What Does Steel Wool Do to Stained Wood?

A stained wood has a beautiful finish because a thick protective coat has been added to enhance the appearance and longevity. However, when steel wool is used on it, what happens? In this article, we will talk about what steel wool does to stained wood.

When steel wool is used on stained wood, it lightens it. Steel wool may be the answer if you simply want to lessen the stain on a block of wood. Steel wool removes the stain from the wood’s surface and makes it seem lighter.

Did you know that using steel wool on wood has other benefits? Steel wool can come in handy if you want to repurpose old furniture to fit today’s fashion and interior design. In the next couple of lines, I will let you in on the benefits of using steel wool on wood and how you can use it, and other methods to lighten wood stains.

Benefits of Using Steel Wool on Wood

When it comes to cleaning and repairing furniture, there are several advantages to utilizing steel wool on wood. Some of them are: 

Steel wool restores the natural beauty of the wood

Steel wool may be used to erase scuff marks and make worn wood seem as good as new. This is a fantastic method to give aging pieces of furniture in your household new life.

The wood’s appearance will be improved

Steel wool on wood will make it look brighter and more attractive, which is an excellent technique to make your furniture look presentable.

It is cost-effective

Steel wool is a fantastic product that can be reused, reducing waste and lowering expenses. Furthermore, it is far less expensive than getting new furniture.

How to Lighten Wood Stain Using Steel Wool

If you have a piece of stained furniture in your home, you can make it lighter using steel wool. Below are some of the items that you will need. 

  • 0000 steel wool
  • Cotton cloth
  • Water
  • Mineral spirits
  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye goggles

When you’ve got the things you need, you can follow the steps below:

Step 1 – The first step is to dip the steel wool into a bowl of water and squeeze out any surplus water. Start by brushing the steel wool across the wood’s surface in the direction of the grain. Apply steady and gentle pressure. If you brush against the grain, you will leave scratches that are difficult to erase.

Step 2 –  Put the steel wool in the water every now and then to eliminate collected wood dust and stain. If you do not equally cover the entire area without focusing too much on one location or overlapping, you will end up with a patchy finish.

Step 3 – Put on your goggles and rubber gloves when you have finished using the steel wool to wipe the surface with mineral spirits. Start cleaning along the grain of the wood with a dampened cloth soaked in mineral spirits. The linen will begin to take on color, and the wood’s surface will brighten gradually. Continue wiping off the whole area, changing the cloth’s surface as needed when it becomes dirty.

Step 4 – Stop when the stain has attained the desired lighter color. If not, repeat the procedure, starting with steel wool and ending with mineral spirits. After that, wipe down and clean the entire surface with a dry towel before allowing it to dry.

Pro tip: Before reapplying a clear finish of varnish or polyurethane, you may add a lighter stain if desired.

How to Lighten Stained Wood with Bleach

Apart from using steel wool to lighten stained wood, you can also use bleach to lighten it. Check out the table below for the 3 types of bleach you can use.

Sodium Hypochlorite SolutionCalcium Hypochlorite SolutionOxalic Acid
Sodium hypochlorite is known as home bleach when diluted to between 3% and 8%. It works well on dye-based stains but not so well on pigment-based stains.Pool chlorine is made out of calcium hypochlorite. For stain lightening, it is a more powerful chemical than sodium hypochlorite. Because it is chlorine-based, it will not work on pigment-based stains. It will need to be blended with water if it is delivered in granular form.Oxalic acid – unlike the previous two alkaline compounds, is an organic acid that is used for cleaning and bleaching. It comes in the form of crystals that are dissolved in warm water until the solution is saturated, which means the water can no longer absorb any more crystals.

You can go through the table to find the chemical that suits your needs. 

After selecting the suitable bleach, follow the steps below to use it to lighten your stained wood.

Step 1 – When working with these chemicals, be careful, and cover your skin. Wear gloves, and keep your eyes protected from splashes with goggles. Make sure you are working in a well-ventilated environment, and use a mask when mixing and applying the chemical; otherwise, you will inhale the acid, which will damage your breathing. Also, do not store these chemicals in metal containers. Only use glass or plastic. This is because chemicals interact with practically all metals and generate salts or oxides, altering the chemical’s properties and rendering it unusable.

Step 2 – Apply the bleaching agent to the surface with a synthetic paintbrush, ensuring that all surfaces are covered without allowing the liquid to collect in any area. Allow it to dry overnight before applying a second layer if required. Before neutralizing, let the last coat dry for four hours.

Step 3 – Wipe clean the surfaces with a cotton rag soaked in water before wiping dry with another towel to neutralize the surface. Rep the procedure. Allow the wood to dry naturally for at least a day.

Step 4 – After you have bleached the stain, you can either add a lighter stain or stick with the look you got from the bleaching procedure. To preserve the surface, add a clear varnish or polyurethane finish once you have achieved the desired hue.

How to Lighten Stained Wood with Sanding

Another method to lighten stained wood, similarly to using steel wool, is sanding. This method is the harshest, but it is also the fastest. You will not need to remove the topcoat because the sanding will take care of it.

To lighten a stained wood with sanding, you need the following items.

  • 80, 120, and 220 grit sandpaper
  • A sanding block (or an electric palm sander)
  • Cotton cloth
  • Mineral spirits
  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye goggles

Once you’ve gathered the items listed, you may follow the instructions below to lighten stained wood with sanding.

Step 1 – Start with 80-grit sandpaper to remove the worst of the topcoat and stain, then go to 120-grit as the wood lightens. You may use 220-grit if you want a super fine finish, but it will not soak up as much stain.

Step 2 – To remove any sanding dust and stain residue, dampen a cloth with mineral spirits and wipe down the grain of the wood.

Step 3 – After that, wipe off the entire surface with a dry towel and let the wood dry. Before applying a clear topcoat, you might use a lighter stain to get the desired finish.


What Does Vinegar with Steel Wool Do to Wood?

Vinegar and steel change the color of the wood. When you use steel wool with vinegar to stain wood, it rapidly changes color. This is not the same as the color shift that occurs when you use a store-bought wood stain.

Will Denatured Alcohol Remove a Wood Stain?

Yes, it can remove a wood stain. Expert furniture producers use denatured alcohol to remove outdated, peeling, and fading coatings. When it comes to eliminating stains from wood furniture, isopropyl alcohol is more effective.


Steel wool is a versatile material, and it can be used to remove stubborn stains from wood. Keep in mind that there are different grades of steel wool. So ensure to get the right one that can get the job done correctly. 0000 steel wool is the most preferred choice for cleaning stains from wood.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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