Refinishing because of cat stains
November 1, 2013 | 7:00 pm CDT

Q: I have a customer who has several cats and these cats have stained some oak and cherry pieces that were recently purchased from our plant. I am in sales and am trying to help this special case, even though it is just one of many hundreds of customers. Can you help?

A: Refinishing specialists may be the best bet, but if you want to try this yourself, here is what I would do. I know it works, but I cannot guarantee it 100 percent.

First, we have to remove the salts that the cats have deposited. This is done with very hot water (200 F). Put the water on the stain and then quickly blot it dry, pulling the salts out. Then use a hair dryer right away to remove any additional moisture. For cherry, I would suggest a little vinegar on the stains first and then immediately blot it up. Then go with the hot water treatment above. After the hair dryer, the wood should be ready to refinish. Note: Certain water-based stains may not be happy with this treatment, so you may have to treat a larger area to avoid any undesired color contrasts. (A subsequent e-mail indicated that this worked beautifully.)

Incidentally, with stains in oak caused by water that has iron in it, use a little oxalic acid (also called wood bleach; weak solution on a rag) to remove this stain. Then use the hot water treatment, blotting and drying to neutralize the acid to avoid unwanted bleaching affects.

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Gene Wengert

Gene Wengert, “The Wood Doctor” has been training people in efficient use of wood for 45 years. He is extension specialist emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.