How to Strip Varnish From Wooden Furniture

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Stripping varnish from wooden furniture is a messy and time consuming job. However, it is necessary to do if you want to get a beautiful, long lasting finish when you decide to paint or stain it. So get some cleaner, varnish remover, sandpaper and a few rags together and get started. The sooner you start, the faster you will be able to show off your newly refinished piece of furniture.


Start by removing any fabric or hardware from the piece of furniture. Things like handles, hinges, and upholstered seats will not withstand the chemicals that will be used. So go ahead and take it off to make sure these things are not harmed while stripping the wooden furniture.


Next, it is time to clean the furniture. Typically, any standard degreaser that is used to clean your kitchen can be used. Simply spray on and wipe off of a rag. However, if there is a lot of dirt and grime still on the piece, you can use a chemical called TSP. Trisodium phosphate is much stronger than your average kitchen cleaner and will remove the shine from the furniture. Just be careful when you use it. Once the item is clean, remove any residue from the cleaner with a wet rag and let it dry completely.

Apply Varnish Remover

Once the wooden furniture is completely dry, it is time to apply the varnish remover. There are many different types of varnish remover, so apply it according to the directions that came with it. However, no matter what type of varnish remover you use, remember that more is always better. So make sure you apply heavy coats.

Wait and Remove

After you have applied the varnish remover, it is time to wait for the chemicals to work. Read the instructions on the varnish remover to find out how long you should wait. Once the allotted time is up, start removing the varnish with a paint scraper designed to handle chemicals. If the varnish does not come off easily, apply some more remover and wait a few more minutes. Otherwise, remove completely, then just wipe off any remaining residue with a wet wash cloth.

Sand it Down

When your furniture has completely dried after you washed off the varnish remover, it is time to sand it. Get some medium grade sandpaper and lightly smooth out the furniture. Be very careful not to over sand, because it can change the shape of your furniture and hurt it’s ascetic appeal. Then just wipe it off to remove any sanding dust that might be left.

Once you are done sanding the furniture, you are ready to finish the piece of furniture as you see fit. All the hard work you have done will soon be able to be shone off as a beautifully refinished piece of furniture. So get to work and enjoy.


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