Refinishing Furniture: Stripping Furniture

Last week I started a series on Refinishing Furniture. We talked about assessing your furniture, determining what you wanted to do, deciding on stain and more. In this post we are going to discuss stripping your furniture and how to do it efficiently and effective.

Note: This advice is meant for a basic piece of furniture, it is not meant as a guide for antique or valuable furniture. I am taking this approach because most of the questions I get are from people who have found fun pieces of furniture from garage sales or thrift store. This furniture is not worth putting in 20 hours or spending $1000 dollars on. This guide is mean to turn these projects into an easy day or even afternoon project.

Stripping Your Furniture

The first thing you will need to do is to get your materials.

You Will Need:

  • A can of stripper from your local hardware store.
  • A pair of neoprene gloves. Stripper is nasty and will burn you if you do not wear these.
  • A plastic scrapper.
  • A touch scrubbing brush.
  • Sanding paper and sponges.
  • Green scrubbing pads

Choosing a stripper is a tough choice. First, you can choose the harsh strippers, these work but will burn your skin and get you high if you don’t have good ventilation. These tend to take 15 -45 minutes to do their jobs. The second kind are natural strippers. This kind of work but can take hours (like up to 24 hours!) but are better on you and the environment. Personally I use the harsh chemical strippers because they do their job and they do it quick. I make sure to wear neoprene gloves, long sleeves and goggles (you DO NOT want any of this in your eyes).

Applying The Stripper

The trick to getting stripper to strip well is to brush on a thick coat of stripper onto the area you plan to strip. Do not brush it around, this will dry it out and cause it to lose its effectiveness. Let it sit for roughly 10-15 minutes. You should start to see the finish bubble. At this time, I don’t scrape the stripper, not yet. When the stripper has cause a good amount of bubbling I apply a second coat of stripper and leave it for another 10-15 minutes. This makes sure that all of the finish has separated from the surface. I use a cheap brush for this and throw it away when I am done.

This is a common table with no value outside of it's use as a table.
This is a common table with no value outside of it’s use as a table.

Another tip when applying stripper is to not do too big of an area at a time. Be patient and do small areas at a time. When removing the stripper you will be thankful that you don’t have to rush.

Removing The Stripper

When you are ready to remove the stripper, start by scraping off all of the stripper with your plastic scraper. You will find that many area will strip down to bare wood with just your plastic scraper. For areas that still have finish on them, pull out your green scrubbing pad and scrub the area thoroughly, this should remove any remaining finish. For any curved, grooved or carved areas this is where you will want to use your dense scrubbing brush (and make sure you have eye protection). Scrub these areas thoroughly and you should remove all stripper.

When you are done stripping double check everything to make sure all finish has been removed. If any finish remains, start another round of stripper.


Once all finish has been stripped you will need to clean off all residue from the stripper. Stripper contains wax and will not allow you to finish your furniture well. Use a hose and a scrub brush or even a power washer at this point to clean your furniture as well as you can. Make sure to wipe down the excess water and get the furniture to dry as quickly as possible so you do not have any issues with water damaging your furniture.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *