Old oil spillage stain... how to remove?


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28 Nov 2016
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I recently aquired a 30 or 40 year old pair of Ercol English Elm chests of drawers in their original natural pale ginger finish. Anyone familiar with Ercol will know how beautiful the grain is on their English Elm.
The tops of both the chests have seen better days, although one will revive I hope, with a good wire-wooling, several coats of sanding sealer and button polish on a fad.
The other has a few more serious signs of neglect and I've had to remove the original (presume nitro-cellulose) varnish to even begin to deal with them. I've almost managed to dissapear a few smaller grey stains caused by water penetration... but... there's a 6" long by 2" wide oil stain that's proving very stubborn. I first tried meths, then cellulose thinners, to weaken the oil enough to iron out into cloth.... but nothing.... it's been there far too long I reckon.
Am assuming it's oil from the way it has characteristically tracked along the grain turning the pale ginger timber a darker tan/gold colour. Probably oil from perfume, or baby oil, or some other thin oil.
I initially tried giving the top a couple of wipes of sanding sealer... just to see if the raw timber would darken to the same or similar colour to the oil stain... no good, the oil stain showed an even deeper colour. Had to meths off the sanding sealer and re-sand.
Have been using a fairly strong oxalic acid solution delicately applied with a cotton bud... and although the oxalic acid is doing it's stuff, in as much as it has slightly bleached outside the stain (where I went over a little and mopped it off)... it seems to have minimal effect on the oil stain itself.
Have given it several applications of oxalic acid.. half hour between... and it seems to make little difference. When I test the overal result by wiping over the whole top with a damp cloth, the oil stain doesn't seem to have faded one little bit.
Any ideas?
Maybe I need to be patient and wait overnight... this is my first time treating oil stains with oxalic acid.
Maybe, if it's still there after 24hrs, there's some other process other than bleaching with oxalic acid that I could turn to.
Maybe I should try oiling the entire sanded down top with Tung Oil... on the theoretical presumption that the Tung Oil will penetrate only the undamaged timber and result in a similar colour change to that of the oil stained patch. It's a big and pretty irreversible risk though, and anyway... I've seen Ercol elm furniture sanded and oiled and I don't think it looks right.
One of yous lads must already have the T-shirt on this one.