How to Strip Wood Furniture

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Anyone who's ever found cherry or tiger oak underneath layers of old paint knows that while some pieces are not worth stripping, others are.

Things You'll Need

  • Clean Rags
  • Inexpensive Brushes
  • Strippers
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Newspapers Or Drop Cloths
  • Heavy Duty Garbage Bags
  • Paint Scrapers
  • Putty Knives
  • Safety Goggles
  • Make sure there's no chance your piece of furniture is an antique whose value could be destroyed by stripping the finish.

  • Set up your work area in a well-ventilated place with nothing around that could produce flames or sparks.

  • Remove drawer pulls and other hardware and place the furniture on a layer of newspaper or a disposable drop cloth (such as an old sheet). You may want to set the piece on scrap wood or bricks, especially if you're stripping the legs, to keep them from sticking.

  • Paint on a thick layer of stripper. Wear gloves and safety goggles.

  • Allow enough time for the stripper to work. (It usually takes 5 to 10 minutes)

  • Scrape the bubbled paint (or varnish) and stripper off in strips, using a paint and varnish scraper, an old spatula, or a putty knife; use an old toothbrush or cotton swabs for crevices. Take care not to scratch or mar softwood or gouge through thin veneers.

  • Repeat if necessary. Two applications are often required, especially if it's an old piece with several layers of stubborn paint or varnish.

  • Wipe down the piece of furniture with clean rags and mineral spirits, and allow to dry. Don't skimp on the mineral spirits - you want the piece to be as clean as possible.

Tips & Warnings

  • When you're finished, dispose of all brushes and remaining stripper as instructed by the paint stripper's manufacturer.
  • Even the new 'safe' strippers are caustic. If any stripper gets on your skin, wash it off immediately with soap and warm water.
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