How do I restore badly stained butcherblock table?


My trailer came with a lovely kitchen table, apparently a DIY project by the previous owner, based on what I saw when I took it apart to get it out of the kitchen (it is way too big for the space, and I wanted a storage island instead).

Unfortunately the top has multiple stains that need to be removed before it can be refinished to either sell or donate, and I am a newbie at this sort of thing, with no tools like sanders etc. What would be the easiest, most cost effective way to get rid of the stains so I can varnish it (or otherwise refinish it) so it is useful again?

Or should I just offer it up as a cheapie or freebie to a more experienced DIYer?

q how do i restore badly stained butcherblock table

Stained table top

  16 answers
  • Don't worry if you have the tools, you can rent a sander at any tool supply and watch a bunch of you tube videos.

    If it were me, I would give it a good wash, then use Citristrip (needs to be done outdoors so if you are in the polar vortex, wait till it passes or spring), to see what that does. Then determine if it still needs a sanding (which I would do anyway), and see how it turns out. Then you can leave natural and seal or restain and seal.

    And since you already have this piece, it is a great place to get started. You have nothing to lose and if it doesn't work out you can still give away to another DIY person.

    • See 1 previous
    • Sylvia, you are most welcome! Think you will like this project. I am in Southern California so no polar vortex here either. When it hits 65° they bundle up as if in a blizzard. Citristrip is my preferred product for this type of project. This table has great potential. Have fun with it. 🌞

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Feb 15, 2021

    What a nice project, I have always like Butcher Block and this is no exception.

    Not sure if Citristrip will take up the darkest of the stains, that's where the sanding will come in.

    If the stain is still too deep into the tabletop and you still would like to see the grains of the wood, you could stain with a color close to the stain you have tried to lift. Some Hometalkers like to paint and might offer that as a solution.

    • Sylvia Sylvia on Feb 15, 2021

      Hmm, OK, since there are plenty of nearby options for sandpaper I will hold off picking that up until I see the results of the Citristrip. Since it is butcherblock I feel it would be a crime to paint it, so I will do my best to avoid that. Thanks!

  • I would try Citristrip, although it may not work on all of the stains if they have penetrated into the wood. It probably needs sanding, which can be done by hand, but it will be a work-out!

    • See 1 previous
    • I understand. My neck and shoulders can't take much hand sanding either. Try the lightest spots first, work up to the worst ones, and then give it an overall sanding.

  • on Feb 15, 2021

    A really good Sanding should do the trick. Then finish with tung oil.

  • Em Em on Feb 15, 2021

    Use a belt sander. The stains could be deep and you will get better results using it to not create a large "divot" over just sanding the stained areas. The belt sander will keep the wood level.

    • See 1 previous
    • Em Em on Feb 16, 2021

      I am in your age bracket as well. I refinished and entire stair case with mine. The half sheet belt sanders are not hard to use. You can also get a small circular sander but it is harder to not make a divot in one area as well. Just don't waste money on the small mouse sander you hold in your palm. They are a waste of money for anything except the smallest of light sanding.

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Feb 15, 2021

    You will need to sand it but you can do so by hand. I would recommend that on a table top any way. If the stain is deep, you may not be able to sand it out. In that case, go with a darker stain to disguise it. Then seal with polyurethane. I do 3 coats on tables. Between each coat, lightly scuff with fine steel wool and wipe with denatured alcohol. This allows the coats to adhere and removes all dust particles.

    • See 1 previous
    • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Feb 16, 2021

      I didn't think about it until your reply but something like this might be the answer. Put a design in the area that is stained.

  • Budgiehawk Budgiehawk on Feb 15, 2021

    I would use a finishing sander (one that does not spin around) to get down to the unstained wood. It would be a shame to throw out that table. Painting it would cheapen the appearance too.

    • Sylvia Sylvia on Feb 15, 2021

      I agree about not painting, and will look into what a finishing sander is - perhaps I can handle it better than a belt sander. Thanks!

  • You will need to sand it down to remove those stains, here is a sanding tutorial for beginners:

    Then to refinish it follow the steps in this video:

  • Morgan McBride Morgan McBride on Feb 15, 2021

    sand it down

  • Betsy Betsy on Feb 15, 2021

    Hi Sylvia: No tools? No problem. You can sand and paint or stain a really dark colour. Or, check these sites. Scroll around until you find your situation:

    Good luck

    • See 1 previous
    • Betsy Betsy on Feb 16, 2021

      Good idea :) Remember, most stains and icky spots are deep in the wood and sanding won't really help without leaving divots in your wood :( What you need is something that will lift the stain out. If you are going to do any scraping, use a plastic putty knife so that you don't put any gouges in your wood. If you look at the edge of a putty knife, you will see that it's sort of angled. One edge goes flat against the wood and the other is sort of angled up. Use the right edge, otherwise you are prone to 'dig' into the surface to get more of a scrapping effect.

  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Feb 15, 2021

    Hi! You can strip it with a product like Citristrip and hand sand it for the simplest method. Plan on some rags, a scraper/putty knife, a dropcloth, some latex gloves and a sand block or sponge sander. Follow the directions on the stripper for how long to leave it on. The stripper creates a sludgy residue that you will need to wipe and scrape off. If the wood has a lot of stains like yours, I sometimes scrub it with scrub pads, a soft bristle brush and another coat of the stripper before letting it dry and sanding it. Sand with the grain, and hopefully that will remove most of your stains. You may need to go darker if the stains are too soaked into the wood. Good luck!

    P.S. the few things you need are easy to find, inexpensive, and the scraper can be cleaned up for future use. The Citristrip is available at Walmart, Amazon and most hardware stores. It keeps for a long time if you keep it closed, and you will no doubt have other projects to use it on!

  • Annie Annie on Feb 16, 2021

    A good sanding and re finish should do the trick

  • Sylvia Sylvia on Feb 16, 2021

    Thanks to all who responded! I am going to be brave and attempt this on my own. If it all works out I will post the results

  • Jeremy Hoffpauir Jeremy Hoffpauir on Feb 28, 2021

    Sand down and refinish. It is really pretty..

  • Kmdreamer Kmdreamer on Jun 23, 2021

    It looks like it is only the clear finish but you could sand it down and add a clear coat back it will be good as new .If there is some stains left and you can’t get them out use bleach right on them soak with a paper towel if needed and let it sit on it and dry