Preparation, Sanding & Storage

Preparation and Sanding

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Can I use denatured alcohol mixed with shellac to condition raw wood before applying Gel Stain?

Yes. Denatured alcohol is the solvent used in Shellac. A 50/50 mix is commonly used when conditioning wood before staining.

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Can I use steel wool with water based finishes?

No, because the particles can become embedded and rust. Some alternatives are Klingspor Synthetic Wool and Meka Mirlon 1500 synthetic wool.

Steel wool is still an acceptable option for oil based finishes. GF recommends using "oil-free" 0000 wool from Liberon because it doesn't shred as easy as hardware store brands.

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How do I remove the smell of tobacco from furniture before refinishing?

  1. Spray your project inside and out with Ozuim Sanitizer.
  2. Place a box or bowl of charcoal briquettes inside your project.
  3. Cover your entire project with plastic and let it sit for 24 hours.
  4. Clean your project with a Scotch Brite pad and a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water.
  5. Sand the surface with a 150 or 180 grit sanding pad. We recommend Softback Sanding Sponges.
  6. If there is still bit of lingering odor, a coat of shellac may help.

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What is the difference between 220 grit sanding paper and 220 grit sanding pads?

Although both items are labeled as 220 grit, the 220 PADS are softer with a less aggressive scratch pattern. With use, a 220 PAD will soften very quickly to the equivalent of 400 grit sandpaper - making sued pads ideal for finish sanding between layers of topcoat or prep sanding an EXISTING finish.

220 sand PAPER is too aggressive for finish sanding, but works well for the final round of prep sanding of open grained raw wood such as Cherry, Pine, Maple, Birch, or Alder. Pads are our favorite. The pads last a long time, can be rinsed to remove sanding residue and also have the benefit of being flexible, making corners and edges much easier to sand.

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I prepped cleaned my project with mineral spirits but now want to switch to water based products. What should I clean the surface with?

Good catch -  never use mineral spirits to prep clean before applying water based finishes. You can correct this problem by cleaning again with a 50|50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. Let your project dry 24 hours before applying water based products.

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How can I prevent bleed through on mahogany furniture from the 1920-1930’s?

Never guarantee a finish on this era of furniture. Inform your customers of this issue and steer customers away from using light colors. Never guarantee a finish on this era of furniture. Inform your customers of this issue and steer customers away from using light colors. Many mahogany pieces from the late 1920's to early 1930's have an aniline dye lacquer finish which can bleed through no matter how many times you paint or prime over it. Although ideal coverage over an aniline dye lacquer can never be guaranteed, the following two products have been known to minimize bleed through:

  1. A  stain blocking primer such as General Finishes Stain Blocker or Zinsser B-I-N 
  2. shellac seal coat will usually stop most of the bleeding

 
Note: If you are trying to cover red mahogany with a white you may never be able to stop the bleed through. Stain Blocker is most likely to stop the bleed-through of all options listed above because it was specifically engineered to block the most persistent bleed-through.

 

Tips from GF:

  1. Never guarantee a finish on this era of furniture. Inform your customers of this issue and steer customers away from using light colors.
  2. Clean the project and apply 2 coats of General Finishes Stain Blocker with a brush, roller or by spraying. The first coat will absorb contaminants in the wood, causing a color change during the first application, and the second will seal the contaminants. More information regarding Stain Blocker here.
  3. Another primer alternative is Zinsser B-I-N.
  4. Use a dark paint color - there are some pieces that will never work with al light paint.
  5. If none of this works, we recommend that you strip and refinish with a penetrating oil stain followed by a clear coat. 

Stripping Recommendations:
 

  1. Use a good quality citrus stripper or a soy gel stripper as they are more gentle than traditional chemical strippers.
  2. Remove any remaining finish with 150 grit sandpaper. 
  3. Once you have removed the old finish, wash the piece down with a 50/50 blend of denatured alcohol and water to remove any residual oils and waxes. 
  4. Once these stages have been completed, it is safe to use any type of wood stain to restore the original look of the piece.  

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How do I match putty wood filler to a dark stain?

Putty comes in two forms, pre-colored or as a stainable wood filler designed to fill minor imperfection such as nail holes, cracks, and gouges in the wood surface. Putty will display stain a bit differently than wood, so it is not a "perfect" fix, but a good one. The goal is to get the best possible color match to either the color of the raw wood or the color of your existing finish.

The easiest route is to buy a putty that is pre-mixed with color. Both Famowood and Timbermate make colors of putty in several shades. Famowood is available in both oil-based and water-based formulas. Timbermate is an interior grade water-based filler and comes in 13 premixed colors.

Be careful to note if you are buying a solvent (oil) based putty or a water-based putty. Either will work as long as you observe opposing dry times when switching from oil to water, and water to oil; just as you do with the finishes.

Water over oil: let oil dry for a minimum of 72 hours

Oil over water: let water dry a minimum of 24 hours

If you cannot purchase the right color match, you can tint the putty with stain to create a custom color.

  • Timbermate is a water-based putty and accepts stain mixing quite well. To darken water-based putty, use our water-based stains such as Espresso Water-Based Wood Stain or a dye stain.
  • Famowood is an oil-based putty. To darken oil-based putty, you can use a Gel Stain such as Java.

To use:

  • Prep sand your piece. If you are using with an existing finish, thoroughly prep clean and scuff sand your project first.
  • Press wood filler into defect
  • When dry, sand flush with surrounding surfaces after approximately 15-30 minutes, depending on temperature, depth of fill and whether the putty is oil or water based.

Finally, another good putty is Color Putty. They make both water and oil base versions in ready-made colors. This is a soft putty that can be used AFTER the project is finished to fill nail holes or small imperfections.

ALWAYS TEST filler, stain and finish combinations on a small area.

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Can I use General Finishes Milk Paint over an existing finish that is chipping?

If your current finish is chipping, it is failing to adhere correctly. The adhesion problem could be caused by several reasons:

  1. Improper preparation: Cleaning an existing finish removes dirt, grime and many common contaminants such as oil from hands. Dirt, grime and oil prevent good ahesion causing the possiblility of chipping, peeling and flaking - all signs of a failed finish.
  2. Contaminants from dusting sprays that contain silicone will also impact the apperance and adherence of a finish - silicone is almost impossible to remove. Oil soaps and wax can also cause ahesion failures.
  3. The previous paint was a "chippy style" paint, such as an original casein based milk paint that does not contain the necessary resins for high durability

We would not recommend applying any of our products over a failing finish, because the underlying finish could continue to present adhesion problems. Your only recourse for a good result is to remove the current finish by stripping and sanding.

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Can I apply your finishes over a previous wax finish?

Most likely not. There is a saying in the finishing industry, "Once you wax, you cannot go back". Nothing adheres well to wax, and once you use it the surface can become contaminated, making future paint or stain finishes or touch ups difficult or impossible. Even though there is internet chatter about removing wax with 3rd party products or mineral spirits, the risk of a failure in re-coating over a wax finish is very high. Your best bet is to strip and sand, but even that is problematic. The friction from sanding melts the wax, driving it even further into the wood. No guarantees you can remove all the wax every time.

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What is the best temperature to apply wood finishes?

Ideal Conditions are 70 degrees F and 50-70% humidity.

Refinishing furniture in a space that is below or above the 65-75 degrees F range can lead to problems, and a space below 55 degrees F is definitely too cold. One issue caused by cold temperatures with WATER BASED TOP COATS is the development of dimples in the finish called Orange Peel.

The colder your space it is, the longer you have to wait between coats. Cold temperatures slow the dry time and affect how quickly the finish will level, harden and cure. Our easy rule of thumb is; if it is cold enough to wear a sweater it is too cold to apply a water based finish.

If you must apply WATER BASED TOP COATS in cool conditions, add Accelerator to speed water evaporation from the finish. Make sure the finish and the surface of the place you are working on is at room temperature. You can warm up the finish by placing the can in hot water for 5 minutes beforehand, and if possible, move the piece back into warmer temperature after applying finishes for the 7 days of cure time.

OIL BASED finishes are not as affected by cooler temperatures, but lower temps will still slow the oxidation of the finish. GF again suggest moving the piece back into warmer temperature after applying finishes for the 7 days of cure time. You can apply oil based finishes in as low as 60 degrees if necessary.

WARNING: Applying OIL BASED finishes near an open flame or combustible heater is VERY DANGEROUS. The mineral spirit mixes with fumes from kerosene, for example, creating an unsafe environment.

Conversely, if you are working in HOT, DRY climates any WATER BASE finish will dry faster. GF Extender can be added to water based products to increase dry time in those situations.

Ideal temperature to store product: 65-75 degrees F. Garages are not a good place to store any finish.

NOTE:

We have been asked whether it is OK to paint in a 50 degrees F shop if the paint is stored at a safe temperature beforehand, and the finished piece is moved into a room with a safe temperature to dry. This approach might work, but it's risky.

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What is the difference between denatured alcohol and rubbing alcohol?

Rubbing alcohol is a generic term and is usually manufactured with isopropyl alcohol. Denatured alcohol contains ethanol and is engineered to discourage recreational human consumption by including additives that are poisonous, bad tasting, bad smelling or nauseating. A 50/50 mix of either rubbing alcohol and denatured alcohol will work for prep cleaning. Both have good solvents that will remove dirt and grime.

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Why is prep cleaning and sanding an existing finish so important?

Although some companies promote their products as "no prep", that  is nonsense. if you skip this step the finish can fail. General Finishes standard for a good finish is it must adhere well and stand the test of time. 

1.  Prep Cleaning

  • Cleaning an existing finish removes dirt, grime and many common contaminants such as oil from hands. Dirt, grime and oil prevent good ahesion causing the possiblility of chipping, peeling and flaking - all signs of a failed finish.
  • We prefer a 50|50 mix of denatured alcohol and water because it does not contain phosphates, is inexpensive, readily available and does not require rinsing.
  • You can also use ammonia as cleaner when using oil based finishes. We do not recommend using ammonia with water based finishes as it can cause the finish to blush (turn white).
  • 50|50 water|bleach or 50|50 water vinegar solutions can be used as well - be sure to rinse with a warm, wet cloth and let the project dry.
  • In cases where the project has a lot of buildup, we recommend scrubbing with a detergent such as Spic and Span first, followed by a rinse, and then by the 50|50 mix of water and alcohol. Let your piece dry thoroughly.
  • You can use commercial furniture cleaners such as TSP but check the label for phosphates - they will leave a residue behind that requires rinsing.

2.  Prep Sanding

  • The most critical part of finishing a piece of furniture happens before you open a can of stain or paint -it starts with the sanding. Prep sanding an existing finish further cleans the surface, removing built up dirt, grime and oil from hands. 
  • Prep sand an existing finish with a 220 sanding pad.

3.  Be cautious of contaminants

Contaminants from dusting sprays that contain silicone will also impact the apperance and adherence of a finish - silicone is almost impossible to remove. Oil soaps and wax can also cause ahesion failures.

 

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How do I prep MDF before painting?

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is tricky because there are several grades of MDF and the quality varies.

If you cannot determine the quality of the MDF, play it safe and use best practices. The concern is with the edges and ends. The core of MDF is compressed sawdust, glue and resins so when you apply paint to those areas it soaks right up. Sand the edges and ends very well with 150 grit sandpaper, then apply a light coat of filler (such as Timbermate water based wood filler or even joint compound). That will seal the open pores, making it easier to obtain a smooth and consistent finish when painting. The sealing of the ends is even more important than wood because MDF will swell upon contact with moisture.

The front and back of MDF are pressed and sanding during production, but should also be primed with a primer such as Kilz, Bin 123 Primer, or General Finishes Stain Blocker to ensure a better outcome. Then follow with two coats of paint. MDF is not as absorbent as natural wood, so wait 2 days between coats of paint or primer.

Also, MDF also tends to cast a brown color. If you are using a white paint, you can apply a coat of a light gray paint such as GF's Seagull Gray Milk Paint first to counter the brown instead of primer, and then apply a few coats of white over it. Let each coat dry 2 days before adding the next.

As always, we recommend that you test your procedure on a hidden area of your project to make sure the product adheres well and the color is just as you hoped

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Why is prep cleaning and sanding an existing finish so important?

Although some companies promote their products as "no prep," that is nonsense. If you skip this step the finish can fail. General Finishes's standard for a good finish is it must adhere well and stand the test of time.

1. Prep Sanding

  • The most critical part of finishing a piece of furniture happens before you open a can of stain or paint - it starts with the sanding. Prep sanding an existing finish further cleans the surface, removing built up dirt, grime and oil from hands.
  • Prep sand an existing finish with a 220 sanding pad.

2. Prep Cleaning

  • Cleaning an existing finish removes dirt, grime and many common contaminants such as dusting sprays, cleaners and oil from hands. Be especially careful in areas where hands are likely to touch (near knobs on cabinets and the tops of bannisters, for example). Dirt, grime and oil prevent good adhesion causing the possibility of chipping, peeling and flaking - all signs of a failed finish.
  • We prefer a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water because it does not contain phosphates, is inexpensive, is readily available and does not require rinsing.
  • You can also use ammonia as a cleaner when using oil based finishes. We do not recommend using ammonia with water-based finishes as it can cause the finish to blush (turn white).
  • 50/50 water/bleach or 50/50 water/vinegar solutions can be used as well - be sure to rinse with a warm, wet cloth and let the project dry.
  • In cases where the project has a lot of buildup, we recommend scrubbing with a detergent such as Spic and Span first, followed by a rinse, then by the 50/50 mix of water and alcohol. Let your piece dry thoroughly.
  • You can use commercial furniture cleaners such as TSP but check the label for phosphates - they will leave a residue behind that requires rinsing.

3. Be cautious of contaminants

  • Contaminants from dusting sprays that contain silicone will also impact the appearance and adherence of a finish - silicone may be impossible to remove. Oil soaps and wax can also cause adhesion failures.

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What grit should I use for prep sanding raw wood?

The most critical part of finishing a piece of furniture happens before you open a can of stain or paint - it starts with the sanding. Sanding is critical to create a smooth surface.

Use the following sanding seqences for new wood:

PAINT

  • For wood that is going to be PAINTED use 120 grit, followed by 150 grit. 

WATERBASED STAINS & CLEAR COATS

  • For closed-grain woods (such as Cherry, Pine, Maple, Birch or Alder) that will be STAINED with water based products use 150 grit followed by 180 grit. 
  • For open-grain woods (such as Oak, Ash, Mahogany, Parawood) that will be STAINED with water based products use 180 grit followed by 220 grit. 
  • For wood that will be CLEAR COATED WITH A WATER BASED TOPCOAT, use 120 grit, followed by 150 or 220 grit. 

OIL BASED STAINS & TOPCOATS

  • For wood that will be STAINED with an oil based product use 120 grit, followed by 150 grit. 
  • For wood that will be CLEAR COATED WITH A OIL BASED topcoat, sand up to 150 grit.

Do not over sand with the final grits - you will create a surface that is so smooth it will not accept a finish.

 

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I prep cleaned my project with mineral spirits but now I want to switch to water based products. What should I clean my surface with?

Good catch - never use mineral spirits to prep clean before applying water based finishes. You can correct this problem by cleaning again with a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. Let your project dry 24 hours before applying water based products.

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Does GF Milk Paint require primer?

GF Milk Paints are self-sealing so it is not necessary to use primer. You may use a white pigmented stain-blocking primer if you need to seal knots, cover grain, paint light or white color on dark wood, or if you're painting a wood that is known to bleed, such as pine or mahogany. We recommend using General Finishes Stain Blocker, Kilz or Zinsser white pigmented shellac based primers.

Warning: sometimes it is impossible to block bleed through. Always test. Not all projects with existing finishes are candidates for light paint colors. If this happens, start turning your thoughts to Lamp Black Milk Paint - that will cover a lot of problems.

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How do I prep kitchen cabinets with an existing finish before painting or recoating with a stain?

This response is true of prepping and existing finish on furniture, but kitchen cabinets are more problematic because they are work areas where grease, steam, food splatters and oil from hands are common. Prep is basically degreasing and abrading the surface for better adhesion. Oil or substances on hands really show up on a failed re-finish around door knobs and hands if the surface is not cleaned thoroughly. Because of this, General Finishes believes there is no such thing as a "no prep" paint. We would be leading our customers down the path failure if we touted our products as such. Dirt, grime, oil from hands, wax, dusting sprays that contain silicone, oil soaps or wax prevent good adhesion causing the possibility of chipping, peeling and flaking - all signs of a failed finish. This is the number one reason we see for finish failure. The second is not allowing enough dry time.

The heart of the problem is that we often don't know what was used on the cabinets previously. If dusting sprays that contain silicone have previously been used, the risk of finish failure is high. There are no guarantees with silicone - it is almost impossible to remove. Here are our recommendations. It sounds like a lot of work because it is - charge more.

CLEANING AND PRIMING:

  1. Scrub with a degreasing detergent such as Spic and Span or Dawn soap first. WATCH this video about cleaning with Dawn detergent. Follow with a thorough rinse to remove all of the soap, and then by the 50/50 mix of water and denatured alcohol. Let your piece dry thoroughly. Then scuff sand with a 320 Grit Klingspor Ultra Flex Sanding PAD (or 400 grit sandpaper) and remove the dust. There are other sanding PADS out there - just make sure the grit is not too aggressive or you man sand down corners and edges down to bare wood.
  2. We prefer a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water because it does not contain phosphates, is inexpensive, is readily available and does not require rinsing. You can use commercial furniture cleaners but check the label for phosphates - they will leave a residue behind that requires rinsing.
  3. Put down a coat of General Finishes Sanding Sealer. GF Sanding Sealer can be used over cleaned and prepped existing finishes that will create a strong barrier with superior adhesion properties. The resin particle is larger so it builds fast, and finish sanding is a breeze. (Note: We cannot comment on other sanding sealers because several on the market state dry times that are so short that our paint and stains would fail.)
  4. You can apply Gel Stain over the sanding sealer after 24 hours.
  5. You can apply paint or water based stain over the sanding sealer after 3 hours.
  6. You can apply a white primer over the sanding sealer if you want to color correct for a white paint.

OTHER CLEANING INFO:

  • You can use vinegar, bleach or ammonia solutions, but our experience shows they are usually not aggressive enough for kitchen cabinets. We do not recommend using ammonia with water-based finishes as it can cause the finish to blush (turn white).
  • Never use steel wool with water based products because the particles can become embedded and rust. Some alternatives are Klingspor Synthetic Wool and Merka Mirlon 1500 synthetic wool.
  • Steel wool is still an acceptable option with oil-based finishes. GF recommends using oil-free 0000 wool from Liberon because it doesn't shred as easily as the hardware store brands.
  • NEVER USE mineral spirits to prep clean before applying water-based finishes. You can correct this problem by cleaning again with a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. Let your project dry 24 hours before applying water-based products.

PROTECT YOURSELF. There are two ways to protect yourself:

  1. Use a contract and have customers sign off on a warranty. It is extremely exhausting and frightening to be faced with a customer angry over a failed finish. You cannot warrant a finish over unknown substances. Here is a suggestion for your contracts:

We cannot warrant finishes over an existing piece of furniture without knowing the history. If products containing silicone dusting powders, oil soaps or waxes have been previously used on the piece, they may contaminate a new finish and prevent adhesion. In these situations, it is best to strip and sand the entire piece. Occasionally, a previous wax finish or silicone may be impossible to remove.

______(Initials) I acknowledge that this piece has never been waxed/polished with a silicon-based dusting spray or cleaned with oil soaps.

______(Initials) I have no knowledge of waxes, silicone-based dusting sprays or oil soap products being used on my cabinets.

     2. Take the most used drawer or door in the kitchen and test your finish schedule first. And charge for it.

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Can I prep clean my furniture or cabinet project with Ammonia?

You can clean your project with ammonia only if you will be working with an oil based finish. Ammonia can cause a water based finish to blush or turn white. If using a water based finish, a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water is best. 

Note: Avoid using oil-soap or silcone-based daily cleaners such as Pledge, Endust or Murphy’s Oil. These types of products can contaminate your finish, preventing further applications of paints or topcoats in the future.  

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Why did the existing finish develop a haze while prep cleaning with denatured alcohol?

White haze can develop when preparing an existing lacquer finish for re-coating. The haze needs to be removed before applying another finish. To correct during oil based applications such as Gel Stain, sand lightly with sandpaper or a gray Scotch Brite pad and then wipe down the surface with mineral spirits. Once the mineral spirits have dried completely, apply Gel Stain. To correct for water based applications, just sand lightly or scrub with a gray Scotch Brite pad and wipe off the dust. Never use mineral spirits when using a water based finish.

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How do I remove the smell of tobacco from furniture before refinishing?

We recommend the following technique:

  1. Spray your project inside and out with Ozium Sanitizer.
  2. Place a box or bowl of charcoal briquettes inside your project.
  3. Cover your entire project with plastic and let it sit for 24 hours.
  4. Clean your project with a Scotch Brite pad and a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. 
  5. Sand the surface with a 150 or 180 grit sanding pad. We recommend Softback Sanding Sponges.
  6. If there is still lingering odor, a coat of shellac may help.

 

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Will stripping and sanding an existing finish affect how the stain performs?

Possibly - it will depend on the quality of the stripping and sanding. If done correctly, and all of the existing finish is removed, the stain will penetrate the same as on raw wood. If the sanding and stripping are incomplete, the grain and pores of the surface are sealed more, and will not accept stain as easily. More stain may be needed to accomplish the same color as on original raw wood, and longer dry times will be required, especially for thick stains, such as General Finishes Gel Stain.

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Storing Finishes

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How can I prevent Gel Stain from hardening in the can?

As the Gel Stain is used, the volume of stain in the can is displaced with air, causing the stain to start curing. Gel Stains harden up more quickly than liquid oil stains for all the reasons folks love them - the extra colorants and solids within the stain that provide such great coverage also harden up more quickly than other stains. During storage, the oxygen or moisture that's sealed in the container continues to cure and thicken your stored product, ruining the leftovers.Here are some tips to ensure your Gel Stain remains in great working condition.
  • Decant the amount of stain you'll need into a foil covered bowl and reseal your can right away. Every minute the can is open the stain is curing.  
  • Be sure to REALLY clean the chime and the lid of the can to assure a tight seal.  
  • Use Bloxygen to help remove excess oxygen from your can of finish to help preserve it longer. 
  • Store your sealed cans upside down. 
  • Transfer any unused stain to a smaller container once finished with your project or buy Gel Stain in smaller cans to begin with. 
  • Plastic Wrap??  Haven't tried it, but you get the idea! Anything to prevent contact with air is key. 
https://generalfinishes.com/retail-products/oil-base-wood-stains-sealers/oilbase-gel-stains#.VkjpXN-rRMM

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Can I apply vaseline to the rim of a can containing water based products to prevent rusting?

Vaseline is not recommended on the rim of the can (called the chime) as it can contaminate a water-based product and may cause surface defects. Always carefully clean the rim of the can with a paper towel, followed by a damp paper towel before putting the lid on tightly.

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What is the cure time after applying a finish to furniture or cabinets?

Cure time is the amount of time needed for the finish on a piece to reach maximum hardness and be ready for normal use. This is different than "dry time." 

Water based finishes cure faster than oil based finishes, approximately 21 days vs 30 days under ideal conditions (70 degrees and 70% humidity). During the curing stage, treat your project with special care. Avoid placing heavy objects on it. Always avoid the use furniture polishes, dusting sprays or oil soaps as they may contaminate the finish for future recoating. Use a water dampened cloth for regular cleaning. Wipe up spills in a timely manner.

WATER SPILLS AND DAILY USE: Clean water spills up as they occur during regular use and protect from heat. Although General Finishes products are water resistant, they are not impervious to water. Surfaces will not be damaged by spilled water so long as it is cleaned up promptly. Use coasters to protect your wood from standing water and pot holders to protect from heat.

 

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Why did my remaining Arm-R-seal thicken in the can?

Oil base finishes are "oxidizing" products which simply means that when the finish is introduced to oxygen, it starts a chemical reaction where the resins start to harden up. As the top coat is used, the volume in the can is displaced with air, causing the finish to start curing further. Here are some tips to ensure your Arm-R-Seal remains in great working condition.

  • Decant the amount of Arm-R-Seal you will need into a foil covered bowl or paper cup and reseal the can right away. Every minute the can is open the stain is curing.
  • Be sure to REALLY clean the chime and the lid of the can to assure a tight seal.
  • Use Bloxygen to help remove excess oxygen from your can of finish to help preserve it longer.
  • Store your sealed cans upside down.
  • Transfer any unused finish to a smaller container once finished with your project.
  • Plastic Wrap?  We have not tried it, but you get the idea. Anything to prevent contact with air is the key.

 

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Can I use water based topcoat, stain or paint after it has frozen?

Usually not. Not all water base products respond the same way to a freeze. GF has a few products that will pass freeze cycles such as EnduroVar, Pro Shield Flooring Topcoat, and Floor Stains. Most stains will be fine because freezing doesn't affect color. Some of the dyes will coagulate.

The best advice... don't let water finishes freeze. Once frozen, most water based finishes such as General Finishes High Performance Water Base Topcoat are no longer useable. Other manufacturer's products may not freeze because solvents or plasticizers have been added. To check the integrity of your possibly frozen oil based product, open the can and stir to see if the contents are still liquid. If it's still liquid the product should still be viable. Just make sure to mix well to reincorporate the additives into the finish.
General Finishes does monitor weather conditions before shipping to avoid product freezing, but cannot control happens when the shipment arrives at its destination.

If your product is indeed frozen and unusable (See image to the right), we recommend you contact the retailer you purchased the product from for a replacement. Amazon resellers should easily take the product back if you have concerns. General Finishes monitors weather conditions before shipping to avoid product freezing.

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Wax & silicone removal

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How do I remove wax from an existing finish?

There is more than one method but none offer a guarantee of success. The first involves solvents and the others are less harsh. Nothing adheres well to wax, and even after cleaning the wood grain can become contaminated. Wax can penetrate the wood, making future paint or stain finishes or touch-ups difficult or impossible. Sanding down the finish can drive the wax even deeper because the friction of sanding heats up the wax. Even with the techniques listed below, the risk of a failure in re-coating over a wax finish is very high.
After cleaning, test your new finish first to ensure adhesion.

  1. Scrub with a solvent such as Mineral Spirits to break the wax barrier. Follow with several applications of Acetone applied with gray scotch bright pads to scrub the surface.
  2. Mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water. Dampen a soft cotton, lint-free cloth with the solution and use it to wipe the surface of the table to break down and remove the wax buildup. Follow the grain of the wood with each stroke. Replace the cloth with a new one as the wax buildup transfers to the cloth's surface, to prevent it from being redeposited onto the table. Dry the wood with a clean, dry lint-free cloth after wiping it, to prevent moisture from damaging and staining the wood.
  3. Mix a solution of 1 cup of white vinegar mixed with 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar to make a more abrasive, natural cleaner. Dampen a soft cotton cloth with the solution and gently wipe the wax off in the direction of the wood grain. Rinse the surface by lightly dampening a cloth in plain water and wiping the surface of the wood. Dry it with a wipe with a dry cloth.

NEVER guarantee a finish that is applied over wax. Here is a suggestion for your contracts: 

 

We cannot warrant finishes over an existing piece of furniture. If products containing silicone (such as dusting sprays), oil soaps or waxes have been previously used on the piece, they may contaminate a new finish and prevent adhesion. In these situations, it is best to strip and sand the entire piece. Occasionally, a previous wax finish or silicone may be impossible to completely remove.

________ (Initials) I acknowledge that this piece has never been waxed/polished with a silicone-based dusting spray or cleaned with oil soaps. 

________ (Initial) I have no knowledge of previous cleaning products used but realize that they may have been applied by previous owners.
 

 

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How can I remove silicone contamination to improve adhesion on my new finish?

There are no guarantees with silicone - it is almost impossible to remove. Unfortunately, silicone contaminants, often from dusting sprays, do not become apparent until a new finish is applied and generally cannot be removed from the surface, only moved around and possibly sealed - a bane of the refinishing industry. You need to power clean the existing finish and put on some type of barrier coat.

  1. Power clean: You can try scrubbing the surface with a strong detergent such as Spic and Span and warm water combination using a gray Scotchbrite pad. After that clean with denatured alchohol full strength.
  2. Then apply 3 coats of dewaxed shellac. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly.
  3. Then cross your fingers and test, test, test your entire finishing schedule in a small area before proceeding with the entire piece.
  4. In most cases, you will need to strip and sand, but even then there is no guarantee of success. If the silicone has gotten into the wood through cracks in the old finish, you may not be able to get it all removed. 
  5. Protect yourself in custom refinishing contracts with a clause similar to this: 
  • We cannot warrant finishes over an existing piece of furniture. If products containing silicone (such as dusting sprays), oil soaps or waxes have been previously used on the piece, they may contaminate a new finish and prevent adhesion. In these situations, it is best to strip and sand the entire piece. Occasionally, a previous wax finish or silicone may be impossible to completely remove.
  • ________ (Initials) I acknowledge that this piece has never been waxed/polished with a silicone-based dusting spray or cleaned with
  •                                oil soaps. 
  • ________ (Initial) I have no knowledge of previous cleaning products used but realize that they may have been applied by previous owners.
     

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