Nothing beats the excitement of removing layers of paint from a furniture piece. You never know what lies underneath, and the thrill of exposing the original wood in all its glory is an experience in itself. It may be a messy process, but it will be worth the effort when the wood reveals itself.
Ultimately, removing paint from furniture can be done via three methods; sanding, a heat gun, or using a paint stripper. We will discuss easy steps when going the paint stripper route while also focusing on the proper protection required when working with the harsh chemicals in some of these products.
- Paint stripper
- Protective gloves rated for chemical use
- Protective respirator mask
- Protective chemical splash goggles
- Protective clothing
- Plastic scraping tool/5-in-1 painter's tool
- Cotton rags
- Plastic wrap
- Paper bag
Step 1. Apply Paint Stripper to the Painted Furniture
When working with a product that has the power to peel off layers of paint from furniture, such as different types of paint strippers, you will have to protect your hands, skin, eyes, and lungs from the harmful chemicals found inside of them.
Put on protective gloves (rated for chemical use), a pair of protective goggles, a
long-sleeve shirt, and a protective mask (a respirator mask is ideal) before opening the paint stripper. Pour the paint stripper into a container for easy use.
Use an old paintbrush to apply the paint stripper according to the manufacturer's
recommendations. Apply it with a blotching technique making sure you apply it nice and thick.
Which Type of Paint Stripper Is the Safest to Use?
A protective respirator mask is recommended when you use a solvent-based stripper, as it's the most dangerous type of stripper regarding toxic fumes, which typically include cancer-causing methylene chloride (DCM), dibasic esters (DBE), and N-methyl pyrrolidone (NMP).
These heavy-chemical products often work the fastest and best but present the most danger to the user when coming into contact with the skin or inhaling the super-toxic fumes. Solvent-based paint strippers are safest when used outside.
Caustic-based paint strippers contain sodium hydroxide (lye), which can cause severe burns when it comes into contact with skin or eyes and is highly toxic when
swallowed. Protective clothing, gloves, and safety goggles should be worn when handling caustic alkalis.
The safest type of stripper is biochemical, which typically has a citrus element and contains no harmful chemicals such as DCM or NMP. These strippers may take a little longer to work, but it's less harmful regarding skin contact and toxic fumes and can be used indoors.
Important Tip: If you're applying paint stripper indoors, it's important to ensure proper cross ventilation. Use a fan to create a draft if you can't work outdoors. Wear a respirator mask, especially when working with solvent strippers.
Step2. Cover Application Area With Plastic Wrap
Most paint stripping products indicate that you should leave it on between 1-24 hours before scraping the paint off. The longer you leave the stripper on, the longer
the stripping agent has to do its thing, ensuring that the maximum amount of paint is removed.
The plastic wrap prevents evaporation and is used to maximize stripping results. Should you not have time to leave the paint stripper on the furniture overnight, then you can test if the paint is ready to be removed after about 30 minutes to an hour.
Important Tip: Some paint strippers will seem to work in a few minutes; however, be careful not to jump the gun. When you attempt to remove the paint pre-maturely, the result can be that some top layers come off but not all of the bottom layers, resulting in an additional round of paint stripper.
Step 3. Remove Paint From Furniture With a Scraping Tool
After leaving the paint stripper for a couple of hours, or minutes if you prefer, you should see the stripper-paint combination form bubbles that are being lifted from the furniture. Take the plastic scraping tool and scrape the paint from the furniture.
A plastic scraping tool is recommended, as they don't damage the wood underneath the layers of paint.
Metal scraping tools can damage soft wood, so if you're using a 5-in-1 painter's tool to scrape away the paint, make sure to do it slowly and carefully, focusing on slicing the blade through the paint and not the wood.
If you're using a standard metal scraping tool, choose the one with a dull edge without sharp corners. Work your way from one side and scrape the paint off the furniture. Throw the paint scrapings into a paper or refuse bag.
Should you notice areas where not all the layers of paint are being removed by the
scraping tool, you'll need to reapply some paint stripper to these stubborn patches.
Important Tip: If you're dealing with painted areas that are raised or recessed (moldings), or any area that's not flat, you will have to scrape off the paint with steel wool or a wire brush. Hard-to-access areas and designs will require extra effort and time to remove paint.
Step 4. Sand the Furniture With Sanding Paper
Once you're satisfied that all the paint has been removed from the furniture's surface, spray the piece with a surface cleaner before using a cloth to remove any residue left by the paint stripper.
Proceed to take a piece of sanding paper (120 grit is a good starting point) and sand the piece in the direction of the wood grain. By doing this, you're removing any wood imperfections and remaining paint residue.
Important Tip: If you have a power sander, use it on large flat areas to quicken the process. Any carved sections must be sanded manually with great care.
Step 5. Apply Cleaner to the Furniture
Before applying a new finish to the piece of furniture, it's important to remove any oil, wax, and other foreign elements from the surface of the wooden furniture. Apply a wood surface cleaner on the furniture piece when finished sanding.
Step 6. Wipe Down the Furniture With a Cloth
Use a cotton cloth to wipe down the furniture piece after the wood surface cleaner is applied. Ensure that you clean all the nooks and crannies, as any debris left on the wood will affect the new finish.
The cotton cloth is a good indicator that the furniture's surface is sanded perfectly. If it snags on anything while wiping down, stop and sand that area again. Splinters and rough edges will grab the cloth.
After cleaning the furniture piece, you're ready to apply whatever finishing you have in mind for your piece.