Cleaning Wood with Mineral Spirits Before Staining

Wood staining is a popular way to enhance the natural beauty of wood and protect it from damage. However, before applying any stain, preparing the wood surface properly is a must. Stripping away grease and grime is key, and mineral spirits is one of the best materials for this purpose. 

But how should you use mineral spirits before applying finish to your wood project? 

In this post, you will discover how to use mineral spirits before staining.

Can you clean wood with mineral spirits before staining?

Mineral spirits is a flexible compound that can be used for a variety of reasons. It is commonly utilized as a degreaser to clean automobile components, tools, and paintbrushes.

Cleaning wood with mineral spirits before staining or applying a finish provides two main advantages.

First, mineral spirits is a relatively potent solvent. It can easily cut through severe grease and grime quite easily. Given the strength of the solvent, it can be used to strip paint and old layers of stain as well. 

Secondly, using mineral spirits is a relatively efficient solution. Residual mineral spirits from cleaning dry off extremely quickly (15-20 minutes), and odorless mineral spirits don’t leave behind any residue. That said, mineral spirits is an effective approach to prep a piece of furniture relatively quickly. 

When you are cleaning wood using mineral spirits (available here on Amazon),

Related: Mineral Spirits Before Painting: What You Need to Know

How to clean wood with mineral spirits

Before cleaning wood using mineral spirits (available here on Amazon), there are a few safety precautions you should follow. Since mineral spirits is a harsh cleaning solution, always be sure to wear rubber cleaning gloves for protection.

Additionally, be sure to wear a respirator even when working with odorless mineral spirits to avoid breathing in solvent vapor. At the very least, work in a well-ventilated area.

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on cleaning wood using mineral spirits before painting or staining: 

Step 1: Collect the materials needed

Make sure you have all of the essential cleaning items before you begin including:

  • Rubber cleaning gloves
  • Respirator
  • Tack cloth 
  • Dry rag
  • Odorless mineral spirits 

Put the respirator and rubber gloves on and get to work.

Step 2: Wipe the wood with mineral spirits

Soak a cloth in mineral spirits, strain it out slightly to the point where it’s not dripping, and gently wipe it across the wood surface.

Wipe in the direction of the wood grain with even strokes. As you wipe down your wood, you should see that the areas you have treated already have turned a bit brighter and more vibrant than before.

Resoak your cloth in mineral spirits as needed. You’ll likely need to resoak your cloth in mineral spirits a few times to sufficiently cover your entire furniture piece in the solvent. 

If there are remnants of sap, glue, or residue on your furniture you may need to use some elbow grease to clean these spots sufficiently. You may need to scrub these areas with your soaked cloth a few times over to completely remove the contaminants.

Step 3: Dry the wood using a rag (optional)

After you’ve covered your furniture in mineral spirits, allow the material to dry off on its own. 

To speed up the wood’s drying time, wipe off the excess mineral spirits with a dry rag. Allow the wood to air dry after wiping it with a clean rag. 

Mineral spirits dry rapidly, so you won’t have to wait long for the wood to be ready for the finish. 

How long after mineral spirits can you stain?

It is critical to allow the wood to totally dry before adding any stain. Otherwise, the undried mineral spirits can mix with the stain, causing an uneven finish. 

The time it takes for mineral spirits to evaporate varies depending on humidity, temperature, and ventilation. In general, wait at least 20 minutes after treating the wood with mineral spirits before staining. 

If you’re working in a humid environment or if the wood is particularly dense, it may take longer for the mineral spirits to evaporate. 

You can test the wood by touching it to see if it feels dry to the touch. If the wood feels slightly tacky or wet, it’s probably not yet ready for staining.

Note that rushing the drying process by applying stain too soon can lead to a variety of issues such as uneven stain absorption, blotchiness, and peeling. To ensure the best possible outcome, it’s important to be patient and wait until the wood is completely dry before applying any stain.

Should you use mineral spirits before staining?: Alternatives to mineral spirits 

While mineral spirits can be effective for cleaning wood before staining, there are other ways you can prepare your wood furniture. Consider the following alternatives:

Citristrip: Citristip is a paint and varnish stripping gel. Citristrip completely breaks down any preexisting stain or finish and allows you to wipe it off the furniture with ease. 

The only downside is that Citristrip can be a bit messy, and it can leave a layer of residue. You may need to remove the Citristrip residue with denatured alcohol or another solution and allow the furniture to dry before proceeding with the stain.

Water and vinegar solution: A mixture of water and vinegar is another great alternative to mineral spirits. Chances are that you already have some vinegar somewhere in your house.

For this alternative, you may mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture onto the wood, then wipe it using a clean damp cloth.

Many DIYers love vinegar as a stain remover since it’s environmentally friendly and comparably gentler than mineral spirits. However, the downside is it’s not nearly as effective as mineral spirits and other comparably harsher solutions for removing grime and grease. That said, for highly contaminated pieces of furniture, a heavier-duty solution may be needed. 

Water and soap solution: A solution of good old mild dish soap and warm water is a tried and true option.

Simply mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water. Apply the solution to the wood with a soft-bristled brush or rag. Once you have cleaned the furniture with the solution, rinse the wood with a damp cloth. Allow the wood to completely dry before applying any stain.



Leave a Comment