How to Even out the Color on Badly Stained Wood

There is a remedy to badly stained wood: you have to start from the beginning and re-stain. It may sound a bit laborious, but it is the only way to correct uneven stain color on wood.

Tools and Materials

  • Acetone stripper
  • 200-grit sandpaper
  • 400-grit sanding block
  • Stain
  • Cotton cloth
  • Sealer
  • Paintbrush

Step 1 -- Strip it Bare

Purchase acetone stripper and apply it on the wood using a paintbrush. Apply stripper on a small area at a time, say 1 foot in width and height, and then sand the area immediately, using 200-grit sandpaper. When the raw wood is exposed, continue working on another small area and another until you have stripped the rest of the surface.

Check for cracks, chips or holes. Since the wood is now bare, spotting damage on it will be easier. Purchase wood filler to repair the damage. Apply filler by using a small spatula for holes and a toothpick for very fine cracks. Wait for the filler to cure and sand off the cured area. Level out the surface.

Step 2 -- Smoothen the Surface

What is difficult with staining is that you cannot use a joint compound to smoothen and level the surface of the wood. The opaque color of joint compound is very visible under a translucent stain. You have to rely on sanding blocks to do the job.

During the stripping process, the surface of the wood may have become uneven. You can level this out by sanding the elevated portions with sanding blocks. Use an ultra fine, 400-grit sandpaper. The reason for this is that finer sandpaper helps close wood surface pores, thereby making the surface look smoother than surfaces sanded with medium-grit sandpaper. Also, a smooth wood surface absorbs less stain, which can help you stain thinly and evenly.

If you think that the wood’s surface is not smooth enough even after sanding, you can prime it with one coat of sealer. The sealer can act as a barrier for lesser absorption of stain, thus giving you more control over the tone of the stain.

Step 3 -- Re-stain

Get the cotton cloth and dip the stain on it. Test on a small, inconspicuous area to see how thinly you should apply the stain. Next, apply stain on the surface in a light, circular motion. Apply one coat first and let it dry overnight. This way, you can see the true color of your stain.

Most probably, your first coat of stain is light. It is better this way. You can easily darken the tone by applying more coats. Yet before you do so, search for the areas that have lighter stain first and apply a second coat of stain only on these areas. Allow to dry thoroughly. Now that the stain is even, you can darken the tone by applying another coat of stain, this time on the entire area. Allow to dry.

Step 4 -- Seal

Apply three thin coats of wood sealer. You can also use clear wood varnish as an alternative to expensive premium-grade wood sealers.