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Fixing Stained Cedar

Q: "How do I remove water stains from cedar?"

guys on stairs

Do you have any idea on how to remove water stains from rough-sawn cedar
without replacing the wood? I have cedar trim around my skylights and
leaks have stained the wood. I have tried bleach, and even light buffing
with a wire brush, to no avail.

— John, Dexter Michigan


Steve Thomas replies: Once the stain has gotten into the wood, it's very tough to remove it.
The stain penetrates through a deeper layer of the wood than sanding will
remove. It leaves a black stain that's pretty much impossible to remove.
One strategy is to stain the wood. There are a lot of paint companies
that make stains that will cover the discoloration. You do the whole piece, and it
lightens it up and ameliorates the stain. Another tactic is to
paint. Thin some oil-based paint down, paint it on, then wipe it off.
That in effect stains the wood. You won't actually get rid of the water
stain, but you will even it out a little bit, and you'll also still get
the grain of the wood showing through. I had the same problem around
skylights in my house. I have cedar, and there's just no way to get rid
of it without sanding so deep you ruin the wood. So that's the strategy
to deal with it. And don't forget to have your skylight fixed.


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