This week’s project is learning how to strip furniture, specifically my dining room table. I redid this table about 3 years ago when we moved into our new house. The way I did it then was by sanding off the existing finish. Talk about exhausting! Then I learned about an easier way to strip wood furniture.
Keep reading to find out!
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The main reason I’m stripping the wood on my dining room table is because I have two toddlers that are messy and require a lot of mess clean up. Now, half of the table is almost completely without topcoat. It’s time for a redo!
The Best Way for To Strip Furniture
The best way to strip furniture is to use a paint and varnish gel stripper and saran wrap! My favorite stripping gel is Citristrip. I have used this method before on my pink dresser, but I didn’t know about it when I first upcycled our dining room table.
The reason Citristip is my favorite stripping gel and the best choice for the job is for its low VOCs. VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound. Having the low VOCs means this stripper gel does not contain harsh chemicals and the smell is not stinky.
I applied it to my dining room table inside with my children running around. Citristrip comes in a gel and spray form. I have only used the gel, but the spray would work well on smaller stripping projects.
Materials for Needed for Stripping Paint
- Citristip Stripping Gel
- Steel Wool
- Wire Brush
- Mineral Spirits-can also use After Wash, but I had mineral spirits already on hand
- Saran Wrap (This is where the magic happens)
- Putty knife or paint scraper
- Mini sanding tool (I like this one from gator)
- Protective Finish
- brush to apply (I use an old brush or chip brushes)
Step by Step of How to Strip Furniture
Step 1-Apply The Citristrip To The Wood Furniture
First step is to apply the citristrip. Please remember to wear your safety gear (glasses and gloves). I like to apply it with a cheap throw away chip brush. Make sure it is a generous amount. When I say generous, I mean GENEROUS amount. Take the amount you think you need, and double it.
I like to work in sections. My table is a big oval and I sectioned it off in thirds to be able wrap it well and easily strip the furniture.
Step 2-Use Plastic Wrap To Keep The Citristrip Activated
Next, grab the saran wrap and cover the areas where the stripper was applied. Press it down good and make sure it is wrapped tightly around the wood so no moisture escapes. This is the key to getting the stripper to work so quickly and effectively.
Allow it to sit for several hours or overnight. The citristrip works really quickly, I think it says in 40 minutes, but the longer it is left, the better it will remove the paint, stain, or sealer from the wood surface.
Step 3-Remove The Plastic Wrap And Start Scraping
Once the citristrip has sat on the wood furniture for several hours or overnight, remove the saran wrap. If the stripping gel and saran wrap combo worked, most of the paint or stain will peel off with it.
Next, take your paint scraper or putty knife (I like a plastic one over metal so it doesn’t scratch the wood) and push the remaining paint or stain along the wood grain and off the stripped wood surface.
Make yourself a trashcan with an old box and a plastic bag to scrape the discards into. If your furniture piece if has a dark stain or lots of layers of paint, you may have to apply more than one coat of stripper. For most pieces, it should only require one thick coat.
Step 4-Clean Off The Citristrip Residue
If residue is being stubborn and won’t come off, take a sander and sand the stubborn areas.
Step 5-Give Your Furniture Piece A Final Sand
Now that you have learned how to strip furniture with citristip and plastic wrap, let’s talk about what to do next. I wanted to just lighten the finish of my table from the dark walnut stain that was previously on it. You may want to re-stain your furniture piece, so after that here’s what to do.
The stripped furniture is going to be a little rough and may still have some of the residue behind. We need to give it a few more passes with the sander. Start with 120 grit to remove any extra stuff left behind then build up to 220 and 320 grit sandpapers to make it as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
You did it! Whewww, the hard part is done. One more step.
Step 6-Seal Your Newly Stripped Furniture
Once you’ve finished completely stripping the wood and created the desired finish, protect your hard work! Time to seal! I like to use a sealer with satin finish, but there are also ones with a matte finish as well.
See how I seal furniture.
What if my wood furniture has red tones that stay behind even after I strip the furniture?
Depending on the type of wood that is being stripped, there may be some red tones left over even after the stripping the wood back to its natural state. The easiest way is to counteract this is to bleach the wood.
I have done a whole blog post on how to bleach wood. This method can help counteract any orange tones in the wood as well. My table used to be a maple orangey wood.
Do I need to strip furniture before painting?
No, you don’t need to strip furniture if your end goal is to paint it. Whether it is stained, raw wood, or previously painted, you can simply paint over it.
The furniture does need to be prepped however, so it does need to be sanded and possibly primed. This helps to scuff up the surface so the paint has something to grip when applied.
Are there other ways to strip furniture?
Yes! Other ways you can strip furniture are sanding, heat stripping, oven cleaner, and other chemical strippers like Klean Strip. I like using citristrip because of the low odor and has worked well for me in the past.
Sanding will work when there is not paint or top coat to remove, but wanting to remove some color on the wood. I haven’t tried heat stripping or the oven cleaner because the citristrip again was such a great experience.
When should you strip furniture?
DO strip furniture:
- Going from a darker to a lighter color of stain (this is kind of what I did with my table, stripping the dark stain to a lighter raw wood
- If the furniture has been previously painted. Just strip off the layers of paint.
- When the piece is really old or beat up, yet you want to restore the wood. I would strip the furniture all the way back to raw and then apply proper wood conditioning and restoring products.
- Curved Details and Small Grooves-the legs on my dining table have lots of detail that is hard to sand, so a combo of liquid sandpaper, stripper, mini sanding tool, and my pool noodle hack shown above. These were the key to strip those wood areas.
- If you can see the varnish or top coat coming off, a quick application of stripper of the wood furniture can get rid of the top coat neatly so you can re seal the wood furniture.
DON’T strip furniture:
- This one is kind of obvious after reading the dos, but if you are planning to paint your wood furniture, there is no need to strip the wood furniture
- If there is minimal damage then consider trying other methods. On certain woods, you can use stain pens or restor-a-finish for faded or wood furniture in less than great condition. I even heard of a walnut trick on a scratch with certain colors of wood. Worth a try!
- On the other end of the spectrum, if the wood furniture is really beat up with deep scratches or gouges that would require wood filler or bondo to smooth out, just paint it. Stain won’t cover those.
I loved the first look of the dining table, but it was time to re sand it down and what better time to give an old piece of furniture a new look! In the next post I’ll talk more about how I sealed the table.
I am really passionate about upcycling, making over, and refreshing old pieces of furniture that I already have to fit my current style. Stripping wood is a great option to do that. So will you give it a try?