Any advice on REMOVING General Finishes Water-based stain?

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Forum topic by Lumber2Sawdust posted 08-14-2013 10:19 PM 2714 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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139 posts in 3102 days

08-14-2013 10:19 PM

I have some wood windows that needed to be finished. Based on advice here on LJs and elsewhere, I went with the water-based GF stain. I did a couple of sample pieces – just flat boards to see how it looks. The color came out well enough to make my wife happy so I decided to go with it. I was using a brown walnut stain.

I used the GF pre-stain conditioner first. When I applied the finish after that is when the trouble began. The stain dried so fast that I never got a chance to wipe it off and even out the color. Basically by the time I did one side of the window frame. I followed the instructions, using a foam brush, and applying a generous amount so that it would be workable. From my results workable means if you wipe it off before it is completely dry you get a weird light reddish-brown color. If I waited just a little longer, it was set up so much that I couldn’t wipe it at all.

The end result is the most embarrassing wood-based project I have ever done. Now I have the windows – frames and sashes stained way too dark (because of using plenty of stain so it is workable) but it is streaky, and inconsistent and ugly. I don’t want to paint these windows for several reasons so I’m trying to figure out how best to get at least most of the stain off so I can assess what my next options are.

Any help is appreciated.

3 replies so far

View CharlesNeil's profile


2469 posts in 4108 days

#1 posted 08-15-2013 07:22 PM

Try some water, pretty wet, wet it and let it sit a bit , it should help, if not you can also try some Denatured alcohol, even if you have to use a scotch bright, and water, it should get you back to at least a lighter color.

Let us know how it goes, if not there are a few more things we coudl try but this is the easiest and should help .

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 2086 days

#2 posted 08-15-2013 08:57 PM

Point of clarification: Is this a dye stain or a pigmented one? General finishes make both. If you’ve used a dye stain, you might be in luck. You can use laundry bleach, or better yet, pool shock treatment, which is concentrated granular bleach to totally remove the dye. Mix up a saturated solution of the pool shock treatment by adding the crystals to a container of hot water until no more will dissolve. Brush this onto the surface and let it dry. Next, rinse the surface with clean water and allow it to dry again. The chlorine bleach should remove the dye from the wood in the same way that it’ll remove dye from fabric. Be sure to use a respirator rated for chlorine vapours, as well as gloves and goggles if you use a stronger solution of bleach, like the pool shock treatment.

If you’ve used a pigmented stain, then you’ve potentially got a bigger problem. Use paint and varnish remover to strip as much of the stain as possible. Alternately, you can use lacquer thinner to remove only part, or all of of the colour, in conjunction with an abrasive pad. If the product is a dye, then a plain wash of water may help to remove some of it and to even out the colour.

View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 3102 days

#3 posted 08-16-2013 12:38 AM

CharlesNeil, you have proven once again why you are a legend on these forums and beyond!

As you suggested I wet the window down and started rubbing it with a cotton rag. Right away the stain began coming off. It really gunked up the rag so I quickly went to a scotchbright pad. That took the stain off more quickly and was easier to wash out the gunk.

Thank you for the suggestion. I had resigned myself to spending this weekend sanding the heck out of everything while trying to not scratch the glass with the sandpaper.

Any suggestions of what I may have done wrong? I’ve never used General Finishes before. I gave them a try this time because everyone seems to like these products and I found a color that suited my needs. I normally get finishing results that I would say are at least “adequate”. This one was a disaster.

Since I put the preconditioner on the wood before applying this stain, what are my options now going forward? Can I choose a different product and assume that the preconditioner will be sufficient from the first application? These are Pella wood windows – I think the wood is a nice clear pine or fir.

I would really like to get these windows done without another debacle like the first attempt.

Thanks for the replies

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