Refinishing Doors Dulled by Cleaning Products

It's a case of over-zealous cleaning. What's the fix? November 15, 2010

I have been asked to rework some doors that have dull spots from something the cleaning people used on them. I was not the original finisher so don't know for sure what was on them. I did use some rubbing compound and was able to get the dull spots out. How can I get the finish to a uniform shine without respraying them? What would you do? I tried respraying a small area on one door and it fisheyed all over, so we don't want to go that route.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor E:
Clean it and try some Mohawk Perfect Blend. It does not leave overspray. Just match the sheen.

From the original questioner:
Does this product come in gallons so you can spray it conventionally? There are about 30 doors to do on both sides and I think aerosol would take forever. Maybe I'm wrong.

From contributor E:
Misunderstood. Thought you had only a few spots. This is aerosol only. It would not work for you. Sounds like it would be easier to take doors back to the shop and reshoot. I don't know a lot about compatible topcoats. Mil thickness is another thing to keep in mind.

At least the customer knows the cleaning lady cleans everything.

From contributor W:
To re-coat the old finish you have to use the compatible clear coat. And it is very difficult to recognize the finishing type when it is already dry. But mostly you can refinish with NC topcoat (lacquer finish). It works for almost all other types of clear coating.

You have to clean the old finish of chemicals that could contaminate your lacquer. The craters you got were caused by the contaminant in your finish, such as wax or oil. Use a cloth dampened with mineral spirits to clean up the surface and scuff sand before doing the new topcoat.

From the original questioner:
I tried something yesterday and it seemed to work. I sanded the surface lightly with 220 and then used a rubbing compound and buffed the finish. This seemed to get rid of the problem and I was able to get the sheen back again. It seems like a lot of work so I will try the recoat idea as well. Thanks! This is a great source for problem solving.

From contributor I:
What no one has addressed yet is the fact that the cleaning people evidently caused these shiny spots (you may have silicone contamination) or the fact that the surface is so slick from oils, wax, etc. that you will encounter fisheye when you overcoat with another finish. The way to approach this is to clean all surfaces with a wax remover, silicone remover, soap, whatever to remove the contamination as much as possible. Then scuff sand with 320 sandpaper, clean or wipe down again, shoot with vinyl sealer, then topcoat with finish of choice. Usually I topcoat with pre-cat, as it has done nicely on top of conversion varnish before.

From contributor D:
I doubt this is silicone contamination. In my experience silicone will not dull a finish; it usually makes a finish glossier. Polishing may work as long as you are looking to achieve a glossy finish. You may need to knock the finish down after polishing with some steel wool and some wool oil/lube. I would try to clean the surface. Scuff sand, seal with vinyl sealer, and spray with your choice of finish.

From contributor B:
I do repair work for a few cleaning services. 99 out of 100 times all you have to do is clean off whatever they put on. Once you start sanding, you bought it.

From the original questioner:
I am not sure if everyone understands the problem. Whatever they used actually etched the finish - it is not just on the surface. I have sanded and then rubbed out the finish on one door with rubbing compound, and then buffed it back up to a shine, but that has been the only thing so far that has worked. I will try to clean, vinyl seal and then topcoat again.

From contributor R:
Folks do some crazy things, sometimes before thinking, and even sometimes right after thinking. It's quite possible that someone in the household used a coarse Scotchbrite pad with Ajax cleanser sprinkled on it. This, sure as shootin', would bugger up the coating, be it a nitro lacquer or a bulletproof 2K poly.

My take on the matter would be to clean everything with odorless paint thinner, scuff sand the surfaces with 280 paper, shoot a nice coat of vinyl sealer, sand the vinyl with some 220-280 paper, and finish it off with a few topcoats. Spraying on the finish will give you the most consistent sheen. Rubbing and buffing and polishing is tiresome and time consuming and might not give you an even sheen throughout the project.

I think the silicone contamination might be a result of the culprit realizing they messed up by using such a coarse/aggressive cleaning regime. They tried to amend it by applying a spray on wax - Pledge or Endust or one of the other no-no's. Determine what the existing finish is and then proceed accordingly.

From contributor D:
It's always nice to hear from contributor R. It's even nicer when he has the same advice on solving a problem. This method will give you a consistent finish without the hair pulling.