6 Methods On How To Remove Wood Glue Before Staining

Experienced woodworkers know that it’s not possible to stain typical wood glue. You have to remove the glue first to prevent an uneven stain finish. But since wood glue creates a solid hold on wood, it’s not easy to get rid of. So for this post, I will share a guide on how to remove wood glue before staining to save you from the hassle.

Below, I discussed 6 methods that you could try to remove wood glue on your workpiece. See which one works best for you:

how to remove wood glue before staining

1. Using a spatula

One of the easiest ways to remove dried wood glue is to scrape it with a spatula. This method is useful whatever wood surface you’re working on. Here’s how to do it:

  • Soak a clean cloth on hot water, then drape it over the wood glue surface.
  • Let this soak for a few minutes to help soften the dried wood glue.
  • After a while, use a spatula tool to lift and scrape the wood glue off the surface.
  • The wood glue should be easy to lift from the wood. If not, soak it a little bit more with hot water.
  • As you scrape, you should mind the wood underneath. Avoid using too much pressure as this will likely ruin the wood surface as well.
  • Repeat soaking the wood glue with hot water then scraping it with a spatula until all the glue traces have been removed.

2. Using a hairdryer

Another method to soften and remove hardened wood glue is applying heat. This is very effective if you’re dealing with vinyl glue products that adhere strongly to the material. The following are the steps you need to take:

  • Turn the hairdryer on using the hottest setting. Make sure that the temperature won’t damage the wood material.
  • Hold it over the wood glue surface for a few minutes.
  • Check if the glue has softened, and try peeling it with your hands. You can also use a spatula or other tools to scrape it off.
  • Apply heat to the rest of the hardened wood glue until you’ve removed all of it.

3. Using vinegar

If the wood glue is still hard to remove despite the first two methods, you can use vinegar as the next solution. This is very effective when removing dried wood glue on painted wood. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Dab a small amount of vinegar into the dried glue you want to remove.
  • After a while, soak a clean cloth with hot water.
  • Rub the vinegar-soaked glue with the wet cloth to remove the wood glue.
  • If there are remaining residues, you can use ultra-fine steel wool to rub them off. This will remove the glue without damaging the paint and wood material.

4. Using acetone

Another effective way to remove dried wood glue is by soaking it with acetone. However, you should only use this on bare wood. This is because the acetone will ruin stains and wood dyes. Also, this is only suitable in removing wood glue residues and small amounts of glue. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Soak a clean piece of cloth with acetone, then dab it on the dried wood glue. Let the glue soak on the acetone until it changes color.
  • After that, use another clean piece of cloth to rub the wood glue off. This is a great solution for wood glue residues that the previous methods failed to remove.
  • Repeat the acetone application if you can still see remnants of wood glue.

5. Using baking soda

Do you still see wood glue marks after trying all the methods above? If so, a mixture of baking soda may do it for you. Take note that this should be your next resort if the hairdryer and spatula methods didn’t work. Here’s how it works:

  • Mix a small amount of baking soda with hot water until you make a paste.
  • Apply this paste mixture into the wood glue marks and let it sit for 15 minutes.
  • After that, rinse the surface using hot water and a clean piece of cloth.
  • You can repeat the process until you’ve removed all the traces of glue.
  • Also, you should let the wood dry first before staining.

6. Using a soap solution

Lastly, you can use a soap solution if you need to remove dried superglue from a wood surface. This works best for glue with lower adhesion. The following are the simple steps you need to take:

  • Mix a small amount of laundry soap and warm water.
  • Soak a piece of cloth, then dab it on the wood glue stains
  • Let the mixture sit on the wood glue to soften it.
  • Once the wood glue is soft, you can peel it off or scrape it using a spatula tool.
  • Once done, use a clean cloth soaked in water to rinse the excess soap.
  • Let the wood dry before staining.

Does WD-40 remove glue?

WD-40 can help remove strong adhesives like super glue and wood glue. It’s a versatile solution for many household and woodworking problems. However, you have to be careful as WD-40 isn’t always compatible with all wood surfaces. I suggest testing it on a small spot first to see how the glue and wood will react.

Can vinegar damage wood?

As much as vinegar can help remove wood glue, you have to be careful when using it. This solution is acidic and can ruin finishes and stains. Also, it may soak on wood and react harshly, especially on oily hardwood types. In this case, you can use the other methods discussed in this post to get rid of dried wood glue.

What happens when you stain wood glue?

If you try to stain over wood glue, the glue spots will appear lighter than the rest of the wood. This is why woodworkers remove excess or old glue before applying a stain. This is because wood glue products don’t hold stains unless you’re using a stainable version.

Take note that even wood glue remnants will be highlighted once you apply a stain on it. The same goes for sanding scratches that aren’t smoothed out.

Can I sand off wood glue?

If there are small wood glue smears, you can use high-grit sand sandpaper to buff it out. The fine grit will allow you to remove the dried glue little by little. This prevents damage to the wood material while keeping the surface smooth for staining.


Knowing how to remove wood glue before staining is crucial to achieving the best finish. There are multiple methods you can try based on the type of glue you’re dealing it. If you’re in doubt, you should patch test the method on a small spot on the wood. This will let you know if the solution will cause damages or not.

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