Removing Wood Stain From Skin

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It's almost inevitable. Even if you're wearing gloves, you manage to get stain on your hands and arms when applying a finish to a wood project. The color in the stain fades from your skin eventually, but it can be a bit unsightly to head away from home with skin that shows a blotchy, unnatural hue. You can speed the process of getting your skin back to normal by cleaning your skin with some common materials found in your home.

Stain Formulas

Stain has different formulas, but the two most common are solvent/thinner, and oil-based. The solvent may be a chemical or just plain water. Solvents in stain are clear and won't stain your skin. Dye and pigment are the usual culprits, and the stain may contain either of them. Even though water-based stain can be removed from skin using only water, the dyes and pigments in stain remain on the skin.

Solvent Safety

Solvents, such as paint thinner and mineral spirits, are most effective for removing stain from skin, but also come with drawbacks. Petroleum-based solvents are highly flammable and can irritate the skin. Some solvents are safer for your skin than others -- water, for example, is a solvent. Rubbing alcohol, (ethyl or isopropyl alcohol) and acetone (fingernail polish remover) are two of the safer solvents that remove stain. Lightly saturate a cloth with solvent, and scrub the stain off with the dampened cloth. Immediately wash with soap and water.


According to a study by the University of Illinois, solvents such as turpentine, gasoline, benzine, and toluene are absorbed through the skin, causing dermatitis or other more serious health issues, and should be avoided. Wear breathing and eye protection when handling such solvents. Permissible exposure limits vary for different solvents. Check labels for more information about specific products. If you have questions don't use it.

Natural Oils To Remove Stain

They might not be as effective as thinners, but natural oils can remove stain from skin. Olive oil, vegetable oil, mineral oil or just about any kind of food-grade oil is appropriate for removing stain -- and without the health concerns that solvents carry.

Scrub and Wash

Pour a small amount of food-grade oil in a small tray. Soak your hands in the oil for a few minutes. Scrub vigorously with a cloth until the stain dissipates from your skin. Finish by washing your hands with dish soap and warm water to remove the oil.

Home Remedies

Make-up remover can remove stains on fingers and hands. Eye make-up remover contains -- among other things -- alcohol, mineral oil, glycerin, and a wide range of other ingredients that can aid in the removal of stain from skin. Some make-up remover kits have their own saturated pads to scrub with.

Washing Soda

Arts and crafts hobbyists often use washing soda (sodium carbonate,) also known as soda ash, to remove ink stains from hands. Mix one part soda powder with three parts water, and use a lightly saturated cloth to scrub the stain off.

Food-Safe Products

If you're concerned about chemicals, and prefer not to use them at all, there are some food-safe alternatives. Plain white vinegar is safe enough, and might be just enough to remove the stain. Baking soda is another alternative. Mix it with water to form a paste. The mild abrasive quality helps scrub off the stain.


Wade Shaddy

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.