1 Repair Video Lesson

10 Repair FAQs

How Do I Correct Color Lift when Applying High Performance Over GF Water Based Dye Stain?

It is normal to see a bit of stain on the brush when applying the first coat of topcoat. Topcoats often pull a bit of color on the first pass, but good preparation will minimize this.

To prepare open grains woods such as raw Oak for a water-based stain, we recommend sanding with 180-grit followed by no more than 220-grit sandpaper.

300-grit or 400-grit sandpaper is too fine for preparing raw wood. Too fine of a grit changes the wood from a porous surface to one that is too smooth to absorb the stain, which causes the first top coat application to pull excessive color (it is like trying to apply stain to glass).

There is always a small amount of color pull when using water-based stains, but the smooth surface escalates this condition. This was evident in the areas that you used the brush to remove excess topcoat.

See recommended sanding schedules here.

Instructional Video: How to Prep Sand New or Raw Wood

Here are some options to try. Always test a small area before proceeding with your entire project.

  1. TONING: Lightly sand the light areas with a 220-grit sanding foam pad to open up the pores of the wood.

    Create a toning mix of 10-20% Dye Stain to 80-90% topcoat. Using a small brush, apply this mix over the light areas to blend with the darker areas.

    Let this dry 3-4 hours. Then apply another coat of the mix over the entire surface. If this is successful, then apply 2-3 coats of the topcoat.
  2. GLAZING: Glaze the light areas. This will change the look of your doors but is an easier remedy.
  3. START OVER: Optimally, you should sand down to bare wood and start over with this prep sanding schedule indicated able.

    You can apply the Dye Stain directly to the wood, or mix in 10% topcoat to help lock in the color.

How Do I Remove a White Mark Caused By a Vodka Spill?

The term for white or cloudy marks is blush, caused by some type of moisture in the finish. Alcohol damage is more severe than water rings.

General Finishes tests all our topcoats against both isopropyl and denatured alcohol with results showing recovery within an hour.

In most cases, the white mark will fade if the spill is cleaned up in a timely manner. If the alcohol had been sitting on the surface for an extended period then it might not be able to bounce back.


The afflicted surface needs to be scuffed and sanded first. Second, we recommend applying a sanding sealer to protect the top. Sanding sealer has a larger resin particle, so it will provide a better build for the next sanding step.

Learn more about General Finishes Enduro Sanding Sealer here.

Then finish with your topcoat.

Future forward, if you have a project that receives high-use, a glossier sheen will be more durable. The flatting agents that are required to formulate flat sheens cause a slight loss in durability and water resistance.

If you are set on a flat sheen on a new project, use two coats of semi-gloss first and finish with the flat sheen topcoat.

How Can I Get GF Water Based Finishes Off of a Mirror?

Any GF water-based finish can be removed from a mirror using 0000 steel wool and Windex.

Wet the steel wool with Windex and buff the glass. (The steel wool won't harm the mirror but make sure that you don't apply so much liquid that it seeps into the backing.) Wipe the mirror down with a clean/dry paper towel.

However, you can prevent a mistake from happening by applying Frisket to your mirror BEFORE applying finish to the frame. Frisket is a clear finish that brushes on, dries and peels off when you are done painting.

*Windex Warning: Make sure you do not get Windex on water-based finishes. The ammonia in Windex may cause a cloudy appearance to the finish.

How Do I Repair Chipping Paint Applied Over an Existing Finish?

There is no easy solution to this problem. General Finishes Milk Paint has strong adhesion properties but there are several reasons this finish could fail:

  1. The cabinets were not prep cleaned and sanded properly. Sanding and cleaning are an essential part of any refinishing process. Sanding lightly with the correct sandpaper grit will help clean and smooth the surface, but it will also abrade the previous finish which gives the new paint something to grip onto. Product may not adhere properly to a surface that is un-sanded or that is over-sanded (making the surface too smooth).

    In most cases, you can use a 220 sanding pad to scuff the surface and clean with a 50|50 mix of water and denatured alcohol.
  2. The surface was contaminated with a dusting spray that contained silicone. Silicone is usually impossible to remove. 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 alcohol full strength.

    In most cases, you need to strip and sand, but there is no guarantee of success. Test a small area first.
  3. The surface was contaminated with a previous wax finish. Wax is also difficult or impossible to remove. Nothing adheres well to wax, and once you use it the wood grain can become contaminated. The wax can penetrate the wood, 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.
  4. The surface was contaminated with an oil based soap.
  5. A lack of compatibility with the deglosser.
  6. A lack of compatibility with another manufacturer's top coat.


The most likely suspect is contamination. If any wax or silicone-based product has been used on the original surface, adhesion problems such as bubbling and chipping can be expected.


You could try spot sanding then repainting the chipped areas but that rarely is a good solution - we think the problem will continue to occur.


We recommend getting the cabinets into a paintable condition by doing the following:

  1. Sand back all the new paint and cleaning with a high strength detergent such as Spic and Span mixed with warm water. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.
  2. Prep sand with a 220-grit sanding PAD - do not use a finer grit or the new paint won't hold.
  3. Scrub with a Scotch-Brite Pad and a 50\50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. When preparing any surface we highly recommend using a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water instead of commercial cleaning solutions.

    The mix is more effective because it has a higher alcohol content, you can get denatured alcohol locally, and it is cheaper. Many commercial cleaning solutions have extremely high VOCs while denatured alcohol is much lower.

    Furthermore, the 50/50 mix does not have salt in it. The salt in commercial cleaning solutions could linger in the substrate and cause salt contamination when clear coating at the end of your project, which could create a white haze.
  4. Test one door, letting the surface cure for 7 days to see if the problem duplicates itself. If this is silicone contamination, it may be impossible to remove the silicone completely.

If your test does not work, stripping is the only answer. We know this is not what you want to hear, but we hope that this insight will help you to achieve your desired end result.

Future forward, when working with a pre-existing finish with no knowledge of previous wood care, always test a hidden area before proceeding with the entire project.

Watch how to power prep existing high-use finishes for stain or paint like kitchen cabinetry here.

How Do I Treat Steam/Water Spots on My Refinished Surface?

If you see a white ring, Liberon White Ring Remover can correct or soften the problem area. This product, sold at Woodcraft, Rockler and most paint stores, could be a great solution to try before refinishing the table entirely.

How Can I Fix Some Light Scratches on the Surface of My Cabinets?

General Finishes does not think light scratches on a door are so significant that it would be necessary for you to strip down the finish. 

Instead of stripping, GF recommends that you try:

Even though topcoat is included in the mixture with Dye Stain, the surface should be sealed with several coats of stand-alone High Performance.

This information and more can be found in this toning video.

FAQ: How to Touch Up Light Scratches on Cabinet Surfaces

My Painted Kitchen Cabinets are Cracking in the Corners After I Turned Up the Heat - What Happened and How Can I Fix It?

This issue is caused by a change in humidity in the house when the winter heating season starts. This is a very typical problem when painting over existing finishes. The cracking is a result of expansion and contraction. When you apply numerous heavy layers of primers, paints, and topcoats, they can crack at the joints or angles when the humidity changes. The cracking occurs when the door panel shrinks and breaks the heavy paint layer.

There are two options when it comes to fixing this problem: 

  • Fill the cracks with painters caulk and reapply the paint and clear coat. 
  • Leave it alone and wait until spring when the cracks will close back up. 

Putting a humidifier in the room may also help close the gaps.

Painting cabinets in the winter is the best way to avoid this problem because there is no humidity. That way when the wood swells up in the hotter months and then shrinks back again in the cooler months, there is minimum cracking or damage.

Here is an example of a paint on a cabinet cracking due to wood expansion in contraction:

Cracking Paint on a cabinet door

How Can I Remove Permanent Marker from My New Water-Based Topcoat Finish?

You can remove the permanent marking using one of the following methods:

  1. General Finishes Orange Oil or WD-40 and #0000 steel wool.
  2. A very small amount of denatured alcohol on a cotton swab
  3. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser


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 pre-mixed 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 as you would do for finishes.


  • Water over oil: a minimum of 72 hours
  • Oil over water: 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. For example:


  • 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 defected area.
  • 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-based 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 before applying to your project.

How Do I Remove Water Stains or Discoloration Before Staining Raw Wood?

You can use oxalic acid when trying to remove discoloration or water damaged spots. The entire surface needs to be treated and then neutralized with a clean water wash. Wipe the surface down with clean water and allow to dry completely.

Lastly, finish sand with the appropriate grit paper:

  • Oil-based products: 150-grit
  • Water-based products: 220-grit

It’s not a bleach but it will brighten the wood back to its original color.