Common Staining Problems and Their Fixes

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Try dividing large objects into smaller pieces or ask someone else to apply or dry.

With this information you may be able to avoid problems completely.

Problem No. 1

Different boards on glued boards stain differently, some boards turn out lighter than others.

Fix Apply more stain to lighter boards directly on the wood or by adding some of the stain color to the finish and shading them darker. It is rarely possible to achieve an exact match, but it is possible to significantly reduce the contrast. Another way to even out the color is to whiten the wood using a two-part bleach (sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide), then color the wood with the color you want after sanding to remove the fluff.

Problem No. 2

The stain dries before you can remove all the excess.

Fix This problem is quite common with water-based stains and paints because they both dry quickly. Apply more of the same stain, stain thinner or, if necessary, a paint stripper and remove the excess stain. If the color is uneven or too light, you will need to apply more stain. Switch to a slower drying stain, work on smaller sections at a time, or apply and remove the stain faster using a cloth or spray gun to apply the stain and a large dry cotton cloth to remove the excess stain. You can also ask someone else to perform one of the steps while you do the other. Stains that are diluted or cleaned with mineral spirits (paint thinner) dry more slowly, but you need to wait longer before applying a finish.

Problem No. 3

1. If you are sanding an edge, an easy way to restore color is with a touch-up marker. Then apply a finish to prevent the marker color from being erased.

When sanding the sealant layer, sand the stain on some edges.

Fix Replace the color by applying some of the same stain to the area and removing any excess, or by using a touch-up marker.

Problem No. 4

The grain on the raised panel cabinet doors becomes too dark when cleaning and removing a stain.

Fix Sand the final grain so that no roughness remains or spray the stain in light enough layers so you don’t have to remove the excess. The darkening is caused by a greater deposition of the stain in the rough areas of the head fiber compared to the smooth areas in the long fiber of the rest of the door. Spraying the stain without rubbing deposits an equal amount of color everywhere, so roughness does not affect darkness
color.

Problem No. 5

2. A common flaw when coloring is machine marks like those shown here that telegraph and, in fact, get highlighted. You have to sand these before applying the stain.

The stain shows gouges and machine marks (“washing tables”) left by a splicer or plane. Also highlighted are the sanding scratches left by coarse sandpaper and the scribbles left by random orbit sanders.

3. To avoid staining of soft woods and most dense-grained hardwoods, apply a washcoat prior to staining. Oil and varnish-based washcoats are commonly sold as “wood softeners”. These dry slowly, so you should leave them for six to eight hours before applying the stain.

Fix Re-sand the wood below the problem depth to 150 or 180 grit sandpaper. Before you begin, remove as much stain as possible using naphtha, paint thinner, or acetone so the stain doesn’t clog the sandpaper. It is not necessary to remove all the color of the stain before recoloring, just get the remaining color fairly uniform.

Problem # 6

The stain also stains the wood when you remove all the excess.

Fix The stain is caused by defects in the wood that absorb more stain, so the solution is to keep all the stain very close to the surface of the wood. You will need to remove any stains that have occurred by sanding. Then switch to a gel stain (which does not flow so as not to penetrate deeply), partially seal the wood with a washcoat / wood conditioner (to prevent the stain from penetrating deep), or spray the stain and do not rub from the ‘excess. This will leave an equal amount of stain everywhere.

Problem # 7

The spray stain does not color the inner corners well.

Fix The turbulence created by the air pressure prevents the stain from reaching these recessed corners. Then reduce the air pressure to the minimum possible, while still getting good results, or brush the stain in these areas.

Problem No. 8

The spots where sweat has dripped onto the wood during sanding turn darker when the stain is applied.

Fix Sweat (or water for that matter) lifts the grain and roughens the wood, so more stains settle. Follow the directions in problem no. 5 to smooth out the problem and recolor.

Problem No. 9

The stain you are using is not making the wood dark enough.

Fix Commercial stains vary in the ratio of pigment or dye they contain to the carrier (binder and solvent). The higher the ratio, the darker the stain that colors the wood. So an easy solution would be to change brands or add some pigment or dye to the stain you are using.

There are two other possibilities. One is to sand down to a coarser grit: # 150 instead of # 180, for example, or # 120 instead of # 150. Just don’t get so rough that the stain highlights scratches. You will have the greatest success if all the scratches from the sanding of the last sanding go with the grit.

The other is to leave some stains on the wood during the drying phase. This is called a “dirty cloth”. To achieve success you need to clean every part equally, so it will be helpful to have a sample panel to match. Apply a finish coat to this panel to bring out the full color.

Problem # 10

The color of the stained wood is just a little dull.

Fix Add some of the opposite color in the color spectrum to the finish and tone the wood. For example, if the wood is too hot (reddish), add green. If the wood is too cold (greenish), add red. You can also add black to reduce the brightness. Keep in mind that lighting plays a role in how colors appear. Fluorescent lighting makes colors appear cooler. Incandescent lighting makes colors appear warmer.


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