Have a piece of furniture to be refinished? But you don’t know how to strip stain from wood? You’re in the right place! These tips get the job done with less work and sanding.
Lately, I have been wanting to bring more of the natural warmth of wood tones. While I feel I am forever painting things white for clients and myself, if I am lucky enough to find a piece with great bones and beautiful wood, I would rather not hide that under layers of paint.
Enter the dining room table I got off craigslist:
I had been playing with refinishing the table for a long, long time. The deep, red tones really didn’t go with the rest of the house. And oddly, it has this stunning diagonal inlay that is almost completely hidden by the dark stain. Bring on the wood grain baby!
I’ve been stripping paint off of furniture for years, and to be honest, it’s not my favorite thing to do. It’s smelly, time consuming and can sometime takes forever to strip all the layers.
But I’ve got secrets to making this so much easier!
Let’s start with the basics.
Materials Needed for Stripping:
- A good paint stripper – which one depends on you. I generally like a thick stripper that really works like this one from Klean Strip. If you are worried about fumes, I would recommend one like this. It’s better at paint than hard varnishes in my opinion, but it can be used indoors.
- safety gear – gloves, face mask for fumes, eye protection
- plastic drop cloths
- saran or plastic wrap, or garbage bags
- Empty metal cans
- paint scraper
- steel wool (I used a few bags of 000 or 00 for this whole table)
- sand paper – I use 120 and then 220.
- electric sander
- paper towels
- Mineral spirits – to clean up paint stripper residue
HOW TO STRIP FURNITURE OF PAINT, STAIN AND VARNISH
- Put on your safety gear. I highly recommend working outdoors with any stripper or, at least, a garage with the doors all the way open. Citristrip is safe indoors, but with the mineral spirits and citristrip, I still like to work outdoors.
- brush the piece with paint stripper. Be generous but not gloppy.
- cover the furniture with saran wrap (there isn’t an easy way to do this, just make sure the saran wrap is up against all those curves and crevices).
- wait at least several hours or overnight. The longer you leave it, the better it works.
- remove the saran wrap and scrape off the gooey varnish. I use a plastic paint scraper on flat surfaces and steel wool in crevices. There will be a lot of residue so keep paper towels and a trash can handy to put the waste into.
- after all or nearly all the residue is removed, spray a paper towel or lint free cloth with mineral spirits and wipe away any extra residue.
- There shouldn’t be much sanding left, but it is helpful to sand until you have reached your desired finish!
For the table top, I actually did not wrap it in saran wrap, mostly because I was impatient and the stripper does work pretty fast. The biggest takeaway here is that the stripper stops working when it dries, so the plastic wrap keeps the stripper working and makes it easier to scrape off.
Because of the crevices of the table legs and the sides, I plastic wrapped them and left them for about 4-6 hours. Leaving it this way made the stripper work so well in those crevices that it didn’t need multiple coats.
Tips for Working with Paint or Vanish Stripper
Make sure the stripper stays wet. Once it dries up, the stripper stops working. If you’re in a hot/dry climate, wrap your wood with plastic wrap or plastic bags. Any brand is fine!
Pour the Stripper into a separate metal can – I find it much easier to work with by pouring the stripper into a small, clean paint can. You can buy quart paint cans at any local hardware store. Then you can easily dip your brush in the can.
For detailed areas, use a toothbrush or steel wool wrapped bamboo skewer. To get into tight crevices, I use all kinds of tools from toothpicks, bamboo skewers, nails. Just make sure not to gouge the wood.
Wait 24 hours after the piece is cleaned. Now that the piece is stripped, I would recommend waiting at least 24 hours or more before adding any stain, sealer, or finish.
So here are a few “after” shots. Can you believe this beautiful grain and pattern was hiding under all that dark stain?!
For this table, I decided I wanted a Raw Wood look. It’s a trend that’s gaining popularity lately and I am going to write a post on how I achieved this beautiful unfinished, yet slightly gray look, but that is for another day.
Ready to tackle refinishing a piece of furniture in your home?!
More Furniture Refinishing Tutorials:
- My Favorite Paints for Furniture
- How To Protect Painted Furniture for Durability
- How to Paint a Bathroom Vanity
- How To Spray Paint Outdoor Furniture like a Pro
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