Asked on Feb 25, 2020

How do I remove stains from my bare oak table top?

by Louise

I've had this round oak table for years. It was purchased as an unfinished table and then sanded to a nice smoothS finish and tung oil was applied. But then, a large crack appeared all across the top so I took it back and got another top. That's the top I have now and it's never been sanded and tung oiled. For a while, I kept a table cloth on it, not thinking that my cats who sat on it a lot might harm the wood. Over the years, some cat throw up here and there stained it in several places. For quite a while now, I've had a flannel-backed vinyl cloth over it to prevent further damage. But now I'm ready to sand and tung oil the top and I've bought a clear glass top to put on top of it when it's finished. I was told in the past that just sanding would remove the stains, but that doesn't seem to be diminishing them at all. So, what to do? A friend suggested wood bleach. Is that my solution?

q how do i remove stains from my bare oak table top

See the various stains on the oak table top.

  12 answers
  • Laura Cooper Laura Cooper on Feb 25, 2020

    I would sand it a little more to try to get below the stain, but then apply a pre-stain wood conditioner which will help even out the stain and prevent blotchiness. I think your cat stains will dissappear

    • See 1 previous
    • Laura Cooper Laura Cooper on Feb 25, 2020

      From my understanding, you can use either a wood conditioner or a sanding sealer depending on the finish you want to apply afterwards. Both help to even out discoloration so that your final finish is more even. I would refer to the Mfg directions for exact details, but I understand that you can use these with or without an actual stain.

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Feb 25, 2020

    Sanding will take care of it but since this was liquid damage, it has seeped into the wood deeper and you will need to do more sanding.

    After you have gotten all the stains out, I would clean with denatured alcohol. It should not change the appearance of the wood but will clean it and dry quickly. Then you will be ready to do whatever you want to finish the wood.

  • Kmdreamer Kmdreamer on Feb 25, 2020

    Yes I would try just to wash it with a bleach cleaner no special cleaner needed use Clorox cleanup and maybe a scrubby plastic when done rinse and dry it with a towel then let it totaly dry at least 24 hours

  • Cheryl A Cheryl A on Feb 25, 2020


    I had cats for many years and they get places we don't like or expect them to get lol

    Here is a good idea for cleaning your beautiful table.

  • Nan W. Nan W. on Feb 25, 2020

    Louise: you may need a small power sander (like from WalMart)

  • Peggy L Burnette Peggy L Burnette on Feb 25, 2020

    Hi Louise, sorry you have stains on your table. Hope this video helps you. Showing results for how to remove stains from unfinished oak table

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  • Lauren of Mom Home Guide Lauren of Mom Home Guide on Feb 26, 2020

    Some common household products like baking soda or petroleum jelly might help. Check out these tips.

  • Jeremy Hoffpauir Jeremy Hoffpauir on Feb 27, 2020

    You should sand thoroughly. Start with a low grit such as 80 to see if this removes the stains. If not, go lower to 60 then 40. Once the stains go away, sand up to 220 grit and stain/seal as you see fit.

    Hope this Helps! Jeremy -

  • Kelli L. Milligan Kelli L. Milligan on Feb 27, 2020

    Wood really needs to have a finish. Anything you apply will leave a ring. Sand out the best you can then apply whatever "hard" finish you like, not just tounge oil. Do not apply petroleum jelly to raw wood. It will prevent all other finishes to stick and will stain.

  • Zard Pocleeb Zard Pocleeb on Mar 01, 2020

    Get ahold of a random orbit sander. Borrow one from a family member or friend, or purchase one. With this type of sander you can sand in any don’t have to sand in the direction of the grain. Another advantage is it’s nearly impossible to mess it up unless you hold the sander in one spot for a long time. These sanders can remove a lot of material quickly. Don’t push down too hard though, let the sander do the work. Definitely do not use a belt sander. Unless you have considerable experience there’s a high probability you will irreparably damage the top. Start sanding with an aggressive sandpaper...I would recommend 60-grit. Keep the sander moving and change the sandpaper frequently. Once the stains are gone sand with progressively finer sandpaper down to a 220-grit.

  • Valerie Burge Valerie Burge on Mar 04, 2020

    This is how I do it on my oak table.