How To Remove Hard Wax Oil From Wood (Without Sanding)

Removing a wax finish is pretty straightforward. And with a bit of mineral spirit, there’s little stopping you from scraping off that surface wax.

But, what about hard wax oil finishes? These wax/oil blended products not only coat the surface of wood, but they soak into grain and seal over wood pores too.

So how do you remove hard wax oil… both inside and out?

Well, in this post, you will find out why hard wax oil finishes are so difficult to get rid of completely. You will also find out which wax dissolving liquids work best on a hard wax oil finish.

And we reveal exactly how to remove hard wax oil without you ever needing to reach for that sandpaper.

how to remove hard wax oil from wood

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Why Is Hard Wax Oil More Difficult To Remove Than Just Wood Wax?

Hard wax oil is a wood finish that combines natural penetrating oils with natural waxes. So, this particular wood finish will soak into wood, and build up on the surface.

It makes for a powerful combination that is more water resistant and long lasting than its separate parts. But, it also means that removing this finish is going to be twice as difficult as removing either wax (or oil) alone.

Related Post: Should You Use A Hard Wax Oil Finish Vs Danish Oil?

This is because as hard wax oils sink into wood, they draw a lot of its natural wax ingredient down deep into wood grain.

On the other hand, a pure wood wax product does not penetrate lumber. Instead, wax alone simply builds up on the surface of wood.

This is why completely removing hard wax oil is so difficult. It’s because the wax has soaked and solidified underneath the immediate wooden surface.

Does This Mean You Can’t Remove Hard Wax Oil At All?

Not quite. When it comes to hard wax oils, you can easily remove all of that waxy build up on the surface. That shouldn’t be too difficult to get rid of.

But, there is little you can do to remove any wax that has soaked into wood grain.

Now, this shouldn’t pose a problem, unless you’ve planned on recoating with a penetrating finish or wood stain.

Any old hard wax oil resin will have already filled out and sealed over wood pores. So, it can prevent any fresh new penetrating finish or stain from evenly soaking into wood.

how to remove hard wax oil from wood

What Chemical Will Remove Hard Wax Oil Build-up?

Mineral spirits, (also known as White Spirit), works best at removing wax.

That is because this product, (which is made from petroleum distillates), actually breaks down and dissolves wax and oil.

In short, it softens up hard wax oil resin enough for you to scrape it off.

Related Post: Don’t Put Hard Wax Oil Over Wood Stain (Do This Instead…)

Are Mineral Spirits and Mineral Oil The Same Thing?

They are both derived from the same natural petroleum source, but each one has been refined to a different extent.

Mineral spirits comes from refined petroleum. However, it is not refined enough for human consumption, and is still very toxic.

Mineral oil also comes from refined petroleum. However, this oil has been refined and filtered to the extent that it is safe for human consumption.

Related Post: Can You Mix Linseed Oil With Mineral Spirits? [Best Practice Revealed!]

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What If There’s No Mineral Spirit Around?

If you can’t find any mineral spirit, you still have a few alternatives you can use instead:

Denatured Alcohol (Also Known As Methylated Alcohol)

Made from ethanol, denatured alcohol has chemical additives in it that make it fantastic at breaking down grime.

Widely used as a medical cleaning agent, this stuff is so great at combating grease, that it can even break apart hard wax.

Turpentine

Turpentine is made from distilled tree resin, and is used as a cleaning product.

This flammable substance releases more VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) than mineral spirits. So, be very careful about exposing yourself to those turpentine fumes.

Naphtha

Naphtha is also made from petroleum. But it is a much stronger, (and more volatile), solvent than mineral spirit.

It will work faster at dissolving wax, but it’s a more dangerous substance to have around the house than white spirit.

Does White Spirit Remove Wax From Wood? Known as White Spirits in the UK, (but referred to as Mineral Spirits in the USA), this clear substance will remove wax from wood. And it can soften up even the toughest of hard wax oil build-up.

What About Vinegar? Will Vinegar Dissolve Wax As Well?

Vinegar can dissolve wax, but you shouldn’t use it to remove wood wax. At least, not if you want to protect the wooden surface underneath.

Vinegar is very acidic, and will do more harm than good if it gets in contact with natural wood.

How To Remove Hard Wax Oil From Wood (Without Sanding)

So, How Do You Remove Hard Wax Oil Finish From Wood?

First off, you will need the following;

Mineral Spirits (or a similar alternative solvent),
– A lot of lint-free rags,
– A putty scraper,
– And some protective gloves.

  • Step 1: Soak the lint-free rag in mineral spirit.
  • Step 2: While wearing protective gloves, rub the mineral spirit soaked rag over that hard wax oil finish.

Let the mineral spirit soften up the wax for a couple minutes. And then begin removing the wax using the rag, rubbing with the grain.

Side Note: Don’t use fine steel wire wool to remove wood wax. Even 0000 fine steel wool will scratch up the surface of wood. And those scratches can only be removed via sanding afterwards.

  • Step 3: Remove as much of the hard wax oil finish as you can with the rag. Once a rag is caked in wax, ditch it and swap it out for another mineral spirit coated rag, and continue rubbing the wax off.

You can also remove any significant amount of softened wax by using the putty scraper.

  • Step 4: If you plan on recoating with a new wood finish, then now is the time to test it. Select a small unnoticeable spot on that hard wax oil finish (for example, the underside of a table).

You are going to use this spot to run a test, to see how the new finish coat turns out first (before applying it over the entire surface).

How Do You Remove Osmo Hard Wax Oil From Wood? Dampen a lint-free rag in mineral spirit. And then rub the rag over that hard wax oil finish. The mineral spirit will soften that cured finish up enough for you to remove it.

To Sum Up, Here Are The 3 Key Takeaways…

  • 1). You can remove hard wax oil surface build-up, but you won’t be able to remove hard wax oil that has soaked deep into wood grain.
  • 2). Mineral Spirits, Denatured Alcohol, and Turpentine, can all dissolve and remove hard wax oil finishes.
  • 3). Vinegar can dissolve a hard wax oil finish, but vinegars acidity can also damage the natural wood underneath.

References:

Quality of Oil- and Wax-Based Surface Finishes on Thermally Modified Oak Wood – Vidholdová, Z.; Slabejová, G.; Šmidriaková, M. Quality of Oil- and Wax-Based Surface Finishes on Thermally Modified Oak Wood. Coatings 2021, 11, 143.