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Getting Stains Off Wooden Worktops

 Fine wire wool drenched in lemon oil often works! Fine wire wool drenched in lemon oil often works!

When it comes to stains on wooden worktops, it has to be said that prevention is always better than cure.  That said, even with the very best prevention in place, stains can, and do happen.  Although knowing the cause of the stain may help in some instances, we have assumed for the purpose of this blog post that your goal is to get rid of stains of a general nature.

It may be that the stains on your worktop are concentrated into the high traffic areas (ie.  areas where you work most often) or they may be general and widespread across the whole of your worktop.  If the stains are general and widespread across the whole of your worktop, there is little doubt that a full re-sand and re-finish will work out more effective and more efficient, both time and cost-wise.

That said, if you only have random stains here and there, you should be able to tackle these and remove them effectively without going to the extent of a complete re-sand and re-finish.  Generally speaking stains on worktops fall into two categories: surface and deep.  Most surface and deep stains are caused by trapped moisture.  Generally speaking if the stain is white, it’s only on the surface, if it’s black or dark, it has had a chance to penetrate deeper into the wood.

Surface stains can generally be removed by rubbing with a pad of really fine wire wool drenched in lemon oil to help avoid damage.  Simply rub the stained surface with the wool and the stain should disappear.

Here is a step-by-step guide of what you should do for deeper stains:

  1. Lightly sand away the finish on your worktop, always working in the direction of the grain.  This will give you access to the wood itself.
  2. Brush or blot bleach onto the stained area.  Although bleach products are not normally recommended on your finished worktop, they work well on stains.  You may need to do this repeatedly to remove the stain.  If needs be, you can leave the bleach soaking into the stain overnight.  If standard domestic bleach doesn’t work then your worktop supplier will be able to provide you with commercial wood bleach which should do the trick (but be sure to follow the instructions to the letter, including neutralization).  Really deep stains may need to be scraped away, but try to avoid this if you can.
  3. Once the stain has gone to your satisfaction, it’s a case of cleaning the area thoroughly, allowing it to dry and finishing your worktop with a good quality, food-safe oil.
  4. When finishing your worktop, remember to work in layers, so you can build up to the same colour you had before.

Published on: May 9, 2012, updated March 21st 2016

19 thoughts on “Getting Stains Off Wooden Worktops”

  • Arnie

    My partner left a large water melon on our new -ish oak worktop for a few days, an when she picked it up to use there was a large dark circular stain (approx 50mm) tried fine sand paper and thar has helped slightly but stain still visible, anyone help please?!

    • Jonathan Sapir


      Thanks for the comment. Most probably the stain went dipper into the wood. In this case sanding should be dipper and it should involve sanding the total aria and re-oiling it.

  • Kelly

    I have just moved into a property with real dark wood worktops which appear to be unsealed.
    Sadly, whilst cleaning I squirted bleach all over the work surfaces and left for 10 minutes completely unaware of the damage it would do.
    I wiped the surfaces down and I'm now left with white marks everywhere the bleach touched.
    Could you give me any advice about repairing the top? Is there any oil or wax I could use or will it be a case of sanding all the tops down and oiling them up as we don't know what the colour is etc..
    Any advice is greatly appreciated!!

    • Jonathan Sapir

      Hi Kelly, this will require sanding down the top and resealing once sanding is completed. There's no other option I am afraid.

  • Peter

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for the notes - we've found wood bleach really good at removing some deep stains.

    However, getting back to "prevention is better than cure", we've found that unsealed ceramics (such as the bottom of small, cheap dishes) seems to leave really nasty stains (almost burns) in our wooden worktop - do you know why this might be, so we can think about how to prevent it in future?


  • PC

    Hi Jonathan

    My new cleaner managed to get a mixture of oven cleaner and oven grease on the wooden worktop in our rented flat. The dark stains are a few cm across, in three places.

    Household bleach and sanding have helped a bit but it's clearly gone quite deep. Now I'm not sure whether to:
    (a) try wood bleach (I'm worried about permanently lightening these three patches, whether it works or not);
    (b) get an orbital sander and have a deeper sand myself; or
    (c) call in a professional (I have zero DIY experience and don't trust myself not to mess something else up).

    What do you reckon?

    Any advice much appreciated!

    • Jonathan Sapir

      Hi, sounds like you done what you could. I suggest you call a professional, it is likely that deeper sanding is required, followed by recoating.

  • Sam

    I have a beach work top which has got stained son , how would I be able to get them out , also what products should I use , natural if possiable

    Thanks sam

    • Jonathan Sapir

      Hi, You will have to sand it and re-oil it . That's the best way to remove deep stains. Thanks for the comment.

  • Marysia Paling

    Hi there,
    We have wooden butchers block worktops in our kitchen.
    Our cat seems to have had a little accident in the night and the top is urine stained by the sink! What is the best way forward to remove these stains? Look like water spots at the moment, and need to sort this out before the stain deepens I guess. We treat the worktops with Danish oil by the way.

    Hope you can help. Many thanks in advance.

    • Jonathan Sapir

      Hi, you need to get a worktop fitter in to look at the stain more closely. They might recommend sanding and recoating the worktop.

  • Heather

    Hi, we have walnut butcher blocks in our kitchen (fitted 12months ago) looks great in most areas but has been stained with oven cleaner products and when trying to rub the stain with wire brush left white marks. Any ideas of how I can fix this so I can varnish rather than stain?

    • Jonathan Sapir

      Hi, I suggest you use sanding paper to light sand the area. Once done – please re apply Oil/Varnish.

  • Jodie

    Hi our fairy liquid bottle leaked and we didn't realise, it has left a big white patch what can we do?

    • Jonathan Sapir
      Jonathan Sapir May 20, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      Hi, If the the stain can not be removed by wood cleaner than light sand and re apply Oil.

  • Sonia

    Hi, my partner was mixing caustic soda and it spilled all over my wooden kitchen bench top, we have tried sanding but the stain is still there, help

    • Jonathan Sapir
      Jonathan Sapir June 29, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Hi Sonia, You will need to buffer the surface using the right machine or Sand it 80 or 60 Grit to remove it perhaps. I suggest you get your fitter to have a look.

  • Natty

    Hi Jonathan, we have a beech worktop which has been stained with grease that was not immediately wiped off and the stains won't come out now with normal surface cleaning. What do you recommend to remove the stains?

    • Jonathan Sapir

      Hi, if the stain doesn’t come off your beech worktop with a surface cleaner, you can try and sand all the top of the worktop and reoil it.

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