Refurbishing a Wooden Tray

  • 01 of 05

    How to Refurbish and Re-Stain a Wooden Tray

    the tray
    Refurbish and re-stain a wooden tray to give it a new look. Photo © Jami Delia

    Wooden trays are versatile items to use around the home. You can use them to decorate tables or place items on in the bathroom, bedroom or mudroom. If you've picked up a used wooden tray at a thrift store or yard sale (or already have one on hand), re-stain the tray to give it a new, fresh look.

    To re-stain a wooden tray, you will need the following supplies:

    • cleaning solution
    • high grit sandpaper
    • liquid sandpaper/deglosser
    • pre-stain conditioner
    • stain
    • polyurethane (or other desired protectant)
    • foam...MORE brushes
    • rags
    • gloves

    Before you begin prepping and staining your wood tray, set up a workspace in a well-ventilated area. Since the liquid sandpaper/deglosser, pre-stain conditioner and stain can emit fumes, make sure you work in an area with proper airflow, such as a patio or porch area. To protect your work area, lay down newspapers or a drop cloth; to protect your skin, wear gloves.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Clean the Tray

    tray cleaning
    Clean the tray with a spray cleanser and wipe off with a rag. Photo © Jami Delia

    Before you begin refurbishing the tray, remove any dirt, dust, and residue from the wooden surface.

    1. Spray the tray with a simple household cleanser, such as a window cleaner, or a solution of water and vinegar. Do not spray with anything that creates foam or suds. You do not want to run water over or the tray or submerge it in a sink full of water.
    2. Wipe off the cleanser with a damp rag or paper towels.
    3. Let the tray completely dry.
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  • 03 of 05

    Sand the Tray

    sandpaper tray
    Use high grit sandpaper and liquid sandpaper/deglosser to prep the tray for staining. Photo © Jami Delia

    After you clean the tray, gently sand the surface with high grit sandpaper. You can use liquid sandpaper/deglosser to help remove any gloss or shine from the wood finish. A combination of sandpaper and the liquid sandpaper/deglosser preps the surface more evenly than just sandpaper.

    After hand sanding the tray, wipe off the entire tray with a damp rag to remove any sanding dust. Then, apply the liquid sandpaper/deglosser with a separate rag and let completely dry.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Apply Pre-Stain Conditioner

    Apply a pre-stain conditioner before staining the tray. Photo © Jami Delia

    Before applying a new coat of stain, use a pre-stain conditioner to prep the wood.

    1. Apply the pre-stain conditioner with a foam brush to the entire surface of the tray.
    2. Let the pre-stain conditioner dry for 10 to 15 minutes (or however long it says on the label).
    3. Wipe off the excess conditioner with a clean rag.

    The tray is now ready to stain.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Apply Stain and Polyurethane

    applying stain
    Apply stain and polyurethane to complete the process. Photo © Jami Delia

    Before applying the stain to the surface of the tray, read the instructions on the container.

    1. Depending on the stain, apply with a foam brush in the direction of the wood grain.
    2. After you cover the entire surface of the tray, let the stain sit for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on how dark you want the stain).
    3. Wipe off the excess stain with a clean rag. For the best coverage and results, wipe in the direction of the wood grain.

    If the color of the stain is not to your liking, apply another coat of...MORE stain and let sit for another 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how much darker you want the stain.

    After you remove all of the excess stain, and you are happy with the color, let the stain completely dry. This can take up to eight hours or more, depending on the humidity. Always follow the directions on the stain label to be sure. 

    After the stain dries, apply a protectant such as polyurethane to protect your stain finish.