How to Fix a Bad Stain Job – 4 Easy Methods

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Wood stain mistakes can be a real pain to deal with, even though it’s not always easy to get the job done right the first time. For many home improvement DIYers, it’s not uncommon to find yourself in the situation to know how to fix a bad stain job.

Wood staining is a great way to change the look of your flooring and give your wood items a new feel. While it can be tempting to just start over, fixing a bad stain job can be daunting. Read on to discover the best fixes for common staining problems.

How to Fix a Bad Stain Job

Wood Stain Problems

Before moving to different methods of fixing a bad stain job, let’s shed some light on the stain problems and mistakes first. This will help you identify the issue and select the most suitable solution. Listed below are the most common wood stain problems:

  • Uneven stain
  • Stain can’t dry
  • Wrong color
  • Too dark stain
  • Too light stain
  • Blotchy stain
  • Streaky stain

How to Fix a Bad Stain Job

Method 1: How to Fix a Bad Stain Job by Darkening the Stain

This method is suitable for wood with visible drips or uneven stains. It can also work for blotchy stain jobs if you blend the blotches before darkening the piece.

Making wood darker is quite easy. You can do it with either gel stain or oil-based stain.

Use Oil-Based Wood Stain

Step 1

Choose the right oil-based stain for wood. Make sure the original wood stain is lighter than the wood stain you buy. That will make blotches less obvious.

Step 2

Apply the oil-based stain on the piece after buying a darker color. You can use a foam brush or a good quality paint brush for this job.

Step 3

Once the wood has soaked the stain, wipe away excess with a rag.

Use Gel Stain

Step 1

Select a darker stain. Remember that gel stain is costlier than its oil-based counterpart. It’s also a bit thicker, which is why it will sit on top of the surface instead of soaking in.

Step 2

Apply gel stain so that any mistakes are covered up. Before doing this, ensure that the initial stain is thoroughly dried. If yes, use a rag to smear the piece with a thin coating of gel stain.

Step 3

Wipe away excess and you are all set!

Method 2: Re-apply Stain After Sanding Damaged Area

Step 1: Prepare the Damaged Area

Is the stain blotchy in some areas? Do you have scratches on the surface? If the answers are yes, you will need to sand wood with sandpaper.

Make sure the grit is slightly higher or the same as what you’ve previously used. Otherwise, you will create a pattern that is different from the original wood surface.

Step 2: Stain Over It

After sanding around the damaged area and wiping up the mess, you will have to re-apply the stain. Focus on the sanded space. If you have small scratches, simply stain over them.

Allow the new layer to sit for a bit longer than usual for the best results. That will cause it to soak into the wood altogether.

Step 3: Apply a Second Coat

This step is often overlooked. But if you want the stain to blend well, apply another coat when the first one soaks in. Be sure to wipe the stain off beforehand.

The second layer of stain will cause everything to match perfectly. As a result, the surface will be evenly stained throughout.

Method 3: Fix a Bad Stain Job with Wood Stain Stripper

Sometimes it’s best to start from scratch and entirely get the existing stain out of the piece. This is known as spot-fixing and it’s ideal for blotchy and streaky stains. Bear in mind that it takes a lot of skills and experience, so don’t tackle this job if you are new to wood finishing.

Step 1: Remove the Stain from the Wood

Before getting to work, the area should be taped off. Then apply a healthy amount of stain stripper on the wood surface. Distribute it evenly with a paintbrush.

The stripper will do a terrific job of dissolving the stain. While it takes around 15 minutes with most jobs, you are advised to leave your stripper for 20-30 min when it comes to stubborn pieces. Afterward, you should be able to remove the stain with ease.

Step 2: Scrape Off the Stripper

Remove both the dissolved stain and stripper with a plastic scraper. All the liquid should be scraped into a bucket. At this point, approximately 95 percent of the stain and stripper will be removed. This means there will still be some residue trapped deep in the wood.

To remove it completely, pour some extra stripper onto the wood. Take a palm sander or orbital and run it over the surface in the direction of the grain.

TIP: Use 80– to 100-grit sandpaper and do not apply too much pressure so as not to homogenize the natural character of your wood.

Step 3: Neutralize the Stripper

If you think the stripper has been totally removed, you are wrong. There are still chemical traces in the wood. Get rid of them because they are going to keep the wood from absorbing the fresh stain later on. This involves neutralizing the stripper.

So before re-staining the piece, spray it well with water to neutralize the wood stripper. Blot the surface with a rag and run the sander over it again. This time you will need 150-grit sandpaper.

Step 4: Re-stain the Piece

Now you can finally re-stain your piece of wood. It is a good idea to treat the surface with a wood conditioner first to get the optimal results.

Simply brush the piece with conditioner using a paintbrush. Allow it to dry thoroughly. Then restore the natural beauty of wood by re-staining it properly.

Method 4: Solve the Problem by Glazing Over the Stain

Wood staining with the use of antique glazing is another way to fix a bad stain job. It’s suitable for too light and blotchy stains. If you are familiar with furniture glazing, then this task should not be daunting for you. All you need to do is follow these simple steps:

Step 1

Apply antique glaze to the piece so that the surface is covered with a thin layer.

Step 2

Add some mineral spirits (10 percent would be quite enough) to antique glaze. This will make it easy to wipe off the stain.

Step 3

Make an antique effect by wiping it off. That will make the stain slightly darker, which is a great way to get rid of unsightly light stains. As said above, it can also help fix a blotchy stain job.

FAQs About How to Fix a Bad Stain Job

How to Fix Wood Stain Mistakes?

Re-stain the piece with stain mistakes after sanding it down to bare wood. Although this is the best way to fix a bad stain job, it takes a lot of time and effort. If you’re looking for easier methods, paint or even the piece using gel stain. You can also apply another layer of stain.

How Uneven Blotches Can Be Fixed After Wood Staining?

To fix stubborn blotches, strip and sand the blotchy surface aggressively until you remove uneven stains. Then minimize the damage by applying a wash coat (thinned finish) to bare wood. As for less severe botching, use a glaze to decrease the contrast between the light and deeply colored sections. It should do the trick.


Fixing wood stain mistakes can be a huge headache. With so many tips and solutions, it can be tricky to know how to fix a bad stain job. That’s why we have created this guide to highlight the best ways to solve this problem like a pro. Give it a go!

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