Sealing Up a Bleeding Finish

      Shellac is the go-to barrier coat for evil spirits that soak through topcoats. But don't sand the shellac or you'll defeat its effectiveness. June 18, 2013

I have a customer with an older cabinet converted over to linen cabinet. The problem is it started bleeding an orange color on all the linens and if you wipe your hand across the wood, you get orange fingers. They had someone sand and seal, but it bleeds back through over time. Any thoughts?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor L:
Use shellac to seal it. If you are going to be putting another finish coat on it, use dewaxed shellac.

From contributor C:
Most likely an oil soluble synthetic dye was used, notorious for bleeding through solvent base coatings, especially lacquers.

A shellac product will seal in the offending bleeder, but I would first advise you to wipe down the entire cabinet with den-alcohol to remove the surface bleed. Once no more orange is coming off on the rags, the shellac can be applied and be more affective. Again, if you need to apply further coatings over the shellac to adjust sheens, only use Zinsser sealcoat as the shellac.

Don't sand the shellac! If you abrade the surface it will not work and continue to bleed anymore orange out through the surface.

If by chance this is a painted piece or pigmented finish, then use Zinsser shellac based Bin primer instead of the sealcoat. This will give the same barrier/isolation protection, but is better than clear shellac by far.

Note: The reason this is taking place is because the oil soluble dyes rise to the surface of the coating when a liquid solvent coating is applied over them. This is called bleeding, and why you need something to isolate the dye bleed. Shellac is the one thing that will not allow the dye to bleed through the surface and why if you sand it, it will no longer act as a bleed barrier and thwart your efforts.

Also if there is a need to re-coat with solvent clears - apply the first coat or two very lightly, so they do not aggressively soften the shellac finish, which could allow the dye to strike through even the shellac, then proceed with a normal coat of finish.

As always, test the entire process out on a sample first.

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 © 1996-2019 - 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