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Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/whitish haze on furniture when refurbishing


QUESTION: Hi Eileen,

Hope you are well.  You have helped me several times in the past and so I am turning to you again.  

I have been a painting, staining crazy fool this summer and have done many pieces from my house.  I have used a lot of minwax dark walnut and special walnut over existing stain.  

I clean furniture with mineral spirits and a rag and sometimes do some sanding if needed.  Then I apply stain over existing stain.  I try to wipe well but frankly am impatient and messy.  Anyway, the furniture often takes forever to try - like a week - and then I coat with wipe on poly and it is great. I have been working outside in my garage with varying heat and humidity.

After all this, I am having trouble with a dresser and bunk bed set- old, maybe pine.  I redid the dresser this summer outside in high humidity and direct sunlight.  After applying the wipe on poly I noticied a whitish haze on the dresser top.  I was able to mostly resolve this using mineral spirits.  Now I am working on the bunk beds - this time I have worked in garage to stay out of sunlight and have tried to do this when it is less humid, but again, I am starting to see a whitish streaky haze in a few areas - some where I have applied one coat of poly and others where there is still only stain. Any ideas what is going on and how to avoid it.  Also, any general guidelines to improve my "technique" ha ha.  This is making me nervous because I am getting ready to refurbish my dining room furniture so I want to get it right.  

Sorry to be so lengthy.  Thanks, Laure

ANSWER: Hi Laure
Nice to hear from you again, and you are not lengthy at all LOL.
This haze you are seeing happens when we try to finish or stain in high humidity.
Its simply moisture trapped under what you have applied.
Avoid this by not doing finishing in humid weather.
And I think you now know to never ever work in the sun.
So remember..humidity and finishing don't mix
And direct sun and finishing don't mix.
Hope this helps
Write anytime

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your quick response. I have been stewing about all this and I am now glad to get this learning experience behind me.

As for refurbishing my dining room furniture,I am getting a bit apprehensive because of these recent problems.  I should be good on the humidity and may even work inside to control temperatures.

My dining room furniture is mostly in decent shape with some obvious worn spots,gouges etc. I have stain that has been color matched so hopefully it will be pretty close to the existing stain.

I am planning to do some sort of prep and then wipe stain on all surfaces and then immediately wipe back off??? to minimize stain just sitting on top of stain -

So  my question goes back to the prep....In the past, I used TSP and steel wood to clean/prep my baseboards prior to restaining them and it worked well.  However, I haven't done that with my "fine" furniture yet.  I have been using mineral spirits with rag to clean but haven't been doing much to "roughen" the surface. Should I be doing that or light sanding or something before applying the stain??? In one sense I hate to light sand etc. furniture that is in decent shape but maybe I'll get a better result?

Also wondering about "cleaning" the wood prior to restaining it...was reading online - some like soap and water, some mineral spirits or paint thinner or turpentine etc.  Is it always necessary to clean the furniture and if so what do you think is the best cleaner?

Also is it okay to use a fan to help the furniture dry faster?

Many thanks again, Laure

Hi Again Laure
My preference for cleaning furniture is with mineral spirits and a rag.
But I sometimes get furniture in that is so crudded up with years of waxing that you can actually scrape it off with your fingernail...but don't use your fingernail LOL..use fine steel wool dipped in the spirits.
Always work with the grain when doing this. But on spindles its ok to go around (against the grain).
And remember, the stain is only meant to cover scratched areas although you apply it all over the piece. It will not change the color of the existing wood.
As you are finding out, it takes ages to dry. Wipe it back well.
A fan cannot hurt. May help the drying time.
You do not want to roughen up the wood with sandpaper. You are not refinishing. Just cleaning and hiding scratches and freshening. This will not harm the original finish.
Keep up the great work

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Eileen Cronk


Hi..I can answer most questions about the repairing,stripping and refinishing of all your old furniture and wood items(the things we call antiques)I can give advice about what to buy/avoid at auctions/flea markets. I do not give appraisals on antiques.


I have been refinishing antiques for the past 30yrs. While I have taken several courses over the years,I have found that "hands on" learning is the best teacher. Perhaps I can help you avoid some of the mistakes I made while learning.

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