I attempted my first ever woodworking project this weekend and thought it was going smoothly until I realized I was supposed to let the minwax oil based stain dry for 4-6 hours between coats.

I had read the first steps in the directions that said to apply, wait 15 mins, wipe off excess and then immediately repeated with coat #2 and shortly after with the minwax polyurethane as well.

Now it's sat over night and an oily residue that can be wiped off easily has come to the surface in several spots. This is what made me re-read the directions and realize my HUGE mistake :(

Do I just let it continue to sit? Should I wipe it off? How do I correct this?! It's a huge farmhouse table built out of common board, whitewood & douglas fir.

Thank you!!!

  • 1
    I think the best course of action is @aaron's suggestion no. 1, to wipe this down with plenty of mineral spirits while you have the chance (before it sets further and stops being easily soluble in spirits). Then let it dry overnight or for a full day and then assess how it looks and continue as appropriate.
    – Graphus
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 16:29

1 Answer 1


your best bet for most even tone is to wipe off as much as possible using paint thinner/mineral spirits. Evaluate what things look like once the solvent you used has dried. If the color looks even/good, wait for the actual stain oils to dry, then apply the top coat of poly.

If it doesn't look good, wait for what's on there to get good and dry, then sand it back to clear wood again and start over.

edit: if there is a lot of semi-dry poly residue, scraping off the poly is more efficient than waiting for all of it to dry then sanding. However, scraping softwoods doesn't tend to work well, so once you're through the poly layer I'd finish sand as you did before.

As a note, stain isn't mandatory (neither is finish for that matter, although it's generally greatly recommended). I mention it because a lot of beginners assume all wood has to be stained.. the staining is for color only, and is absolutely optional and your preference.

  • Good Answer. Minor quibble on the comment about scraping softwoods, IME they can actually scrape very well and on average I'd say they scrape OK or better — much better than one might expect if you've heard the old saw "you can't scrape softwoods". Like Chris Schwarz I didn't know this was supposed to be the case a few years ago when I first started scraping and I've done it ever since. I do usually complete prep by sanding afterwards but it saves loads of sandpaper and sanding time.
    – Graphus
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 16:40
  • I haven't heard that old "saw" ;-) just my own failures. I use it for cutting down on sanding time, but it doesn't get me the same quality surface that sanding or planing do.
    – aaron
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 18:33
  • If it's of interest here's the Chris Schwarz piece on this, Shhh! Don't Tell My Scraper That
    – Graphus
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 6:30
  • @Graphus Maybe with a good scraper and good sharpening technique. I made a card scraper out of a putty trowel, and I thought the project a failure since it made no progress in smoothing out my pine table's surface. After I shellacked it, I gave the scraper one more try, and everything I read about happened properly. Significant material came off the table, and the scraper got hot fast. The shellac must have hardened the surface and given the scraper something to bite. So for people without the best tools and the best skills, scraping softwood may not be possible.
    – piojo
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 4:46
  • @piojo In terms of conventional scrapers being prepped well is generally a must. The main factor is probably the wood though, some woods (like the species you were using it sounds like) just aren't good candidates for scraping. I tend to use a knife-edge scraper rather than a card scraper so that changes things for me as well, but you can get equivalent results from a card scraper according to luthiers and other regular users of scrapers.
    – Graphus
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 7:06

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