How To Restain Wood Without Stripping (so simple!) (2023)

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I’m sharing how to restain wood without stripping today! I use a simple product, and a simple process, to do this. Read on!

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Hey, hey beautiful friends!
I’ve got a super simple little DIY for you guys today. I had planned to share a brand new (old) piece of furniture that I am giving a makeover to, today.
But sadly, did not get it finished. (I didn’t want to rush it just to post it today) I will be posting it next week, so stay tuned.
Here it is…just to tease you guys a little! ;)

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Isn’t it a beauty??

If you follow along with me on Instagram, you probably saw me post about it in my “stories”.
I shared it and asked what you thought I should do about that top (see that odd piece of wood?). Well, a lovely follower over there gave me a great idea.
And I did it! :) I just love you guys. I hope to inspire you with my posts, makeovers, thrifty decor, and tutorials, etc, but guess what….. YOU all inspire me too!
It’s such a giving community, and I just love it.

Okay, so let’s talk about how to restain wood without stripping.

It’s one of my favorite things to do.
Because I’m a lazy crafter. lol
I hate sanding and prepping. I mean who likes doing that?
I just want to get the fun part….painting, making beautiful, etc! And the sanding and stripping are just not fun for me.
Although…I do love to see that gorgeous bare wood that’s revealed after stripping and sanding. Go figure!

But today we are talking about how to restain without stripping.

When I shared our recent kitchen reveal you probably saw these bar stools we picked up for the island.
You can see those photos here >>> Coastal Kitchen Remodel Reveal

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Except they didn’t look like that in those photos.

I paired them with our newly renovated kitchen island. (that we made with big box store cabinets)
You can see that here >>> DIY Kitchen Island
OH!! And pop back over there because I found 2 photos on my phone that show how we did the backside of the island.
Duh, I thought I had taken photos of that but since I did it on my phone, instead of my camera, I missed them.
Anyway, go check it out if you are interested in seeing those.

See how orange-y these barstools are???

(Video) Refinish Furniture Without Stripping

Not exactly the look I was going for and they don’t look that great with our new flooring either.
BUT the style…. perfect.

I had searched (and searched) for bar stools I liked but couldn’t find any anywhere.
I absolutely loved the style of these, the ivory upholstered top, nailhead trim…all exactly what I was looking for.

So what’s a girl to do??

Well, this girl buys them anyway knowing she will have to give them a quick update once they get here.

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Because that color will just not do. And giving things makeovers is what I do, so…

Interested in these barstools? Let me first tell you where I got them >>> here.


So when they came in, I pulled out my trusty PolyShades and got to work. (I have no photos of this as it was during my rush to finish in time for Christmas…along with everything else we were rushing to finish around here…sorry!)
But, it’s simply applying with a brush. (or afoam brush works good too)

(Want to see even more of my favorite furniture makeover supplies??? Take a look at my very own curated shop, here!)

TIP– Use a good brush or foam brush, a light hand with enough product that it doesn’t “pull” and “drag”. It will settle nicely as long as you’ve used enough product.
Too little and it can look splotchy. However, too much and it can look heavy, thick and cover up any graining you have. It’s best to practice on a scrap piece of wood so you can get a feel for the product first.

Here is the exact >>> color I used for this project if you want to recreate it.

(Video) Refinish Wood Furniture Without Stripping In Less Than An Hour !

And as you know, this is how they turned out.

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SO much better.
And they look much nicer with the flooring without clashing with it.

This is the exact time I’d use a product like this instead of sanding and stripping down the wood.
I don’t recommend this product for every makeover project, but when you have something small like this that needs a quick little update, this is perfect.

But just to be clear, I did very lightly sand 1 of them…and then forgot to sand the other 2 (remember…I was frantically trying to finish up things before the holidays, lol) I just got on a roll! I should’ve lightly sanded them all but they are honestly are all good to go.
All 3 are hard and have not scratched one bit. (I tested because I realized…oops…didn’t do the light sand on the remaining 3)

Now, here’s the thing, you don’t always have to sand.

It really depends on the finish you start with. This finish actually happened to be less “shiny” and more matte.
I think that is why I had no issues.
Overall I would recommend doing a very light sand (and I do mean light with a very fine sandpaper).
Be sure to wipe away all of the dust before you begin. And always clean well. That goes without saying.

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I think they look so much better and it truly was an easy update.
I’m so happy with them.

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And like I’ve said many times before if you find something you love and it’s just not right, or the right color, etc, bring it home anyway.
Then give it a little mini makeover..and voila!, your perfect, new loved piece.
I did that same exact thing with our coffee table in our morning room….and our table in the foyer.

Here are a few other projects I’ve used this product with:

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Some of my first projects with this product in this post.
See them all >>>here.

(Video) It’s WORTH THE HYPE how to refinish wood without sanding

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Another favorite and early one on this $5 thrift store coffee table!
Details >>> here.

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This old table got a brand new look…with paint and PolyShades.
See what it looked like “before”>>>here.

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Check out what this one looked like “before”>>>here!
Totally different!

And edited to show how I even updated our stairs this way too…

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Hop on over here to read more about it!


So, as you can see, this is a nice workaround from sanding and stripping.
Less work with optimal results is always a good thing, right?

As I mentioned, I don’t recommend this for every project but it is a great one for many!
I do have some other products that are equally simple to update old stain with…just differently.
I’ll be sharing more on that in another post soon. (UPDATE!! See that post now, here.)

It’s good to have lots of makeover options in your arsenal. Options are good….and fun.

(Video) Refinish Kitchen Cabinets Without Stripping

I hope you enjoyed learning more about how to restain wood without stripping.

PIN it to save it!

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I’ll see you back here on Thursday with all the info on how we built out our deep, custom look crown molding in the foyer.
(UPDATE!! See it now, here)

More posts in the “back to basics” series:

  • How To Create Faux Verdigris(and video)
  • How To Create Faux Patina(and video)
  • How To Dry Brush
  • 26 Different Types of Chalk Style Paint
  • Pros and Cons of Chalk Paint For Furniture
  • 5 Top Ways To Seal Chalk Paint
  • How To Transfer Images
  • How To Import Images Into Silhouette
  • How To Restain Wood Without Stripping(you are here!)
  • How To Use Gel Stain

I’m also be sharing this brand new makeover. Be sure to stop back by to see it. :)

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UPDATE!! See it now, here!!

See you then!


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Don't Miss a Thing!! Plus Get My FREE eBook "Creating Fabulous Finishes"!

(Video) Refinish Furniture without Stripping - Workshop Wednesday

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Can you stain over stain without stripping? ›

You can stain over the water-based stain with water-based wood stain so long as you restain using a darker shade. You will need to strip varnish using sandpaper or chemical stripper before you will be able to restain the wood.

Can I stain wood without removing stain? ›

Depending on your project, you will not need to remove old stain before restaining. If you want to darken the stain on your wood project, then removing the existing stain is not necessary!

How do you change the color of wood without stripping it? ›

PolyShades stain and polyurethane also allows you to easily change the color of your currently stained or varnished wood without stripping. Over old varnish you can change the color without removing the old finish or hiding the grain.

Can I Restain a table without stripping? ›

You absolutely do not need to sand the finish off the table, just lightly sand enough to rough up the existing finish to give the Polyshades something to grip.

How do you stain over existing stain? ›

Staining Over Stain

For this, you will need to apply a polyurethane stain. Otherwise, you will need to strip the stain before applying a new stain or sand it down for some extra grip. If the existing stain is an oil-based stain, you must make sure you have another oil-based stain or a gel stain to restrain the wood.

What happens if you leave stain on too long? ›

If the stain stays on too long, the wood will absorb too much stain. As a result, you may have a darker shade than you anticipated—or uneven coloring. Likewise, the stain can start to peel and flake off. The wood may also discolor or become blotchy.

Do I need to sand before restaining? ›

Sand Thoroughly

The best way to stain wood is to prepare the wood surface by sanding it with a sanding block or orbital sander. Sandpaper with a lower grit number will make wood rougher, allowing more stain to absorb and creating a darker color. Start with 120-grit sandpaper on refinished pieces.

Does vinegar change wood color? ›

How does vinegar darken wood? Vinegar causes steel wool to oxidize, or basically rust. That rust “dyes” the vinegar. Then, that vinegar reacts with the color of the wood that you apply it to, giving it a new, deeper color.

What happens if you don't sand wood before staining? ›

You need a smooth surface with no blemishes because stain will highlight scratches and dings in the wood. Always sand down to clean wood (if you have enough meat left of the wood) before applying any stain.

How do you Restain furniture without stripping it? ›

How to restore wood furniture without sanding and stripping
  1. Remove any hardware. ...
  2. Wipe on mineral spirits. ...
  3. Clean the surface. ...
  4. Fix the white rings. ...
  5. Fill small cracks and imperfections. ...
  6. Try to fix the dents. ...
  7. Restore the colour with gel stain. ...
  8. Renew the lustre with a wipe-on finish.
Jun 3, 2021

How can I darken a stain without stripping furniture? ›

How to Stain Wood Darker
  1. Step 1: Lightly Hand Sand. Start by lightly hand sanding the furniture. ...
  2. Step 2: Clean Wood. Clean your entire piece thoroughly using a mild cleanser. ...
  3. Step 3: Apply Dark Gel Stain. Apply the gel stain over the existing stained wood using a chip or sponge brush. ...
  4. Step 4: Seal. What is this?

Can you paint over stained wood without stripping? ›

While some primer manufacturers and guides say it's possible, you should sand down your stained wood with 150 grit sandpaper for best results. When using sandpaper, your goal is just to make the surface rough enough for the paint to have something to grab onto. There's no need to strip the entire surface of the wood.

Can you stain over old stain without sanding? ›

Good news, you can stain wood without sanding the old finish off! But you'll still have to do some prep to make the new gel stain bond properly with the old stain. Start by always cleaning the old finish with a good cleaner and degreaser, like TSP. Be sure to rinse all of that cleaner off before moving on.

Is it OK to leave stain on wood? ›

If you are in the process of using wood stain, can you leave it on overnight? You can leave wood stain overnight because it is part of the drying process. After the first coat, you should allow it to dry for at least 12-24 hours. Follow the same process for the second coat.

Can I stain over old stain? ›

Staining over stain is easy and works beautifully if you're applying a dark stain over a lighter stain on raw wood. This rule applies to oil-based stains, water-based stains, and gel stains. 2. You can mix 2 or more stains together to make DIY custom stains.

Do you need two coats of stain? ›

We always recommend two coats of stain for any wood project, but you should only apply as much stain as the wood can absorb. Extremely dense hardwoods may only be able to absorb one coat of wood stain. The general rule of thumb is to apply only as much as the wood can absorb.

Can you sand off stain and Restain? ›

Sand out the stain

To sand wood previously stained you must start by using medium-grit sandpaper followed by a progression of increasingly finer sandpaper grits. This should remove most of the color left by an old stain. If you're applying a new stain, it should mask any residual color.

What makes a stain worse? ›

Using hot or warm water

Flushing a fresh stain with hot water may seem obvious, but it can have the opposite effect. Hot water can permanently set some stains, particularly those that are protein-based, like blood. Instead, always use cold water.

Do you wipe stain with a wet rag? ›

The basic rule for getting good results with any stain is to apply a wet coat and wipe off the excess before it dries.

Why does my stain keep coming off? ›

Because wood absorbs moisture from rain and snow, and when the sun comes out and dries the wood out, the moisture vapor from the wood needs to be able to pass through the stain and escape. If there is too much stain, it restricts the moisture from evaporating away, so peeling can occur.

What kind of rag to use for staining? ›

Cheesecloth: White 100% cotton cheesecloth is great for staining. Since it is a thinner material, it is easier to fill the wood grain and covers your surface better.

How much should I sand before restaining? ›

On most raw woods, start sanding in the direction of the grain using a #120-150 grit paper before staining and work up to #220 grit paper. Soft woods such as pine and alder: start with #120 and finish with no finer than #220 (for water base stains) and 180 grit for oil base stains.

Should you wet wood before staining? ›

Wet the wood with water before applying the stain to raise the grain and leave a rougher surface for more pigment to lodge. This adds an extra step because you have to let the wood dry for this trick to work.

Does vinegar ruin wood stain? ›

Diluted vinegar can dissolve the finish that protects the wood and leave it looking cloudy, dull, or scratched. (The same goes for wood furniture.) Follow the manufacturer's cleaning recommendations or pick a cleaner that's made specifically for hardwood flooring.

How do you stain wood for beginners? ›

Follow this step-by-step guide to staining wood.
  1. Sand the wood. Start by sanding your unfinished wood with 120-grit sandpaper, being sure to sand in the direction of the grain. ...
  2. Stir your stain. ...
  3. Apply the stain. ...
  4. Wipe off excess stain. ...
  5. Let the wood dry before applying a sealer. ...
  6. Clean up.
Oct 6, 2021

Why won't wood stain soak in? ›

There are a couple of reasons wood won't absorb stain. These include staining sealed wood, sanding too finely, and working with tight-grained woods that don't take stain. There are specific solutions to each problem, but generally applying a sealer and a stain that sits on top of the wood is a simple solution.

Can I sand furniture instead of stripping? ›

It's almost always better to strip than to sand. To begin with, except in cases where the old finish is flaking off, it's a lot more work to sand than to strip using a paint-and-varnish remover.

What is the best way to Restain furniture? ›

Our Best Tips for Refinishing Furniture
  1. Step 1: Clean the Piece. ...
  2. Step 2: Assess the Furniture's Current State. ...
  3. Step 3: Remove Old Finish. ...
  4. Step 4: Apply a Coat of Sealant. ...
  5. Step 5: Stain or Paint the Wood. ...
  6. Step 6: Apply a Coat of Finish.
Feb 9, 2017

Can you stain already finished furniture? ›

When staining over an existing finish, it's much easier and safer to go darker rather than lighter. Keep in mind, because you're applying a new stain to an existing color and finish, the color you choose will be altered because the original finish will show through somewhat.

How do you stain without blotches? ›

Any blotch-prevention program starts with evenly sanding to 180 grit on face grain, and to 220 grit on end grain. If you use a random-orbit sander, follow up by hand-sanding with the grain using the same final grit. After sanding, wipe all surfaces with mineral spirits and inspect for scratches or sander swirls.

How do you stain wood without a drip? ›

Use a Lint Free Rag

The best way to apply stain is with a lint free rag and wiping it into the grain of the wood. Using a lint free rag is the best way to apply wood stain because it is great for controlling the amount of stain that is applied and for removing any excess stain.

How do you make wood stain look even? ›

The ideal way to fix a wood stain mistake is to sand the piece down to bare wood, and re-stain. However, this is time-consuming. Applying another layer of stain, painting the piece, or evening the piece with gel stain are other methods that could produce a satisfactory result.

What happens if you put wood stain over paint? ›

You won't get that wood grain finish when you stain over paint. Rather, you'll get a weathered and aged look to your paint job. Staining over paint adds the appearance of wear and distress to the final project. It also makes the paint job look a little faded and worn.

Can you just paint stain on wood? ›

You can make your own custom stain color using latex paint. Turn your favorite paint color into a wood stain by thinning the paint with water.

What paint to use over stained wood without sanding? ›


Chalk paint is the best way to paint practically anything without sanding. It offers a gorgeous matte finish and no need to prepare the surface.

Can you Restain wood without stripping? ›

Using Gel Stain, you can stain wood furniture without sanding or stripping the old finish.

Can you stain over stained wood without sanding? ›

You do not need to sand off the previous stain and finish. The purpose of the light sanding is to give a little tooth to the surface to help your new stain colour stick.

How can I darken my furniture without stripping it? ›

How to Stain Wood Darker
  1. Step 1: Lightly Hand Sand. Start by lightly hand sanding the furniture. ...
  2. Step 2: Clean Wood. Clean your entire piece thoroughly using a mild cleanser. ...
  3. Step 3: Apply Dark Gel Stain. Apply the gel stain over the existing stained wood using a chip or sponge brush. ...
  4. Step 4: Seal. What is this?

Can you Restain hardwood without sanding? ›

Yes, you can restore hardwood floors without sanding. In many cases, it's the better alternative, anyway. A full restoration is only really necessary if your hardwood floors are significantly worn, stained, or damaged.

Can you just stain over stained wood? ›

Staining over stain is easy and works beautifully if you're applying a dark stain over a lighter stain on raw wood. This rule applies to oil-based stains, water-based stains, and gel stains. 2. You can mix 2 or more stains together to make DIY custom stains.

How long do you have to wait between coats of stain? ›

On average, wood stain takes about 24 to 72 hours to fully dry and cure, though you can typically add a second coat after about four hours.

How do you stain wood without brush marks? ›

Use a Lint Free Rag

Using a lint free rag is the best way to apply wood stain because it is great for controlling the amount of stain that is applied and for removing any excess stain. Also, the rag leaves a beautiful, even, and brush stroke free finish. It also can easily be thrown out once finished.


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