Removing Gel Stain and Reveal Natural Wood

by Jenn
5 Materials
1 Week

Gel stain is a phenomenal invention. It applies thick rick color in a very even coat. But what happens when you are tired of the thick rich color? Some may believe that painting over the gel stain is the only option, but I am here to tell you that you can back to a natural wood look. Here's how I did it...

Cleaning and sanding the wood

*Special note about each of these steps, I did each one twice. I repeated each step before moving to the next one. 

Step 1: Clean cabinet surfaces with Krud Kutter. This will help the sander move over the wood better in the next step.

Step 2: Sand with Orbital Sander using 80 grit sandpaper

Stripping the wood

Step 3 - Time to Strip paint off the wood. I applied Citristrip with a roller brush and then covered it in plastic so the stripper could work into the wood before drying out.


Scraping off the stripper and stain

Step 4: After at least 30 minutes, you can scrape off the stripper. Scrape in the direction of the wood grain.

Step 5: Spray Krud Kutter or stripper remover to get all of the excess stripper off the wood before the next step.

Bleaching the wood

Step 6: Bleaching the wood. This is a two step process. Apply A with a sponge, wait 5 minutes, then apply B with a separate sponge. Wait 24 hours and then repeat.

Before starting and after the bleach process

You can see the dramatic difference after the second round of bleach was applied. Now to stain them.

Staining the wood

Step 7: Staining. To get the finish I was going for, I did a multi step staining process. First, apply prestain, then driftwood stain, finish with pickled oak/sunbleached layer and then polycrylic to seal them. Apply with a brush or an old t-shirt and wipe away excess.

The Final Product

The final finish is perfectly sun bleached and aged wood. It adds a nice natural element to our modern bathroom.

Suggested materials:
  • Wood bleach   (Amazon)
  • Citritstrip   (Amazon)
  • Orbital Sander   (Amazon)
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