Does something remove small oily stains from smooth painted wood surfaces?

These are so miniscule that they're only visible form a particular angle with a particular light.

They aren't coming off by scrubbing or with Universal Stone.

I sort of think they've become part of the paint, but maybe I am wrong.

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  • 1
    What kind of surface are we talking about?
    – Stephie
    Nov 26, 2023 at 14:12

1 Answer 1


Most paint surfaces breath so that humidity can equilibrate between with the air. Not unreasonable that some materials might be smaller thant the pores in the paint.

Even some plastics are stained. I've had white melamine get stained from both curry (tumeric) and from grapejuice.

Things to try. Read all of these before trying any.


  • Alcohols -- start with these becasue they dry rapidly

    • Rubbing alcohol (Isopropanol)
    • Methyl alcohol (Wood alcohol, gasline antifreeze)
    • Ethyl alcohol (booze) (Try to get a product like "Everclear" -- 190 proof
  • Ether (Engine starter) (WD40 is mostly ether, but also has oil in it. May make problem worse

  • Acetone (nail polish remove)

  • MEK (Methyl Ethyl keytone) another bad one for your liver. Will also strip paint.

  • Hydrocarbons:

    • Cyclohexane (camp stove fuel)
    • Benzene (Known carcinogen)
    • Toluene (Worse carcinogen)
    • Mineral spirits or kerosene
    • Gasoline

Note that if gas wasn't so useful as a fuel, it would be classified as an explosive.

After that, you can try brake fluid, automatic transmission fluid.

If the stain is from something else, you can try bleach, oxalic acid (radiator cleaner) hydrogen peroxide.

If it's oily and on the surface, start with hot water and tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) 1 tbs/gallon. Rinse well.

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