How to Remove Alcohol Stains From Wood

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Pure alcohol evaporates from wood without leaving a stain, so if you're worried about an alcohol stain on a table or dresser, it's because:


  • You spilled an alcoholic drink that contains other ingredients that can stain or leave residue, including dyes, juices or sugar.
  • The alcohol damaged the wood finish -- not the wood itself.

In the first case, the solution could be as simple as rubbing the stain with more clear alcohol to redissolve and remove it, although you may have to resort to bleach in some cases. Damage to the wood finish usually requires removal of the damaged finish and application of a new one.

Removing Alcohol/Dye Stains

Some alcoholic drinks have a larger footprint than others; gin and vodka are relatively easy to clean up, while red wine can be particularly troublesome. If it's wine, it isn't the alcohol you have to worry about, but the grape juice, which acts like a dye and sinks deeper into the wood pores. You may have to bleach the wood to get it out.


Things You'll Need

  • Absorbent rag or paper towel

  • Dish soap

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • 120-grit sandpaper

  • Chlorine bleach

  • Clear finish

  • 220-grit sandpaper

Step 1

Blot up any fresh liquid with a paper towel or absorbent rag. Don't wipe -- you'll only force the dye deeper into the finish or the wood grain.

Step 2

Wipe the affected area with a solution of dish soap per gallon of warm water. This mild cleaning solution removes sugars and other flavoring ingredients in alcoholic drinks, and it may remove some dye stains that haven't penetrated too deeply.

Step 3

Rub the spot with wax or linseed oil to remove any alcohol residue in the finish. If the stain is old, and you some abrasive action; mix the wax or linseed oil with rottenstone and rub with the grain of the wood.



Use lemon oil or mineral oil as alternatives to wax or linseed oil.

Step 4

Sand the finish off the affected area -- using 120-grit sandpaper -- if the alcohol/dye combination has penetrated the finish and soaked into the wood. You may be able to remove the stain with chlorine bleach.

Step 5

Spread full-strength household bleach over the discolored area; let it soak in and wait overnight. If you notice an improvement in the morning, but some color remains, repeat the treatment. If you don't notice a change, bleaching probably won't work, and your last resort is to sand and scrape.

Step 6

Sand by hand, going with the grain of the wood, using 120-grit sandpaper. If the stain is deep, use a pull scraper to remove the top layers of wood; then keep sanding.

Step 7

Replace the finish by brushing or spraying it. Apply one coat, let it dry; scuff it with 220-grit sandpaper, and apply a second coat.


Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at