can only fill his high expectations with brand new cabinets at the normal prices for that quality level and labor to remove the old ones and install the new ones.



From contributor D:
The black is caused by mineral stains. Make up a hot saturate solution (enough crystals until no more crystals will dissolve in the distilled water) of oxalic acid in a glass jar so that you can reheat it in a microwave and apply to the stained areas. You can repeat every 15 minutes or so 3-5 times, make a final application over the entire door/drawer, then let dry overnight. Next day rinse very well with distilled water until all of the crystals are absolutely gone. Leave the bristle brush alone - rips the soft wood out on oak especially. When dry, sand and proceed as expected. You may have to do some minimal touchup low down in the grain, but I'm betting you can do this.


From contributor R:
I'm steering towards contributor D's response. I have used oxalic acid with great results. Use it hot and do your bleaching in the direct sunlight if you can. Multiple steps will do wonders. Once the solution is completely dry and you have dissolved the crystal with hot water, make sure to wear a good particle mask when sanding the dried wood, because it will cause the most nose cleaning sneezes you can imagine.


From the original questioner:
Well, the cabs turned out great. I jut sprayed them today. The only problem I had was with the toe kick. It was 1/4" veneered waferboard, like the kind you find at Home Depot. I told her that I will change those parts for her. Other than that, I still find the kitchen looks ugly with no color, but then again I am not a big fan of natural oak on a kitchen.

Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?


Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?
  • KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base

  • KnowledgeBase: Finishing

  • KnowledgeBase: Finishing: Refinishing




    Would you like to add information to this article? ... Click Here

    If you have a question regarding a Knowledge Base article, your best chance at uncovering an answer is to search the entire Knowledge Base for related articles or to post your question at the appropriate WOODWEB Forum. Before posting your message, be sure to
    review our Forum Guidelines.

    Questions entered in the Knowledge Base Article comment form will not generate responses! A list of WOODWEB Forums can be found at WOODWEB's Site Map.

    When you post your question at the Forum, be sure to include references to the Knowledge Base article that inspired your question. The more information you provide with your question, the better your chances are of receiving responses.

    Return to beginning of article.



    Refer a Friend || Read This Important Information || Site Map || Privacy Policy || Site User Agreement

    Letters, questions or comments? E-Mail us and let us know what you think. Be sure to review our Frequently Asked Questions page.

    Contact us to discuss advertising or to report problems with this site.

    To report a problem, send an e-mail to our Webmaster

    Copyright © 1996-2014 - WOODWEB ® Inc.
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without permission of the Editor.
    Review WOODWEB's Copyright Policy.

    The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices. What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk.

    WOODWEB, Inc.
    335 Bedell Road
    Montrose, PA 18801

    Contact WOODWEB











  • WOODWEB - the leading resource for professional woodworkers


      Home » Knowledge Base » Knowledge Base Article