just started my first DIY project of finishing my 3 year old IKEA Gerton Beech Wooden table top. I have been using this as my computer table and it has become very dirty so I thought I'll use this opportunity to also try to make it look like a beautiful professional table top (loved this one: https://i.stack.imgur.com/zkrZW.jpg).

So I read up A LOT about how to go about this and finally decided on a wipe on poly finish and went out and bought all the stuff that I needed.

All my excitement turned to nought when I began sanding the tabletop (with 100 grit sandpaper). I couldn't get more than a few swipes before the paper gets clogged with a gooey greyish black residue that also gets even more tightly lodged into the tabletop with the sandpaper movement over it. I tried a bit and decided to check with the hardware store if they had any advise for this. The guy there told me to use an even coarser sandpaper and recommended 60 which I did but with the same results.

I've now spent a couple of hours trying to sand the table but have given up for the day. I also tried wiping it down with white spirit (bought to clean my brush for the stain apply) but again faced the same issue when I tried to sand the table. I'm also wondering if it's worthwhile buying an orbital sander to make this task easier but not sure it will with the specific issue.

I don't want to give up on this though and would really appreciate any advise to solve this problem. The table was treated with a coat of some sort of oil (most probably Danish oil) when it was bought new about 3 years ago so not sure if that's what's causing this problem now.


2 Answers 2


Wood won't clog sandpaper that fast, so it has to be the finish, dirt/soil or a combination of both. Paint thinner or mineral spirits usually work well to get dirt and grease off of wood, and wont harm most finishes you want to put overtop.

60 grit on a table top is a very coarse grit, and I would pretty much never use a grit that coarse on an already smooth surface. It will take a long time to get those marks out with progressively smoother grits.

It sounds like its the finish or a combination of dirt and finish thats clogging your sandpaper.

You may want to consider using a paint/finish stripper to get down to the bare wood, then start with maybe a 120 or 150 grit and go up from there.

  • Hi, thanks for your advice. Is it ok to use paint stripper on this since it doesn’t have any paint? Most of the other finish strippers seem to be for varnish which again this tabletop doesn’t have. Which one would be more appropriate to use? Thanks again for your response.
    – rsure
    Jan 21, 2019 at 15:26
  • If it is in fact a danish oil, that's kind of like an oil varnish finish, a paint/finish stripper for oil finishes should work fine. Take a look at some of the packagings, some of the classic strippers that work with oil varnish/paint should work fine.
    – element11
    Jan 21, 2019 at 15:51
  • Wow, your suggestion worked like a charm! Went to the store and got some finish stripper and after using it the tabletop is totally clean and sanded beautifully! Now on to the staining and poly stages, thanks for your help!
    – rsure
    Jan 22, 2019 at 10:58

I ended up scrubbing with steel wool before I sanded and it worked really well.

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