Can You Restain Wood a Different Color? Tips and Tricks

Did you make a mistake in your DIY wood staining project? The situation may seem helpless because the stain seeps deep into the wood. However, you can correct your mistakes and spice up wooden furniture with a different color.

Our discussion focuses on different ways of restaining wood to a different color. You will find DIY-friendly tricks to give your space a new look. First, we will talk about the considerations to make before starting the project to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Top Factors to Consider When Restaining Wood

You have several things to consider before you contact any stain company or touch the piece of furniture that needs a change. First, think about your preferred stain color. What is wrong with the current shade? Do you want a lighter or darker shade of it or a different color?

The project is easier when you have the preferred results in mind. The goal also determines the type and color of the stain to order. Another important consideration is the natural undertone of the wood. Each type of wood has a unique undertone, which determines the final look after staining.

Mahogany, walnut, and red oak have red undertones, while poplar and pine have green and yellow undertones, respectively. Beech, maple, birch, and white oak have pinkish undertone. The undertone changes the wood stain appearance.

Some of the restaining processes we recommend involve stripping down the old stain, which reveals the natural undertone. Hence, you need to know the type of wood you are working on. In addition, consider the type of surface and the finish on it to choose the appropriate restaining method.

Are you moving from a light to a dark finish or lightening a dark finish? The latter is difficult. You need to remove the existing stain first to apply a lighter finish.

A flat surface is easy to restain. However, if the furniture piece has delicate details, the available restaining methods are fewer. You must pick a process that retains all the details on wood.

With these considerations in mind, let us look at different methods of restaining wood to a different color.

1. Sand down the old stain

Sanding is not exciting news for DIY lovers. We all want the simplest method to fix a problem and move on to the next project. However, sanding may be necessary when restaining wood, depending on the surface.

The process is easy and fast with power sanders. Hand sanding is strenuous and time-consuming, but it may be the only option available for you. The good news is that you end up with a smooth finish and a fresh surface to restain.

The option of sanding and restaining is limited to flat surfaces, such as tabletops, fences, and counters. Hand sanding is difficult when the piece of furniture has curves and detailing. In addition, sanding paper may wear out fast if the finish is gummy.

Sanding comes with environmental and health considerations because of the dust particles. Wear gloves, a facemask, and eyeglasses for protection. You also need to do the repairs outside or in an empty space.

The recommended procedure is starting with low-grit sandpaper and increasing the grit size as you continue. For instance, you can start with 60-grit sandpaper and increase to 80-grit and then to 240-grit sandpaper. You will have removed all the stain at this stage.

One of the advantages of sanding down old stain is that the surface is ready for restaining immediately. Wipe the dust with a damp cloth and apply your preferred stain.

You have already made mistakes or disliked the old stain. Test the new stain on a scrap piece of wood or a hidden spot before applying the full surface. You do not want another day of sanding down all over again.

2. Stain over stain

We know that you were secretly hoping for this solution- staining over the old stain. You can apply a new stain over the old stain under specific conditions. The first condition is that you must use the same type of stain.

If the old stain was water-based, choose another water-based stain. Do the same for an oil-based stain. The trick here is to use a shade darker than the existing stain. If you use a lighter shade, the old stain is likely to show. You may also not like the mixture.

Staining over a stain also requires a test before you go all out. Use a separate piece of wood or stain an inconspicuous section. The results may not show immediately. Allow the wood to sit for a day or two to view accurate results.

You can decide from the results if restaining over the old stain is the best option. Try different shades of the same type of stain. The tests are worth the time in comparison with sanding down a large surface. We have more solutions if staining over stain does not work.

3. Bleaching or stripping the old stain

Sanding is not always possible for furniture with corners, curves, and details. It will take you a long time to navigate all the twists and turns to remove the finish and stain. Bleaching is the alternative to sanding down the old stain.

You can use a petroleum-based solvent or bleach to strip down or lighten the color. Changing the color is easier when the old stain is faded. Bleaching requires caution to avoid messes. Most bleaching agents are corrosive. Protect your hands and any items in the room.

Do not pour the wood bleach directly on the furniture without a test, especially when the wood has a topcoat. The bleach may not penetrate the finish to strip the stain. Oil-based and glossy wood finishes are harder to penetrate with bleach and other solvents.

Stripping the old stain with a solvent or bleach may not work if the surface has several coats of glossy finish. Pour the bleach on a hidden spot first and wait for the reaction. If the bleach cannot penetrate the finish, consider sanding the finish before stripping the stain underneath.

Stripping is a great alternative to sanding when the piece of wood has curves and details. It saves you hours of working through several layers of stain. Stripping is also perfect for delicate surfaces if you pick the right solvent and mix it well.

The downside of bleaching is the potential harm to your skin and the strong odor of wood bleach. You need extra protection for your skin because the bleach can splash on any exposed skin. In addition, keep the room ventilated when working indoors.

Bleaching saves you from sanding several layers of wood stain. However, you will need to sand the bleached surfaces for the new stains to seep and cure properly. Sanding the surface is also necessary for a smooth finish.

4. Paint over the stain

Let us talk about one more easy way of dealing with an unwanted stain. You can paint over the old stain with an oil-based or water-based wood paint. Ensure that the paint is suitable for wooden surfaces.

Painting gives you the freedom to choose a different color from the existing stain. Changing the stain color is not always easy when you cannot sand or strip the old stain. You can only go a shade lighter or darker of the same color.

Painting over the stain is possible even with a topcoat. However, you need to sand the finish lightly for the primer to hold before painting. Another advantage of painting wood is that you can reach all the corners, curves, edges, and other details.

Several coats of paint and finish will give the piece of wood a new look. While the process sounds simple, you still need to test the paint. Testing helps you to determine the right shade of paint to use and the number of coats that will cover the underlying stain completely.

5. Get the stain color right

If you have read this guide to this point, then you know that restaining wood to a different color is tedious. You need to go the extra mile to achieve the results you envisioned when you decide to stain wood.

Choosing the right stain color saves you the trouble of changing it in the future. We understand that your tastes and preferences can change over time. However, changing the wood stain color is daunting when you are correcting a mistake.

After the lengthy process of sanding or stripping the old stain, you have no room for mistakes. Take your time to test the new stain color. Test the color even when you choose a different shade of the old stain or paint instead of stain.

Patience is important when changing the color of wood. Give the test paint or stain a day or two to cure and dry. Apply a second coat and give it the same time to dry. You will make a better decision after seeing the results. You may also decide to paint or change the stain color.


The right method of restaining wood in a different color depends on the existing finish, natural undertones, and the details on the surface. The easiest methods are staining or painting over the existing finish. You can go a shade lighter or darker with these methods.

However, stripping down the existing stain with bleach or sanding is necessary when you want to stain a different color. Remember to test the results of each method to avoid a repeat restaining project.