Pigment Staining Through Finish Coats

Objects left on furniture (such as candles or pumpkins) may stain the underlying wood right through the finish coating. January 14, 2008

A customer left a candle burning on a buffet and the color burned into the finish. Is there anything that will take the color out without redoing the whole top?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor D:
What is the finish?

From the original questioner:
The piece is not mine, but the company uses some type of production catalyzed lacquer.

From contributor D:
Did the candle burn literally down to the wood coating, thereby leaving a colored wax on the surface? Is the coating itself exhibiting charring? Have you done any solvent tests? Did you try to remove the wax with MS or naptha yet? If so, and there is still color remaining, have you tried anything else? You really need to provide more details before any intelligent solutions can be offered to solve the problem.

From contributor S:
It may even be the heat changing the timber colour. I would try solvent wiping to see if it is coloured wax smears. If the surface is catalyzed (AC amino?) I wouldn't expect the finish to absorb the colour, but it could discolour through heat.

From contributor T:
I did a job a few years ago that was maple with a white wiping stain sealed with vinyl sealer then top coated with two coats of pre-cat lacquer. The customer left a red decorative candle maybe two inch diameter on the top during Christmas holidays, never lit it, was strictly for show. She said it left a red ring on the finish. When I got there and started to check into it, I discovered to my chagrin that the stain wasn't sitting on top of the finish, but somehow migrated all the way through the finish and was in the wood. None was in the finish at all. I sanded through all layers and never had a trace of red in the dust. Never saw anything like it before, or since. I started using post-cat after, as I was underwhelmed at the pre-cat performance, although as I said, I never had anything like that happen before. I'm curious as to whether anyone else has had this experience.

From contributor D:
That's a new one, never had that happen and can't put my finger on a logical reason why, other than when it involves chemistry, "shift happens." Catalysts have a way of reacting, even after the initial cure. Candles are often loaded with petros and perfumes. How long after spraying did you deliver?

From contributor T:
The piece had been in place at least 6 months before the candle incident. My hunch is you're on the right track. I like that "shift happens" quote, I'll have to remember that.

From the original questioner:
It looks like the color of the candle has migrated into the topcoat. I don't think the heat really had anything to do with it.

From contributor R:
The strangest things can leave their mark - a permanent mark! I had a customer who left a pumpkin on a hallway table a few Christmases ago and then went out of town on an extended holiday. By the time they had returned and discovered the smell first and then the orange color on their table, it was too late. This table had a woven reed top and the color leached its way into all layers of the finish as well as the reed top. This is the only job I passed on (high dollar designer built it), because I couldn't get rid of the orange color left by the holiday pumpkin. I tried everything under the sun, but no way was the orange color giving up its stronghold on the surface.