Removing mineral oil finish

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Forum topic by Skim posted 01-11-2018 05:43 PM 3703 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 992 days

01-11-2018 05:43 PM

I know this topic was discussed before but haven’t found a clear answer. So I finished my tabletop with mineral oil and it’s not giving enough sealing for daily use. I want to strip off the oil finish and apply Arm R Seal. I started with sanding with 120 grit but the oil never go away and the sandpaper gets clogged with wet dust so quickly. I did some research and now am using mineral spirits. A couple questions here.

- do I leave mineral spirits on the wood until it dries or should I wipe it off at some point? How long do I need to leave it to be soaked?
- should I use a different material? Some suggested laquer thinner but I wasn’t sure if it works for mineral oil.
- any other suggestions for removing mineral oil finish? I know it’s a non drying oil and I would never be able to completely remove the oil. And I also know Urethane type finishes would never get along with a surface that has oil in it. Should I go for a different material? Waterox website says their product works on existing oil finish (they recommend using mineral spirits followed by sanding but they say it works) Some suggested a light coat of dewaxed shellac before Urethane coat but I don’t want things get messy…

Looking forward to some advice here.

15 replies so far

View Loren's profile (online now)


10612 posts in 4504 days

#1 posted 01-11-2018 05:58 PM

I would wipe it down daily with mineral spirits
on a clean white cloth until no oil residue
was obvious on the cloth. I expect the oil
may weep up to the surface so that’s why
I would work on it every day.

After that a coat or two of shellac will allow
other finishes to adhere. I wouldn’t be
intimidated by shellac. It’s pleasant to work
with and forgiving. I use rubber gloves
and folded t-shirt cotton cloth to pad it on. That
way I don’t have to mess around with using
alcohol to clean brushes. Sometimes I fold the
cloth and use a hemostat to hold it for small

Many “oil” finishes are made from oils that
polymerize and dry. I don’t think mineral oil
does that.

View Woodknack's profile


13475 posts in 3236 days

#2 posted 01-11-2018 07:13 PM

Wipe it down and coat with blonde shellac. Shellac won’t care about some oil on the surface. Then topcoat with whatever you want. You might be able to use oil base varnish directly, not sure.

-- Rick M,

View Lazyman's profile


5826 posts in 2244 days

#3 posted 01-11-2018 07:58 PM

While you right that MO is not considered a drying oil, I think is probably more accurate to say it not a hardening oil. It stays in a liquid state in the wood rather than hardening. It will evaporate over time though there may always be remnants of oil in the wood. You may be able to speed up some of the evaporation with warm airflow but it will take some time. Rick’s suggestion of shellac after using mineral spirits is a good one as it is generally considered the universal primer. I would definitely experiment with some scraps of the same wood or the underside of the table first to make sure that whatever finish you use will adhere and stand up over time.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Greg the Cajun Wood Artist's profile

Greg the Cajun Wood Artist

523 posts in 1798 days

#4 posted 01-11-2018 08:44 PM

Acetone works quite well on oily finishes also. It will pull the oil out of the wood. I have used it for many years to wipe down oily woods prior to glue up and applying finishes to the same oily woods.

-- Wood for projects is like a good Fart..."better when you cut it yourself" Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does

View Skim's profile


3 posts in 992 days

#5 posted 01-11-2018 10:06 PM

Thanks for all your input. mineral spirits didn’t seem to work great so I tried denatured alcohol and it seems better. Hardware store guy told me oil based poly should work fine over oil finish….I am getting more confused.

View a1Jim's profile


118136 posts in 4433 days

#6 posted 01-11-2018 10:09 PM

I switched to Naptha some time ago, cleans well, dry’s fast and leaves no residue.


View AUswimKC's profile


42 posts in 2804 days

#7 posted 01-11-2018 10:39 PM

You’ve been given extremely good advice. Spend the extra $20 for some rattle can shellac and spray a few coats after using whatever solvent to get as much mineral oil out. Keep the can 8” away and keep it moving. Top with whatever finish you desire.

As a general rule, advice at hardware stores is worth less than you paid for it

View TheFridge's profile


10861 posts in 2342 days

#8 posted 01-11-2018 11:59 PM

Don’t listen to the hardware store guy.

Shellac is your friend.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Lazyman's profile


5826 posts in 2244 days

#9 posted 01-12-2018 02:59 PM

Oil based Poly will work over an oil finish (or water based finish for that matter) that completely dries or hardens. It won’t stick or cure if the oil is still wet which is the case with mineral oil.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Skim's profile


3 posts in 992 days

#10 posted 01-12-2018 06:35 PM

Thanks for the additional comments. After cleaning the tabletop with denatured alcohol 4 times, it is not like the bare wood but it looks dry. I will clean it for few more times and apply a few coats of shellac spray can as everyone here is suggesting before applying Arm-R-Seal. Hopefully the finish won’t peal off.

View Andybb's profile


2838 posts in 1460 days

#11 posted 01-12-2018 07:01 PM

I switched to Naptha some time ago, cleans well, dry s fast and leaves no residue.

- a1Jim


-- Andy - Seattle USA

View BurlyBob's profile


7857 posts in 3122 days

#12 posted 01-12-2018 08:15 PM

Jim and Andy, I’ve got a question for you about naptha. I picked up a piece of cut off from black walnut table top. Several strips of black walnut glued on edge. They used butcher block oil on it. I had thought, when I got around to it I’d use acetone. Would you two suggest naptha instead? What if any, are the benefits of it over acetone? I’ve been using acetone as a cleaner for quite some time. I’m just curious about naptha as I have no experience with it.

View Gilley23's profile


489 posts in 1238 days

#13 posted 01-12-2018 08:31 PM

I’ve used denatured alcohol as a cleaner for years….cleans great and leaves zero residue that I can tell. Helps remove oily things and takes glass to a bare state. Is naptha the denatured alcohol superior??

View DTSquared's profile


6 posts in 1044 days

#14 posted 02-05-2018 01:26 AM

Skim, do you find a solution? I have the exact same question about refinishing a butcher block that has a mineral oil finish. I have sent a message to General Finishes asking if Seal-a-Cell and/or Arm-R-Seal will work after I have sanded down and cleaned with mineral spirits. Did you have any luck? Did you talk to the guys at Rockler in Novi? I am in Troy so I might head over to Woodcraft and see if they have any advice.


View AlaskaGuy's profile (online now)


6011 posts in 3165 days

#15 posted 02-05-2018 01:51 AM

I keep mineral spirits, Naphtha, denatured alcohol and acetone in the shop for different things. Naphtha often times dries to fast and I will use the mineral spirits.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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