Oven Cleaner to Remove Stain? I Tested It!

Stephanie Donica
by Stephanie Donica
2 Materials
90 Minutes

I first saw this trend last year and since then, I’ve seen such mixed reviews! I figured it’s time for me to try it out for myself.

(*Skip to the 3rd photo for the actual process. I wanted to add some context as to why I didn’t have to strip the whole bowl, etc.)

This guy was the perfect candidate to try a new method on. I always wanted one of those large wooden bowls that I kept seeing on designer sites. Most of them are natural, light colored wood and run anywhere from $40-$100. If I needed a serving bowl, I could justify the cost. But I didn’t need it to be food safe, I really just wanted something for decor and didn’t wanna spend much. I found this salad bowl at Goodwill for 5 bucks, complete with matching salad servers. (I kept them in case I change my mind on the serving bowl😂)

Immediately after I got the bowl home, I used my sander to remove the finish on the outside. It instantly looked more modern! I sanded around the inside edge, but wasn’t able to get more than an inch or two down with the sander. I figured sanding it by hand would take me forever so I just left it.

I styled the bowl a few times but I always had to hide the inside like you see here.

Now for the oven cleaner! I figured if it didn’t work, or if it turned out horrible, I could just keep hiding the inside😆 I saturated the bowl with the oven cleaner. I used the Easy Off Fume Free.

I added Saran Wrap over the top, thinking it would keep it from drying out too fast. I could see some of the color coming off on the Saran Wrap right away so I thought we were in business. Just to be safe, I let it sit overnight.

In the morning, I removed the Saran Wrap and used a paper towel to wipe off the oven cleaner. I was disappointed to see that the stain really only came off of the areas toward the top.

The next step was to try scrubbing it. I applied more oven cleaner and used a stiff scrub brush to scour the inside. The scrub brush did take off more color, but my whole goal here was to remove the stain in a way that was easier and faster than it would have been for me to sand it all down by hand. I could tell this wasn’t going to be as efficient as I had hoped.

So I did what I was trying to avoid 😅 I used 150 grit sandpaper just to try to remove whatever protective coating was on the bowl. I didn’t spend a lot of time sanding, just wanted to scuff up the polyurethane or whatever top coat was preventing the oven cleaner from penetrating the stain.

Remember how the stain came off around the top edge, after the first try? I bet that top part had gotten hit with the sander just enough to scratch up the protective coating. I think this might have been the key.

This time, I sprayed on the oven cleaner and while it sat for a few minutes, I filled up a bowl with warm water and a few drops of dish soap. I’d dip my scrub brush in the soapy water every so often while scrubbing. If this didn’t do the trick, I was calling it fail. I could see color coming off, but the bowl still looked pretty dark. It felt weird to use so much water on a wood piece, but I had nothing to lose at this point, so why not? With the water making the wood appear darker, I couldn’t tell if all of the stain had been completely removed. I rinsed it well and set it in the sun to dry.

When I went outside to get it, I was kind of shocked!! The stain was gone and the inside finally finally matched the outside! I’m not sure if it was the water and dish soap or the little bit of sanding that made the difference. I’m guessing it was the latter or a combination of both.

My final verdict on the oven cleaner: for a small piece like this it’s worth a shot. It’s pretty inexpensive and I’ve seen other creators have almost immediate results with it. On the other hand, many others have had little to no success with it. From what I saw, it really depends on if the wood is sealed and with what. If the piece isn’t sealed or has maybe a thin coat of furniture wax, I could see it working. If it’s sealed with 3 layers of polycrylic, don’t count on it. I’m always thrifting and buying used furniture to flip and often you have no idea what/if anything was used as a top coat.

I wouldn’t try this on a large piece because it simply isn’t cost effective. You’re better off buying Citristrip or another brand of varnish remover which come in much bigger quantities. If you have a small piece, it’s probably worth the $4-5 to grab some oven cleaner and try it out. If it doesn’t work, then spend the 15 or 20 bucks for Kwik-Strip or whatever and use the Easy Off to clean your oven🤣

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  2 questions
  • Noel Hannah Noel Hannah on Mar 03, 2022

    How do you take stains of urine from toilet lid

  • Cluddeni Cluddeni on Aug 11, 2023

    My home is 50 years old, I bought it 25 years ago. My kitchen cabinets have 50-year-old wood-stain on them. The original owners stained them a very deep brown, almost black-ish. I needed to lighten them. I found the old, Fume Free oven cleaner method, I did it and it did work. All I needed to do was scrape the old stain off with a putty knife and scrub with a little dish soap and rinse them with a lot of water. Then in my infinite wisdom, I used my power washer to make sure I got all the old stain and oven cleaner out of the cabinet doors.

    (Do not do this- it will splinter and fray the wood).

    Sanded from a 40 grit to a 400 grit. That got rid of the frayed wood and splintery look and feel.

    I used a natural wood color stain. They looked great.

    As I moved forward, I did not use the Power Washer. I scrubbed, rinsed, and rinsed. Once stained, the cabinet doors get very dark in splotches.

    I am going to guess it is the residual Oven cleaner that I did not get out of the wood.

    I have been sanding and sanding those cabinet doors trying to get rid of the dark splotches- once the stain is removed, the grain takes on a dull gray look, which makes those areas darker by far than the rest.

    The sanding is taking forever, after I get rid of the gray, and expose the raw wood, As the cabinet door sets, the gray seems to come back.

    Would anyone know a remedy to this cycle? How to get rid of the dull gray for good without sanding the doors away to nothing.

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4 of 30 comments
  • Jeannie.mcquaid Jeannie.mcquaid on May 17, 2023

    I don't think the fume-free oven cleaner has the same corrosive power as the old stinky kind. You might have got a satisfactory result first try with the old product.

    • Stephanie Donica Stephanie Donica on May 23, 2023

      Yeah, I was going to try that but I read 3 different blogs that specifically said to use the fume free kind, so I figured I’d try that on this first project! If I do it again, I can try that kind

  • Julie Julie on May 17, 2023

    Haven't tried it on the doors only on the floors