There are two broad categories of stain: dye that is dissolved in a liquid, and dye and/or pigment that is combined with a binder. The first are usually called “dye” stains and are sold either as powders for you to do the dissolving, or are already dissolved in a liquid solvent. The second are often called “wiping stains,” “pigment stains,” “oil stains,” “water-based stains” or “lacquer stains” and are the common stains you buy in cans at home centers and paint stores.
Remember that when using solvent based products you need to take precautions to store those solvents properly and to dispose of the rags in a safe manner. If you are unsure of how a solvent will react, check the manufacturers information on the can for proper storing and disposal. Safety is number one! Don’t take any chances.
If a dye stain gets the wood too dark, try removing some of the dye by wiping it with solvent. The powder dyes labeled Lockwood and Moser (which are the same) are easier to lighten than the liquid dyes labeled “NGR” (non-grain-raising) or Transtint (which are also the same; Transtint is just concentrated).
If a pigment or wiping stain (those that contain a varnish, lacquer or water-based binder) gets the wood too dark, try removing some of the color by wiping with the thinner for the stain or with lacquer thinner or acetone. These stains are much more difficult to lighten than dye stains.
In both cases, you can also scrub the surface with a non-woven pad or a synthetic abrasive pad together with the solvent or thinner to remove more color. Always try to keep the scrubbing even over the surface so you maintain a roughly even color overall. Don’t use steel wool with water-based stains and dyes.
With dye stains, you can usually bleach out most of the color using household bleach or swimming-pool bleach. It won’t be possible to remove all the color, however, without many applications, sanding between each.