I'm in Malaysia helping my sister in law setup for a dinner party this evening. She has a beautiful 6' diameter table that had some stains on it. She had some eucalyptus oil based cleaner that we used to clean the surface with. The problem came when I was over zealous with the cleaner on the worst stains and it's softened the finish.

I have no idea what the finish is, but I'd guess varnish judging by how sticky my hands are from rubbing in the eucalyptus oil. There are also little balls of finish that come up when I rub it with a dry hand.

I've got a ceiling fan running on high trying to cook off the volatiles, but the humidity here is so high that it's taking forever. However there is progress, it's not so tacky anymore, so maybe patience is the correct approach?

My SIL is impatient to get the table ready, and I have no access to my normal tools and solvents back in the US, so suggestions would need to revolve around normal household items.

You guys got any ideas?

Edit I've gotten a stay of execution from my SIL, so the table can sit for a few hours (with the fan on high) before it needs to be set. It's still pretty tacky in places, but seems to be drying, albeit, slowly.

  • Increased airflow is pretty much your only option here so you're already doing what's needed.
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 12:06
  • If you'd like to add this as an answer, I'll mark it as accepted since that's exactly what we ended up doing.
    – delliottg
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 7:03

1 Answer 1


Speeding the drying of finish: Not always a good idea -- it can check, delaminate...

But if you need to do it:

  • Increase the temperature. Reactions happen faster at warmer temps. Warm air holds less water vapour, so water based finishes will lose their solvent faster.

  • Decrease the humidity.

  • Move the object into the sun. This works especially for drying oils such as linseed and tung oil.

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