Furniture Stripping to Remove Paint Without Losing Your Mind
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.
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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.
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
- Chip brush
- Scrapers (I used both plastic and metal scrapers)
- Stripping brush
- Mineral Spirits
- Gel stain
- Start by protecting your work area. Lay down a drop cloth to protect the ground.
- 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.
- When the paint is bubbling up, it’s time to start scraping.
- Scrape with the grain and discard the paint goo into a cardboard box as you work.
- Some areas are stubborn and need a 2nd or 3rd coat.
- 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.
- 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.
- Use mineral spirits and rags to wipe away the excess stripper. Be sure to wear gloves for this part.
- 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.
- Repeat wiping with mineral spirits if needed.
- Let the furniture dry thoroughly.
- 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.
- If your drawers stick, this is a good time to sand the tops and bottoms well to make them fit a little better.
- 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.
- If you use normal stain, use a pre-conditioner first because it allows the stain to go on evenly.
- For gel stain, wipe it on and then wipe it away. Don’t forget the edges.
- For this dresser, I only did 1 coat of gel stain, but some stains need 2 coats.
- When it was dry, I added 2 coats of polycrylic in matte finish to seal the drawers. It made the stain even prettier.
Totally worth all the effort!
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Emy is a vintage obsessed mama of 2 DIYer who loves sharing affordable solutions for common home problems. You don’t need a giant budget to create a lovely home. Read more…