How to Remove Sticky Varnish from Wood?

How to Remove Sticky Varnish from Wood?

How to Remove Sticky Varnish from Wood? Point a fan at the drying varnish will help. Wipe the surface of the varnish lightly with a rag moistened with turpentine or mineral spirits. Don’t rub; just wipe it enough to remove any stickiness from its surface, and give it another day under that breeze as well for curing!

Furniture and wood finishes, a.k.a varnish, go hand in hand. You can find many types of wood finishes including lacquer, shellac, varnish, and other finishes to protect it from damages and worn-out varnish, stain, etc. 

In a nutshell, these wood finishes help to increase the lifespan and durability of wood.

Did you know? there is always a possibility your furniture coats get sticky. You can resolve this problem only by removing the sticky coats through verified applications or using home remedies. 

But before I go on to talk about how to remove sticky varnish from wood, you need to know how it develops in the first place.

Reasons for Sticky Wood Varnish

There are few reasons that contribute to the wood varnish getting sticky. These include: 

  • Wood not being cleaned at the time of applying application 
  • Dirt accumulation over time.

Now considering these factors, here are two main reasons why wood develops sticky varnish.

Silicon Sprays

Some furniture polish spray contains silicon, which helps to create a smooth and reflective surface. The downside is that silicon traps moisture and humidity between them which does not allow the layers to adhere to each other. As a result they don’t harden and leave a sticky residue on wood furniture.  

Ammonia Solutions

In many cases, people use chemical solutions to clean their wooden material. These solutions contain ammonia or bleach, and it may cause softening of the varnish and develop a gummy texture with time.

Weather Conditions

As said earlier, wood furniture when used for a longer period tends to wear out and lose its beautiful look. Cold or humid weather may also affect the wood surface to keep developing gummies. As a result, this sticky varnish will lead to stains and scratches.

Removal of Sticky Varnish from Wood

Sanding is quite a popular method used when sticky stuff does not go off entirely from the wood. But before you jump to that option, go through the listed options on how to remove sticky varnish from wood. That will be a little tricky because it deals with the chemical solution for removing the sticky varnish from wood. 

Method 1: Homemade Varnish Remover

If you haven’t tried this method before, this is the time! You can make a varnish remover at home by following these steps:

Prepare Vinegar Solution

To prepare the solution, take a little acidic cleaner or a mix of warm water with white vinegar. Both should be in equal quantity. Spread over the wood surface.


Rub it gently once you spread the solution on the wood surface. The purpose is to make the wood as smooth as before. Gentle pressure is important as this will only impact the sticky varnish. The aim is to remove as much as possible through gentle rubbing. 

Wash and Dry

When you’re done with rubbing, use clean water to wash the surface and wipe off with a soft microfiber towel. Leave the wood to dry off completely for an hour.

Why Use Vinegar to Remove Sticky Varnish?

Vinegar is an excellent solvent and best for removing stubborn stain because of its natural acidic properties. Before applying it, you need to clean the wood surface and remove all the debris. 

  • Make sure you’re using white vinegar.  
  • Keep in mind to clean your wood furniture thoroughly after application. 

This way, it will remove sticky residue and worn-out varnish to some extent.

Can You Use Vinegar Alternative Dishwashing Detergent?

In case you have no vinegar at home (which is highly unlikely), you can think of an alternative and robust solution – a dishwashing detergent, maybe.

Yes, you can use mild dishwashing detergent with water instead of white vinegar and follow the above-mentioned steps to remove sticky varnish from wood.

Method 2 – Using Commercial Product

There are plenty of commercial products available in the market that you can buy to get better results, with less effort. Below I have chosen the best products on the market. They have a proven track record against sticky varnish.

Step 1: Murphy Soap with Water

Independent contractors recommend Murphy soap. According to them, Murphy soap works great in removing tougher varnish. 

First, you need to mix Murphy soap with water and then use this solution to remove lighter residue.

If the varnish is denser, you can use Murphy soap directly on the wooden surface without mixing it. 

For this purpose, take a piece of cloth containing Murphy soap and wipe down the wood. Now, rinse the wooden surface and take a wet towel to wipe off the wood surface to remove the sticky substance.

You may continue this process until you get your desired result.

Step 2: Applying Wood Wax

Once you remove the sticky varnish from the wood with the help of Murphy soap, you can leave it for an hour to dry off. After it dries completely, you can apply wood wax to protect your wood furniture from stains and damages.

Method 3 – Sanding Process to Remove Sticky Varnish

If you are still unable to remove sticky varnish after applying the above two methods, then sanding is the most effective way to get rid of sticky varnish. You can use sandpaper from 90 grit to 220 grit. 

You may start sanding with 90 grit sandpaper, then 190 grit, and at the end 220 grit. The sandpaper will remove the sticky varnish and produce a smooth surface on your wood. While applying the sanding method, you need to be careful to avoid any kind of damage.


Finally, you’ve got three methods to remove the sticky varnish. I have discussed in detail how to remove sticky varnish from wood. The methods in this post should help you in your future projects. But most importantly, understand why sticky varnish develops on your furniture so that you can take precautionary measures beforehand. 

Don’t hesitate to ask me if you think I have not covered your concern in this post. You can get further consultation or view other articles on my blog. 

There is no limit to learning and becoming an expert.