How to Strip Wood Furniture

Are you planning to strip wood furniture and give it a new life? Stripping wood furniture is a great way to refresh old and worn-out pieces, giving them a clean and natural look.

How to Strip Wood Furniture

Whether you want to restore an antique piece or update the color of your current furniture, stripping is the first step towards achieving your desired finish.

How to strip wood furniture is a rewarding process that can breathe new life into old or worn pieces.

This guide will walk you through the necessary tools, materials, and techniques needed to effectively strip wood furniture, ensuring a smooth and clean surface ready for refinishing.

Proper preparation and patience are key to achieving professional-looking results, and with a little effort, you can transform your furniture into something beautiful and revitalized.

What Will You Need?

Before you start stripping wood furniture, it’s important to gather all the necessary tools and materials. This will ensure that you have everything you need to complete the project efficiently and effectively. Here are some of the essential items you’ll need:

  • Protective gear (gloves, safety glasses)
  • Drop cloths or plastic sheets
  • Chemical stripper
  • Scrapers and putty knives in various sizes
  • Steel wool or sandpaper
  • Paint brushes for applying stripper
  • Clean rags or towels
  • Mineral spirits or denatured alcohol for cleaning up residue

It’s also a good idea to have a well-ventilated area or to work outside when using chemical strippers. The fumes can be strong and potentially harmful if inhaled for prolonged periods.

10 Easy Steps on How to Strip Wood Furniture

Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace

Begin by setting up your workspace to ensure safety and efficiency. Lay down drop cloths or plastic sheets to protect the floor and surrounding areas from spills and debris.

Lay Down Drop Cloths

Ensure the area is well-ventilated; work outside to avoid inhaling harmful fumes from the chemical stripper.

Organize your tools and materials so everything is within easy reach, making the stripping process smoother and more manageable. Finally, put on your protective gear, including gloves and safety glasses, to shield yourself from chemical exposure and potential splatters.

Step 2: Apply the Chemical Stripper

Using a paintbrush, generously apply the chemical stripper to the wood furniture’s surface. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct application thickness and wait time.

Allow the stripper to sit on the furniture according to the directions on the product label, which will usually be around 15 to 30 minutes. The stripper will begin to bubble and lift the old finish from the wood.

Step 3: Scrape Off the Old Finish

Once the chemical stripper has done its job, employ a scraper or putty knife to gently remove the old finish. Work carefully to avoid gouging the wood, and clean the scraper frequently to keep it effective. You may need to use a smaller or more flexible scraper for intricate details or hard-to-reach areas.

Step 4: Use Steel Wool or Sandpaper

After scraping off the initial finish, some residue will likely remain. Use steel wool or sandpaper to remove any leftover finish and smooth the wood’s surface. Choose appropriate grit sandpaper, usually starting with a medium grit (80-120) and progressing to a finer grit (220) to achieve a smooth finish.

Step 5: Clean the Surface

With Clean Rags

To ensure that all traces of the stripper and old finish are removed, wipe down the surface with clean rags or towels dipped in mineral spirits or denatured alcohol. This step is crucial for preparing the wood for any subsequent staining or painting. Allow the wood to dry thoroughly before proceeding.

Step 6: Assess and Repeat if Necessary

Take a close look at the stripped surface. If there are still patches of old finish or the surface feels rough, you may need to apply another layer of chemical stripper and repeat the scraping and sanding process.

It’s important to be thorough at this stage to ensure the wood is completely stripped and smooth before moving on.

Step 7: Neutralize the Chemical Stripper

Some chemical strippers require neutralization to stop their corrosive action completely. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for neutralizing the stripper, which typically involves applying a special solution or rinsing the wood with water. This step is vital to prevent any lingering chemicals from affecting the new finish.

Step 8: Final Sanding

With the bulk of the old finish removed and the surface cleaned, it’s time to perform the final sanding. This step is essential to ensure an exceptionally smooth and even surface that is ready for refinishing. Begin by using fine-grit sandpaper, typically around 220 grit, and sand the entire piece of furniture thoroughly.

Sanding With a Finer Grit Paper

Pay particular attention to any areas that might feel rough or uneven to the touch. Sanding with a finer grit paper helps to remove minor scratches and imperfections left behind from the previous steps.

If your furniture piece has intricate details or carved areas, consider using a sanding sponge or a piece of sandpaper folded to fit into tight spaces. This will help you achieve a consistent finish across all surfaces.

Step 9: Remove Dust

After completing the final sanding, removing all dust particles from the wood surface is crucial to ensure a pristine finish.

Dust can interfere with the adhesion of stains or protective coatings, leading to an uneven or rough texture. Begin by using a vacuum equipped with a brush attachment to remove the bulk of the dust.

Make sure to go over all parts of the furniture, including crevices and detailed areas where dust can accumulate.

Next, use a tack or microfiber cloth to wipe down the entire surface. Tack cloths are specially designed to pick up fine dust and small particles that a vacuum might miss. Gently wipe the wood sweepingly, ensuring that all residue is captured.

Step 10: Apply the New Finish

With the wood fully prepared, you can now apply your chosen finish. Whether you’re staining, painting, or applying a clear sealant, follow the product instructions for the best results.

Apply the finish evenly and allow adequate drying time between coats. Depending on the finish, you may need to sand lightly between coats to maintain smoothness.

By following these 10 easy steps, you can successfully strip wood furniture and achieve a beautifully refinished piece.

5 Additional Tips and Tricks

Such as Paint Scrapers
  1. Test a Small Area First: Before committing to stripping the entire piece, test the stripper on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure it effectively removes the finish without damaging the wood.
  2. Use the Right Tools: To tackle detailed areas and stubborn spots, equip yourself with a variety of tools, such as paint scrapers, steel wool, and old toothbrushes.
  3. Work in a Well-Ventilated Area: Always work in a well-ventilated space or outdoors to avoid inhaling fumes from chemical strippers, which can be harmful.
  4. Neutralize the Wood: After stripping, use a solution of vinegar and water or a specialized wood neutralizer to clean the surface and ensure no stripper residue remains, which could impact the new finish.
  5. Sand Smoothly: Once the stripping process is complete, sand the wood with fine-grit sandpaper to achieve a smooth, even surface ready for staining or painting.

With these additional tips and tricks, you can achieve professional-quality results when stripping furniture or other wood surfaces.

5 Things You Should Avoid

  1. Skipping the Test Patch: Avoid jumping straight into stripping the entire piece without doing a test patch first. Strippers can react differently depending on the type of wood and finish, and a test patch can save you from potential damage.
  2. Using Harsh Abrasives: Avoid using overly aggressive sanding tools or coarse sandpaper immediately during stripping. These can damage the wood’s surface and result in an uneven finish.
  3. Ignoring Safety Precautions: Do not neglect personal protective equipment (PPE). Always wear gloves, safety goggles, and a mask to protect yourself from harmful chemicals and dust.
  4. Rushing the Process: Patience is key when stripping wood furniture. Avoid rushing the process, as it can lead to incomplete removal of the old finish, resulting in a subpar outcome when you apply the new finish.
  5. Skipping the Neutralization Step: Never forget to neutralize the wood after applying a chemical stripper. This step is crucial to remove any residual chemicals that could interfere with the adherence and appearance of the new finish.

By avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure a successful stripping process and achieve the desired results for your wood surfaces.


How to strip wood furniture is a meticulous process that, when done correctly, can rejuvenate and transform your pieces, giving them a new lease on life.

You can ensure professional-quality results by testing a small area first, using the right tools, working in a well-ventilated area, neutralizing the wood after stripping, and sanding smoothly.

On the other hand, it’s essential to avoid common pitfalls such as skipping the test patch, using harsh abrasives, ignoring safety precautions, rushing the process, and neglecting the neutralization step.

Armed with these tips, tricks, and key points to avoid, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle any wood stripping project confidently and successfully.

Whether restoring an heirloom or repurposing a vintage find, the effort you put into stripping wood furniture will pay off with a beautifully finished piece that can be enjoyed for many years.

Photo of author

Adrian Green

Adrian is a woodworking hobbyist and has loved Woodworking since he was 10 years old. Back then in childhood, his father used to have a furniture shop. He used to help his dad and learned a lot from him about how to fix woodworking furniture, basic carpentry knowledge and also about how to work hard and take care of business. He enjoys woodworking as a hobby. He loves the feeling of creating something with his own hands, and the satisfaction that comes from seeing his finished products used by others.

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