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What is the best solution for removing that nasty stain smell from your woodworking piece? I'm building a captains bed for me and my expecting girlfriend, and I don't want her sick to her stomach if we lay on such a piece. Last night we couldn't get any sleep and the project is still in the garage.

I read online that you can use baking soda and/or white vinegar to remove the smell. Does anyone know how long this will take? Also, I tried burning candles to "burn up" the smell, but that didn't seem to work at all.

Serious replies only, please, since I can't go another night like I did last night. Thanks!


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I'm assuming you used an oil based stain. the smell, is probably solvents evaporating from the stain. My advice, let nature take i'ts course. The secret to a good finish is, LET IT DRY!!! After a few days, the smell will go away. After that, put your nose close to the piece and take a sniff. If at that time there's no more smell, you're ready to apply the finish.

Hi Don - Not much to do about it till it dries except maybe set the thing outside. Sounds like you and/or your girl friend may be especially sensitive to that stuff. I'd suggest you switch to water based products.

OH, BTW. a good scrub with white vinegar will probably get rid of most of the odor, and a good part of the finish.


      I know that this will be a hindsight thing, but I have gone completely to water based finishes, especially for the V.O.C. issues that come with oil.  There are still times where I use oil, but with the water based finishes, this isn't an issue.  As the others have said, you need to let the piece dry for a good week or two for the poly/stain smell to subside.  It even helps to leave the project outdoors in a shady spot to help with the fumigation of it.

David: yeah I knew WHAT was going on, just how to combat it. Last night was the worst night of my life. Tonight even scares me...

John: I tried water-based stain before and I hated it. It was a race against time to get an even coat. You stop for even an instant and it shows. I heard about having vinegar near the project during drying, but never heard of scrubbing the project with it. Interesting...

Justin: I have a water-based finish, just an oil-based stain (see above as to why). I guess I'll just have to let it dry and let it gas-off on its own. Problem is, I live in Minnesota and it's December. I do have a friend of my brother's who is letting me use his detached woodshop to finish this project.

Thanks, all, for your input. I think this is a really good subject that hasn't been explored before. This is my largest project to date. On all my stuff before, the surface area wasn't anything compared to this captain's bed project. My brother Dan suggested I paint the bed instead, but I just can't see that being a good look in my head. I'm a stain kinda guy, but in this case, I hate the price I'm paying. lol

I don't know if this works or not, haven't tried it yet but I heard on another forum that deep base tinting paint, if NOT tinted, will leave a semitransparent finish leaving the wood grain show. I've been wanting to try it for use on some outdoor projects where most finishs get zapped by the UV and the base would already haveUV blockers. Thought it was an interesting approach but haven't had time to persue it yet.

Dan how about separate bedrooms  haha

Yeah, I wondered when I was going to hear from the peanut gallery.... lol

Jens Jensen said:

Dan how about separate bedrooms  haha

I like the smell myself.


What brand and type of stain did you use, that gave off that pungent odor?

It was Minwax Red Oak stain (oil based). I think that's the last time I use that stain.

Oil base materials will give off harmful vapors, for a time, after they've been applied.

Caution: Use only in well ventilated areas.

Open a couple windows in the room, one opposite each other---

Place a fan at the exit window, so as to draw in fresh air from the window on the opposite side of the room---

Allow fresh air to flow thru the room.

The moving air will pick-up the odors in the air and expel it out the opposite window (with the fan).

Leave the fan running for a couple hours, should remove most of the offensive odors.


Don Grubish said:

It was Minwax Red Oak stain (oil based). I think that's the last time I use that stain.

Hi Don,

What did you put over to[ of the stain.  Clear shellac is alcohol based and dries very fast. it also seals the smell of most stains

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