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Oil stain removal from wood furniture

A discussion started in 2001 but continuing through 2017


Q. I have an old dresser that I have stripped the varnish off of and found motor oil had been spilled on it. How do I get the oil stain out as it has penetrated deeply into the wood. Also on the bottom side of the dresser is water stains, how do I remove these?

Thank You,

Jim H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Diamondville, Wyoming

similarly 2002

Q. How to get an oil stain out of bare wood so that we can refinish the table.

Ruth C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Jefferson, Iowa

March 5, 2009

Q. I have retrieved a pretty little English Oak table from an old farm shed.
Unfortunately it was used as a work bench. After removing the layers of old paint I discovered a large, very deep oil or grease stain. I suspect the stain is too old and too deep to remove, I would appreciate any suggestions regarding removal or concealing it.

Estelle B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Mackay , Qld, Australia


Q. Removing OIL stains from wood. I have read many posts about how to remove water stains from wood but I have yet to see any advice on how to remove oil/grease stains. I accidentally dumped a tray of BBQ ribs on my outdoor unfinished deck and the oil immediately penetrated the wood. I have tried numerous commercial cleaners, pressure washers and sanders with little difference. Pressure treated wood is not cheap so any help you can provide would be appreciated.

John T [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Windsor, Ontario, Canada


A. Hi,

We had a similar problem with a motor oil stain on an old table my wife wanted to refinish. Unfortunately the oil stain was on a part where the original finish was almost totally gone and it soaked into the bare wood.

We found an answer on the "Oxi-Clean" web site and it worked for us. Make a strong solution of OxiClean [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] (2 scoops to 16 oz of water) and apply just enough of the solution to the stain to cover it thoroughly. Use a stiff bristle brush to scrub the stained area and wipe clean with a damp cloth. You have to be careful not to soak the wood with too much water especially if it is a wood veneer, as the veneer could buckle.

If the solution changes the color of the wood surface, lightly wash the entire surface so the bleaching effect of the oxiclean is evened out.

Robert Laakkonen
- Ripon, Wisconsin

February 2, 2008

Q. HELP. I sat a vase of OIL scented wooden flowers on my cherry wood dresser. When removing, after months of sitting there, I found that the oil had leaked to the furniture. Now there is a ring that goes down to the wood! It is almost like the oil moved the varnish aside to show the bare wood. If anyone can understand what I am trying to say here....Please HELP me!

Yolanda S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Lithia, Florida

April 2, 2008 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I purchased some scented oil jar from a store and when I opened it I put stupidly put the rubber cork on my wooden nightstand. now a few days later the oil seems to have melted through the varnish exposing an ugly ring of bare wood, at least that's how it appears. is there any solution to this without sanding and re-varnishing the whole thing? please help me

Nitai J [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
hobbyist - Philo, California

May 22, 2008

Q. Hi
We now all know how to get water stains out of wood (letter 10275). Hooray! But PLEASE can someone tell us how to get an oil stain out. I am renovating an old jsrrah work bench. At some time oil (probably automotive) has been spilt and has penetrated the wood. I have sanded the wood and have tried hot water and dish washing liquid with no success. Any ideas? Thanks

Magda A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
hobbyist - Perth, Australia

May 30, 2008

Q. I read all that stuff about water and miracles. Each time an oily table came up my heart lifted; my table is oil stained and I can live with it. My wife would be very pleased if I removed it. It would count for a whole days housework. Any tips. Lazy JIM

Jim J [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Bendigo, Victoria

June 3, 2008

Q. I too would love hear a solution for oil on timber, we have just purchased our first home and my husband was removing our air conditioner from where we are currently renting when some oil spilt on the timber veranda, I have covered the oil in talcum powder, it seems to have helped but I am curious if someone else has used this method and it has worked and how much talcum powder and do you rub it in....so many questions....HELP!


Julie S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Aramara, Queensland, Australia

July 8, 2008

Q. HELP! I had some of those wooden sticks that you put in scented oil and I wasn't aware the oil was under the vase on my wooden table. I now have a very noticeable spot on my table that looks like the varnish has been removed. Does anybody know how to restore this "bare" spot without refinishing the entire table?

Shelly J [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Kingsford, Michigan

October 7, 2008

Q. Oh, that just happened to me too. we had people over and I had two of those scented oil things on the table, and somebody spilled them and did NOT say anything. my husband just found out now, because the placemat was stuck to the table. Now I don't know what to do. the table is new and cost me a lot of money. I feel like crying. there is oil stains, AND pieces of the cloth place mat stuck onto the table.

Samanatha H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Miami, Florida

February 6, 2009

A. Responses for removing Oil stains: I had a table left in a cellar that got ruined it was originally treated with oil and I needed to get the oil out and clean it up. I used a simple solution of warm water/white vinegar about half a cup to 2 ltrs water and a scouring brush used for washing up and a lot of elbow power. Used clean towels to wipe the excess that came out the wood as not to spread it. Worked for me.

Andrew Ding
- Neuilly sur seine, France

March 27, 2009

Q. A guest knocked over one of those scented oil room diffusers onto my wood end table. She removed the items, wiped the spill, and placed the glass candle holder back on top. Two weeks later, I go to remove the items to dust, and the glass candle holder is now stubbornly stuck to the table top. How can I get it off as easily as possible?

Amy H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Homeowner - Florissant, Missouri

April 10, 2009 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I had a jar of scented oil with diffusers in it sitting on top of a wooden end table and it spilled....leaving a huge oil stain. Any suggestions as to what I can do to remove the stain?

Shirley N [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Newmarket, Ontario, Canada

May 25, 2009 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I pray someone has an answer to what seems to be a common horror story: those glass jars with the scented oil and reed diffusers spilling on our good (and not cheap!) finished wood furniture. I discovered today that last night the wind had blown a curtain over our one-year old cherry wood furniture. The bottle was nearly full when it spilled and covered half of the furniture; there was so much oil it also ran down one side of the furniture. I am sick over this. The finish is coming off down to the bare wood and where it hasn't come off (yet?) it's all sticky. HELP PLEASE!

Susan B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Pennsburg, Pennsylvania

September 23, 2009 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I recently purchased one of those scented oil with the bamboo stick diffusers. I set it on my night stand one night and forgot, left it there, and went to sleep. In the middle of the night I knocked it over,and it spilled in a puddle, soaking the cherry finish, and seeping under a book I had laying there. When I woke, I saw and smelled what had happened and quickly tried to remove the book, which tore off the back cover, and stripped off the varnish. Now I have a shredded, cherry colored book cover, and a sticky, ruined, side table. I am college student and this furniture was supposed to be my bedroom set for the next few years! I am so disappointed! What can I do to fix this? Someone please help!

Molly R [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Wilmington, North Carolina, United States

affil. link
Oxiclean 7.22 lbs.

April 11, 2010

A. I have a 1800's barber chair which has a good deal of oak soaked by the hydraulic oil used in the base to raise and lower the chair. After reading the answer to use OxiClean I gave it a try. It stripped off the old oil and the original wax finish (which was intended)with 30 minutes of scrubbing. I had used paint remover, saw dust, dish soap and a wax and oil build up restoration product before this.

OxiClean [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] was the trick!

Stefan D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- New Westminster B.C. Canada

October 17, 2010

A. Oxiclean worked well for me!

Erin Crook
- tigard, Oregon, usa

October 4, 2011

Q. Ok, so we have a queen cherry wood bed that has a couple of big grease stains on it's head. WE don't want to ruin the polished wood, and the grease stains are pretty bad. When my daughter was about 6 years old she had greasy hands and it ended up on the head of the polished cherry wood bed. We really want to get it off somehow, but don't know what do use or do.

Jackie Parker
Doctor - San Francisco, California, USA

October 26, 2011

A. I used WD-40 to remove screws that were difficult to remove on wooden kitchen cabinets. I then left it on overnight, big mistake. The oil streaked down the wooden cabinet doors. After reading other responses I tried the white vinegar, didn't work. I then tried spray Shout Gel [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]

similarly , a laundry strain remover. After several applications, and good ole' muscle strength, most, if not all of the oil stain came out. Yea! Sally Stansbury
- Buckhannon, West Virginia, USA

February 23, 2012

Q. I have a veneer desk that has danish oil and old english oil all over it...how do I remove it without destroying.

Mary McDonald
- Aurora

June 6, 2012

A. OxyClean definitely works! I'm restoring a Stickley oak desk that was used (unforgivably) as a work bench. I used an iron and absorbent cloth to bring the motor oil to the surface and followed Robert L's directions. Once more with 220 grit and I'm reaching for the stain. Thank you, Robert!

Joe Cass
- New Castle, Delaware, USA

January 10, 2013

Q. I had a oil refill for a wall plug in laid on my entry table. It took off a circle of stain and varnish and is sticky around the outer edges. What do I clean it with and can I restain it with minwax?

Connie Jett
- Orlando, Florida

January 29, 2013

Q. I have an old oak end table that was stained a cherry color. The stain is so deep that I can't get the wood to natural color. I have tried soaking it with warm water and attempting to remove the stain when the wood dries but the stain seems to be too deep. How can I get it to the natural wood.

Larry Brockson
- Manhattan, Kansas, USA

July 8, 2013

A. We had a similar problem with a stain from scented oil dripping and pooling under a candle. Eucalyptus oil removed it after several applications. Hope that helps!

Andrew Robinson
- Gold Coast QLD Australia

April 12, 2015

Q. Q I have a good night stand with a nice lamp I am not refinishing it. I had a flowered crochet cloth on top of night stand. I put lamp oil in the circle of my light bulb. Went to dust and the oil is on top of my good night stand with flowers on it now. How can I get it clean without taking the finish off I am panicking. I used Oxi Clean Laundry cleaner by spraying a little at a time. Helped a little but will not get this flower off. Please help. Thanks

Karen H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
retired - Pierre Part, Louisiana - USA

April 7, 2015

A. Hi to all,
I have a method that should work; it is untried, but bear with me here. Oil, or any liquid generally only comes out under pressure by capillary reaction; example, I can spill a gallon of water on the carpet, and get rid of it in under 2 minutes, without a vacuum, here's the method. Carpet cleaner people all use this method [no steam cleaning here]
Spill the liquid, put a good folded towel over it, then put a heavy object on top of the towel, this will make the liquid RAPIDLY suck into the dry towel, if the towel gets too wet, replace it. This method takes advantage of capillary reaction, just like if you hold toilet paper over a bowl of water, you will see the water come up vertically really quick.

So my suggestion is to totally cover the table with baking soda, say half an inch, then put a board over it with weights on top, I think the oil will wick out quickly. I am going to use this method myself, as I have an old 6 foot long pigeon hole type industrial unit [4 foot high] in oak, same deal; it has been used as a work bench for years, and I am going to sand it, and use a mix of Pale boiled Linseed oil, and pure gum Turpentine, half & half, to rejuvenate the gorgeous oak -- but after I get the oil out.
Regards Paul.

Paul Macartney
- Victoria Australia

April 25, 2015

A. I had a stain on my wooden kitchen work top caused by a hot paella pan being placed on it. So, a combination of heat and oil. Not a huge stain but in my eye-line when at the sink, so very irritating.
I used a previous poster suggestion and used the clothes stain remover Vanish. A couple of squirts and some elbow grease, and it's gone.

- Portsmouth, UK

March 16, 2016

A. My daughter spilled a bottle of essential oil on my antique table that has been passed down to us. It left a huge stain. I tried several cleaners and then tried mayonnaise. I left the mayo on for several minutes and then wiped it off. The first time it looked a little better but not completely gone. After the second application it was completely gone and looks more polished than before. I'm amazed!

Sue Nole
- Tallahassee, Florida

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