Getting a grease stain on your wood countertop, furniture, or floor can be exasperating and ruin the look of even the most well-designed spaces. However, all isn’t lost. There are several reliable methods you can employ to get rid of the stain in no time.
Some household cleaning chemicals that are highly acidic or alkaline, such as bleach or ammonia, will damage the wood. Therefore, it’s best to use mild but effective cleansers to do the job. This article will delve into more detail about the different ways you can remove recent or old grease stains from wood that is varnished or unfinished.
Table of Contents
It’s important to attend to the grease stain as early as possible to have the greatest chance of successfully removing it and stopping the grease from setting into the wood and discoloring it.
Wiping the grease with an absorbent paper towel or cloth is the ideal way of doing this. This removes the excess grease on the surface and prevents it from further setting into the wood.
However, if you didn’t manage to wipe the grease off in time and a stain remains even after wiping, then try the next method.
To further soak up the grease from the wood, pour a fine powder over the stain and leave it for 45 minutes. These powders absorb grease stains well. They include corn flour or cornmeal, talcum powder, fuller’s earth, or baking powder.
Then lightly wet a scouring sponge brush and scrub the area. Use a damp, warm cloth to remove the residue after scrubbing. Due to the texture of the powders, they can cut through the grease, and because they’re non-abrasive, they won’t harm the wood.
If the grease stain is proving to be stubborn, use white vinegar. It’s one of the safest and useful natural acids for stripping away grease from both varnished and unfinished wood.
Before applying the vinegar on the grease spot, test it undiluted on a small, inconspicuous area of the wood and leave it there for 15 minutes. If nothing happens, you can use it at its full strength on the grease spot.
If the wood varnish reacts, you’ll need to first dilute the vinegar by mixing it in equal parts with warm water in a bowl. Then take a cloth or sponge, dip it in the solution, and gently wipe the grease stain on the wood.
Keep on wiping until the stain begins to fade away. However, if the grease doesn’t fully come out, move on to the next method.
Lemon juice is also an acid that works well to remove grease on wood. Lemon juice has citric acid, which is stronger than the acetic acid in vinegar.
The strength of an acid is determined by its pKa value: the lower the pKa, the stronger the acid. Citric acid has a pkA of 2.79, while acetic acid’s pKa is 4.75.
Therefore, combine equal parts lemon juice and water in a container and use a cloth to rub this mixture on the grease stain.
After about 10 to 15 minutes of cleaning the grease, check if the stain has diminished or completely disappeared.
Rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol or IPA, is a solvent that is highly effective in dissolving oils.
One of its advantages is that it evaporates quickly and so it won’t leave any sticky residue.
Dip a cloth in rubbing alcohol and wipe the grease on the wood. Repeat this for 10 to 15 minutes, and then check if the stain has faded or disappeared.
You can also use nail polish removing liquid, also known as acetone, to remove grease from wood. But you have to be careful with the concentration you use because acetone is a much stronger solvent than rubbing alcohol.
Although acetone won’t damage unfinished wood and wood coated with solvent-resistant finishing, such as epoxy resin, it may react with some wood varnishes.
Therefore, before applying it to the grease spot, test it on a small section of the wood. If there’s no adverse reaction, then you can use it to wipe away the grease stain.
Acetone also evaporates much quicker than rubbing alcohol, so it also won’t leave any residue behind on the wood. But too much of it can cause damage to glue joints. Use it sparingly and wipe the wood after applying it.
If the oil is merely on the surface of the wood, you can use wood soap or dishwashing liquid to clean it off.
There are specifically designed soaps for cleaning wood furniture, floors, and other surfaces. They contain natural oils that don’t leave residue on the wood and work well to remove grease.
Murphy Concentrated Wood Cleaner (available on Amazon) is a very popular, cost-effective, and highly effective mild soap for cleaning wood that has been used for 100 years.
If you don’t have easy access to wood soap, you can also use dishwashing liquid to clean off the grease. Apply a little bit of the dish detergent to a sponge and scrub the wood. Repeat this for several minutes, thoroughly wiping away the detergent with a cloth after each interval.
Mineral spirits, such as paint thinner, is another effective degreasing agent. Made from petroleum, it’s commonly used to thin varnish.
Mineral spirits on their own might be pretty harsh on wood; therefore, mix it with linseed oil to reduce abrasiveness.
Pour three parts mineral spirits to one part linseed oil in a container, then dip a cloth in the mixture and rub it on the grease stain.
Continue to dip and rub for several minutes, then check if the stain has reduced. You can also comfortably use mineral spirits on unfinished wood.
For grease in waxed or unfinished wood, trisodium phosphate (TSP) may also be beneficial in removing the grease stain. Unlike varnish, wax doesn’t create a coating on the wood. Instead, it gives the wood a more natural look.
Therefore, although it protects against dust and scratches, it’s not as oil-resistant as varnish finishes. This means that grease may penetrate quicker and deeper into the wood with a wax seal.
TSP is an industrial cleaning and degreasing powder that’s used to treat grease that has penetrated deep into the wood.
You can identify how deeply a stain has set in the wood by its color. If it looks dark brown or black, it means that it has soaked into the wood and will need extra effort to remove.
Be very careful when using TSP and any other cleaning agent. Here are the steps on how to use trisodium phosphate:
- Make sure you wear gloves and a respiratory mask for protection as they contain strong chemicals. Dilute a ¼ cup (59.15 ml) of TSP in a gallon (3.79 L) of water and mix it with a stick. The solution may damage a plastic or metal stirrer.
- Dip a scouring sponge or brush in the solution and scrub the area that has grease. Make sure that you don’t get the TSP solution anywhere on your skin.
- Have a bucket of water and a clean sponge nearby. After scrubbing the area for a few minutes, dip the unused sponge in the clean water and carefully wipe the area. This is to remove excess water from the wood and prevent the TSP from having prolonged contact with the wood.
- Take turns scrubbing the area and wiping it down for several minutes. Then check if the stain has faded or disappeared.
It may sound strange, but it’s also possible to iron out the stain. This method is best for older stains or those that have set in the wood.
Take a cloth or a napkin and place it over the stain, then heat an iron on its lowest setting and place it on top of the cloth. If the surface allows it, run the iron over the stain; otherwise, you can just hold it on the spot.
The heat pulls out the grease from the wood, and the cloth will absorb it. You can also use blotting paper.
If you prefer to use commercial products, here are multipurpose cleaners available on Amazon.com:
Magic Cabinet & Wood Cleaner
This wood cleaner removes grease from the wood surface and contains Brazilian Carnauba wax to provide a protective coating after cleaning.
Shake and apply to a tiny part of the wood first to check how it reacts with the varnish. If the varnish doesn’t change, spray the cleaner onto the wood or a cloth and rub the surface.
Don’t leave it on the surface but wipe it away immediately after applying. This cleaner doesn’t leave streaks on the wood.
Weiman Furniture Cabinet & Wood Clean & Shine
This cleaner is available in a two-pack of 16-ounce (473.18 ml) bottles. One of its advantages is that it’s silicon-free and doesn’t create build-up on wood surfaces.
Again, before using, shake well and test it on a small section of your wood surface to see effects. If there’s no adverse reaction, spray it on the rest of your wood surface and immediately wipe it away. Don’t let it sit on the wood surface.
A point of note about this cleaner is that it’s not for use on floors. Use it only on furniture, doors, and cabinets.
Stanley Home Products Original Degreaser
This multipurpose cleaner comes in a 32-ounce (946.35 ml) bottle, and you can opt to purchase just one or a 2-pack, 4-pack, or 6-pack.
Biodegradable and phosphate-free, it has been used for 90 years to remove grease from wood and other surfaces.
To use, dilute with water as instructed on the bottle and apply to the wood.
Green Gobbler Orange Oil
This product uses cold-pressed orange oil to preserve its degreasing qualities. The orange oil also contains 80-95% D-Limonene, which is found in orange peels.
It’s available in a 32-ounce (946.35 ml) bottle and needs to be diluted before use. Follow the instructions on the bottle, and you can also add a bit of vinegar for an extra kick.
Krud Kutter Cleaner & Degreaser
Non-toxic and environmentally friendly, the Krud Kutter is a biodegradable cleaner that removes grease and other stains from surfaces.
It’s available in a 32-ounce (946.35 ml) bottle and is easy to use. All you have to do is shake, spray, and wipe immediately. But test it on a section of your wood surface first, particularly if it’s varnished, before spraying liberally.
Protecting Wood Surfaces
To keep your wood surfaces looking as good as new, waterproof them as soon as you can. The first step in doing this is to apply a finish to the wood.
Instead of using varnish, wax, or paint, opt for linseed oil. It’s a natural, non-toxic option that dries quickly and provides lasting protection.
You can also use epoxy resin or urethane to seal the wood. To maintain the protection, make sure to reapply the sealant after every two to three years.
Depending on the finishing on your wood, there are several effective ways of removing grease from wood. And the best part is that you may already have many of the degreasing ingredients in your home.
If you get to the grease stain early, you’ll have an easier time removing it. However, if the grease stain is older or happened when you weren’t around to attend to it quickly, you may still be able to remove it. It’ll just take a bit more elbow grease and time.