I have a wooden countertop in my kitchen that has been finished with Butcher Block Conditioner (mineral oil and natural waxes). It is not satisfactory and I am now preparing to refinish it, using tung oil (Waterlox). However, I have to strip all the wax out of the wood first. What is the easiest, safest and least toxic way to do this? Will Citrus Solvent do the trick? Vinegar and water?

  • What would you use as a solvent? Will Citrus Solvent work?
    – Julie
    Sep 6, 2018 at 13:18

1 Answer 1


Wax is pretty hard to remove, everyone seems to agree about that, then everyone disagrees about the best way. Here is ONE way.

You can use a solvent, rags, and elbow grease to remove wax. When you apply the solvent to the wax, you get a liquid with wax dissolved in it, and when you wipe it the mix is absorbed by the rag, and thus removed. With enough passes of solvent and rag you carry away most of the wax.

For the solvent usually mineral spirits to get off as much as possible, and maybe denatured alcohol for a last pass. (The alcohol will remove the mineral spirits as well.)

For the rags, try fine steel wool or scotch pads for the first pass, then paper towels. Use a lot of paper towels. If the paper towel is dirty it's no longer removing wax it's just moving it around.

I don't recommend using a heat gun, to me that just melts the wax deeper into the wood, but it does make sense to keep the ambient temperature in the room on the warm side and keep the solvents at room temperature, not out in a cold garage or something.

When you think you've removed the wax, let that last pass of alcohol dry then spray the surface with water to test. If the water beads up, try to remove more wax. (Note that some naturally oily woods may bead up even with the oil removed so this isn't a perfect test.)

  • Tung oil is toxic if consumed by mouth. Are you sure you want to use it for this application? Consider adding more wax rather than using solvent to remove wax. The solvent could be very hard to remove. Sep 3, 2018 at 15:58
  • @JimStewart I have not heard that, I was under the impression that tung oil was safe unless someone had an allergy, do you have more info? BTW my answer is just how to remove wax so although interested in the comment not sure it pertains to my answer. Sep 3, 2018 at 16:10
  • I didn't research this. I was basing my claim of toxicty on an incident in 1962 when a friend consumed some tung nuts and had to have have his stomach pumped. But I still think it unwise to remove a product designed for butcher block and substitute tung oil finish. Sep 3, 2018 at 16:26
  • @JimStewart, thanks for the info, that is interesting. I am always careful replacing a traditional finish - usually the traditional finish proved best. However tung oil is common for finishing salad bowls so I think it's probably safe. Maybe there is something in the meat of the nut, not the oil, that caused your friend's reaction? Sep 3, 2018 at 17:02
  • 2
    wagwalking.com/condition/tung-tree-poisoning The tung tree is the source of tung Oil, an oil frequently used as a non-toxic wood finish. Although the pressed oil from the tung tree is non-toxic, the remainder of the plant contains saponins and glycosides that are present throughout the plant, but most concentrated in the seeds. Read more at: wagwalking.com/condition/tung-tree-poisoning Sep 4, 2018 at 23:52

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