How Do You Strip & Refinish a Dresser?


A good quality wooden dresser can be a part of your home for decades. It can be moved from room to room, holding clothes, linens or any number of other things. As you move the dresser from place to place in your home, it may get dings and scratches in the finish. You might also want to match the color and style with other furniture pieces in the room where it currently lives. A nice piece of furniture can be stripped and refinished any number of times.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Mask
  • Tarp
  • Chemical paint stripper
  • Paint scraper
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain
  • Rags
  • Put on gloves and a mask. Chemical paint stripper is noxious and can be dangerous to your skin and lungs if not properly handled. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that you always wear protective gear while handling chemical paint stripper.

  • Place the dresser on a tarp. Remove the drawers and place them on the tarp. Remove all drawer hardware and set aside.

  • Apply a ½-inch thick coat of chemical paint stripper to the dresser with an old paintbrush. Throw out the ruined paintbrush when you are finished stripping the dresser. Allow the paint stripper to soften the existing surface until it is soft. Test the surface after 20 minutes. The paint or varnish should remove easily from the dresser.

  • Scrape the paint from the drawers and frame of the dresser with a paint scraper. Remove as much of the original finish as you can with the scraper.

  • Wipe the dresser with a damp towel to remove any remaining chemicals.

  • Sand the doors and frame with fine grit sandpaper. Remove all remaining traces of paint or varnish. Sand the dresser until the surface is soft and smooth to the touch. Wipe away the sanding dust with a damp towel.

  • Dip a rag into the stain. Wipe the stain onto the dresser. Remove any excess stain with a clean rag. Apply and remove stain in this way until you get a depth of color that you like. Allow the first coat to dry. Apply another coat of stain if you want to deepen the color.

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  • Photo Credit dresser handle image by Joann Cooper from
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