How to Clean Furniture Before Painting

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Learn how to clean furniture before painting it.

The most important step of painting furniture is starting with a clean surface.

how to clean furniture before painting

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Why Clean Furniture Before Painting?

Oils from cleaning products, dust, dirt, mold, and even oils from skin can prevent paint from sticking to wood furniture.

It can also cause dirty spots to appear under light colored paint.

Even “no-prep” paints assume you will clean the furniture first. You might be able to skip sanding, but skipping cleaning your furniture would be a huge mistake.

You don’t want all of your hard work to be for nothing.

Cleaning Furniture Before Painting

Supplies Needed

  1. I always start by using a Shop-Vac to clean out drawers and the inside of the furniture as well. Clean away any cobwebs and dust from the inside.
  2. Wipe the entire piece with water and vinegar. I typically fill a bucket with warm water and a few tablespoons of vinegar.
  3. Take the drawers out and wipe them with vinegar water as well. This cleans the drawers, but also kills any lingering odors.
  4. Let it dry in the sun if possible.
  5. If the piece is visibly dirty, I clean it with a gentle cleaning spray as well.
  6. Wash it again with plain water. Soap residue will also keep paint from sticking.
  7. If your water is filthy after cleaning the furniture, you may need to wash it several times.
furniture before painting
This piece was a victim of too much furniture polish. Luckily, it’s easy to clean.

Cleaning Wood Furniture FAQs

How Do You Remove Furniture Polish Before Painting?

You can tell that furniture polish has been used when the wood is too shiny. It also may feel a little sticky.

Furniture polish is typically found on pieces that are more formal or on older pieces of furniture.

Furniture polish can be removed with vinegar and water. Use a higher concentration of vinegar.

How Do You Remove Sticker Residue From Wood?

Stickers are pretty easy to remove, whether it’s a price tag or the piece belonged to a sticker wielding kid.

Peel away as much sticker as you can with your hands or a plastic scraper. Wet the remaining sticker with vinegar and water and let it sit for a few minutes to soak in. Use the plastic putty knife to remove the rest.

For bad sticker residue, you can use Goo-Gone. Goo-Gone can remove paint so use it as a last resort if you’re trying to preserve the finish.

Remember to clean the residue away when you’re finished.

How to Clean Grease Off of Furniture?

Sometimes a piece of furniture has been in a kitchen or perhaps you’re painting wood cabinets.

Vinegar does a great job of cleaning grease from wood too! For really thick grease, I use straight vinegar.

TSP is my last resort. Wear gloves and work in a ventilated area. Be sure to clean the wood with plain water after using TSP.

How Do You Clean Mildew Off Furniture?

I’m not referring to anything with black mold. Sometimes furniture is stored in a place with high humidity like a garage or a basement.

Vinegar is once again your friend! Is there anything it can’t do? Wash it with a stronger solution of vinegar and let it dry in the sunlight. The combination of vinegar and sunlight will kill any remaining mildew and odors associated with them!

Be on the safe side and wash the inside as well. It’s kind of a pain, but it’s better than a stinky piece of furniture.

Be sure to wash it again with plain water.

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