Furniture Stripping to Remove Paint Without Losing Your Mind

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Learn all about furniture stripping.

After a few months of a midcentury dresser not selling, I knew that I had to make changes. I had painted it black and it was gorgeous in person, but black furniture is harder to see in photos.

So I decided to strip the drawers and stain them. And guess what! It sold the day that I listed it.

Two tone midcentury pieces are gorgeous and always sell well for me. This piece was no exception.

How to strip paint from furniture using citristrip.

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Is it better to sand or strip wood?

My personal preference is to strip paint and sand stained finishes (unless they are exceptionally shiny.)

I like sanding furniture because it’s less messy. However, paint gums up the sandpaper faster, so I tend to strip it instead.

Is it always necessary to strip wood before refinishing?

I only strip furniture if I want to get to bare wood or the finish is chipped and would look bad painted.

If I’m going to paint a piece of furniture, lightly sanding it is usually all that’s needed. Primer is always a good idea, though!

What’s the best furniture stripper?

I prefer Citristrip because it’s gentle. I’ve used stronger chemicals and they don’t work any faster, so I might as well use one that doesn’t smell horrible.

Dresser Before

The shape and details were lovely, but they got lost in the solid black finish. Plus, I never properly photographed this piece.

How to Strip Furniture

Supplies Needed

  1. Start by protecting your work area. Lay down a drop cloth to protect the ground.
  2. Brush on a thick coat of citristrip. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. If it’s hot where you’re working, you can cover the furniture with plastic sheeting to keep it wet.paint citristrip on painted furniture
  3. When the paint is bubbling up, it’s time to start scraping.scrape when paint starts bubbling
  4. Scrape with the grain and discard the paint goo into a cardboard box as you work.
  5. Some areas are stubborn and need a 2nd or 3rd coat.add another coat of citristrip if needed
  6. For the inset grooves on this piece, I used the scraper tip to remove what I could. A metal stripping brush works well for curved or intricate pieces though.
  7. When the piece is stripped, it’s time to start cleaning the stripper. It doesn’t need to be perfect at this point. The sander will take care of most of this.clean stripped piece with mineral spirits
  8. Use mineral spirits and rags to wipe away the excess stripper. Be sure to wear gloves for this part.
  9. As you work, you’ll find some parts are too thick to wipe away and need more scraping. This is generally the original finish that you’re removing.
  10. Repeat wiping with mineral spirits if needed.
  11. Let the furniture dry thoroughly.
  12. When your furniture is stripped, it’s time to sand. Start with 80 grit and work your way to finer grits. This ensures a smooth finish when you stain.sanded dresser drawers after stripping paint
  13. If your drawers stick, this is a good time to sand the tops and bottoms well to make them fit a little better.
  14. After sanding, it’s time to re-stain the piece. I used gel stain in chestnut since the black paint wasn’t removed 100%. I knew that the darker color would disguise those parts and look amazing. Dark colors can hide imperfections easier than light ones.staining mcm dresser drawers with gel stain
  15. If you use normal stain, use a pre-conditioner first because it allows the stain to go on evenly.
  16. For gel stain, wipe it on and then wipe it away. Don’t forget the edges.
  17. For this dresser, I only did 1 coat of gel stain, but some stains need 2 coats.stained dresser drawers
  18. When it was dry, I added 2 coats of polycrylic in matte finish to seal the drawers. It made the stain even prettier. two tone midcentury dresser with wood drawers

refinished mcm dresser with two tone finish

Totally worth all the effort!

refinished midcentury dresser after stripping paint from drawers

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stripping furniture using citristrip on a mcm dresser

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