Using Iron Acetate Stain
A stain that is bungalow-ready and safe to use
A previous owner painted some of our bungalow’s fumed oak trim. Can I restore it?
—Ronald Starbuck, Kansas City, KS
You can certainly strip off the paint, but staining the trim with ammonia fumes would not be practical or safe. Instead, try an iron acetate stain, another finish often used in the era when bungalows were popular. To make this stain, simply soak some steel wool or rusty steel parts (like those shown above) in white vinegar for a couple of days. Pour the liquid through a coffee filter, then brush it on. Iron acetate reacts chemically with the tannins in the wood; one coat is all it takes to give oak a dark cast. Sand the trim until it’s the shade you want, then apply a protective coat or two of shellac or water-based polyurethane.