Need Help Stripping Oak Staircase


We're trying to strip a pale white stain and topcoat off of an oak staircase. We've been using SuperStrip and have been having very little success. We've tried laying the stuff on thick and letting it sit for anywhere between 15 minutes and a few hours and repeating up to 7 or 8 coats. We've tried covering it with wax paper and tin foil to slow the evaporation. We've tried removing it with a scraper, a wire brush, a toothbrush, a scrubbing pad and paper towels. We've tried raising the heat to 80 degrees and we've tried using a hairdryer. In the end, we've had best results with taking a toothbrush, dipping it in the SuperStrip and brushing away the finish. Obviously it's been incredibly labor intensive and contrary to everything I've read about how this job should at the most, be only time consuming, but not muscle straining. So, I'd like to open the floor and ask, if there is something that we've overlooked that would make this job easier? Has anyone else had a similair experience where seemingly none of the conventional methods worked?
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(snip) . So, I'd like to open the

There is a reason they call it 'stain'. It goes deep into the structure of the wood, as opposed to paint, which basically sits on top. You probably are removing the topcoat just fine. Unlikely you will be able to remove most of the stain, and get back to naked wood for a traditional finish, which I presume was your intent. Learn to live with it, or overstain with something darker, paint, or replace.
--
aem sends...



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On Feb 25, 7:46 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

You do not mention the type of top finish.....
If the stripper is meant to remove your topcoat finish, it should soften it rather easily and then just scoop it of with a 4" putty knife.
Getting the white stain out of the oak grain is a different issue....tooth brush & stripper is going to be your best bet. That white stain really gets into the grain. :(
try a stainless steel "tooth brush" like brush
Years ago, I used two brushes side by side to strip failed paint off of a recessed ceiling panel.
Luckily it was only 10'x10' and I was young & strong....took about 8 hours. Ceiling still looks great 20 years later.
cheers Bob
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On Feb 25, 10:46 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Give it up. They don't call it "stain" for nothing.
You might wipe it down with denatured alcohol and re-stain it a different, darker color, but stain penetrates the wood. It ain't like paint, you can't strip it. -----
- gpsman
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Strippers are for removing film finishes, not stain. There isn't much you can do to get rid of stain since it does not sit on the surface of the wood, rather it penetrates it. I know you may not want to hear this, but there may not be much you can do other than staining it a darker color or painting.
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On Feb 25, 7:46 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I once had some success talking a light colored stain coat off of ash kitchen cabinets and an oak stair bannister that was finished the same way. I used the JASCO brand stripper and wore rubber gloves and worked the stain off with the use of many many pads of steel wool. The work with the steel wool followed immediately after slathering on thick coats of the stripper. After about three treatments like this the wood was looking pretty good and I ended up "washing" it down with some type of nasty liquid solvent (do not remember the type).
When I restained with a dark stain and then resealed with natural oil finish the result was nothing less than spectacular.
- mkaras
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Stripeeze (strypeeze?) has always been my favorite stripper. Nasty stuff. Not a water-based stripper. Whether taking off paint or clear finish and stain, it takes at very least two applications. Has to be put on thick, no need to cover it with anything if working indoors. Let it work 30 min. or so. Steel wool takes it off the quickest. As soon as the first application is removed, apply some more and let it work. Before removing it, use an old toothbrush to scrub the grain - oak will always have finish down in the grain. When stripping oak, or anything with open grain or fine grooves, it takes extra work to get out what is in the grain. I have never been able to get all of the stain out of previously stained wood, but it gets most of it. A pickled "stain" is more like paint, so it should come out. If it does not, and you can still see white in the grain, just cover it. You can probably cover color remaining in the open grain by applying diluted paint - black or dark brown - letting it get slightly tacky and then wiping off.
After removing the last of the stripper, scrub it right away with steel wool and mineral spirits. Don't let stripper dry on the wood, as it contains parafin and will interfere with new finish.
I've never found a finish that wouldn't come off with the stuff, but it is a nasty, messy job. I wouldn't use a wire brush on wood - old toothbrushes, toothpicks. Lots of steel wool, and paper towels for final wipe. The stuff eats through rubber gloves pretty quick, so I started using little sandwich bags to grip the steel wool and keep the gunk off my hands.
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if you're stripping a paint or some other surface finish, try 5F5 - its a really great stripper. i've used it on everything from oils to milk paints and everything in between. Use appropraite cautions.
if you're dealing with a stain (a finish that has penetrated into the wood), there isn't a stripper inthe world that will remove it. After you've removed whatever topcoat there was (use the 5F5), you might try applying muriatic acid - sometimes that will bleach out a stain, but test it first someplace that doesn't show - it may also stain the wood or enhance the stain 9dpending on what is in the stain....) Surest way to remove stain is to either sand it out or simply replace the wood.
--JD

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Thanks for all the responses! So, it seems we should proceed as we are, doing the best we can to remove whatever we can and there's no easier way to do it. Our plan is to then stain it a medium brown which should help in hiding the leftover white that we can't get out. The SuperStrip is supposed to be the most potent stuff on the market. One final question - the container of SuperStrip refers to a "water- wash method" to remove the leftover stripper but doesn't explain what that is - do I just take a damp papertowel and go over the surface with it, or is there more to it?
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superstrip is a mediocre stripper at best. it is targetted to the "do it yourself homeowner" type, and is more concerned about lawsuits and liability when some morons kid drinks it than actually getting paint off.... "course, if it works for you, stick with it. If it isn't getting the deep down paint (the stuff in the pores of the oak), get some real stripper....
no matter what stripper you use, you'll need to clean off any residue before you apply a new finish. If they are recomending a water wash, I would flood the surface with water, then mop it all up after a couple of minutes. Be aware that this will raise the grain of the wood, and you'll have to sand it down smooth again before you finish. Be aware that if you skip the "rinse" step, your new finish might come out blotchy, peal, flake, or otherwise plain old not work. Often, this will take weeks or months to occur.......
My prefered method is to use mineral spirits. Simply flood it on, then let it evaporate off (keep a window open). Much less mess, doesn't raise the grain nearly as much as water, and pretty much ensures that he surface is ready for any finish I've ever used (and I used everything from polyurethane and marine varnishes to shellac or plain old oil to water based latexes)...... Just make sure its good and dry (I always wait at least a day before applying the finish).
good luck... --JD

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clipped

Brief instructions here: http://www.savogran.com/Information/SuperStrip_PD.pdf They recommend "nylon stripping pad" or coarse rag.
Savogran also makes Strypeeze - the semi-paste formula, which used to have instructions for cleanup using mineral spirits only, is excellent (per earlier post).
The thicker strippers are pretty slimey, so something tough is needed. With solvent wash, steel wool works great but you would not use it with water.
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jd wrote:

Some stain will almost always remain in the wood, but Stripeeze will remove a good deal of it if allowed to soak .. can see stain in the discarded paint remover when cleaning it off.
I've never seen a penetrating stain that colors wood white, so I believe that what the OP described is much more like a paint/pigment that is sitting in the open part of the grain. If that is the case, it should come out with paint remover and scrubbing with a fine brush while the paint remover is on. If there is deep open grain or fine crevasses in turnings, either a fine brush or something to pick it out with .. toothpick or nut pick or fine skewer .. will get it, combined with extra time for the paint remover.
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from what i understand paste type paint strippers have a wax type mateial in them that raikses to the top and prevents the methylene chloride from evaporating--thats why the instructions say apply in one direction only and do not go back and forth such as painting hth

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On Feb 25, 7:46 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Oh, forgot to mention....if you really want to get rid of all the stain (fast & easy) have a hardwood floor guy sand the stairs.
I'd suggest a DIY process but the sanders you need to get down beyond the stained wood are pretty aggressive & it would be easy to ruin the stairs.
cheers Bob
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