How to Refinish Furniture

Refinishing furniture is a great do-it-yourself project, through it can be messy. A chemical stripper is the quickest way to remove old finishes. Follow the directions and safety instructions on the container, and use a gel or paste on vertical surfaces.

      Apply stripper             Remove residue         Clean with solvent

Steps for stripping and refinishing furniture:

  1. Apply liquid stripper to the old finish, and leave it on for the specified time.
  2. After the finish is soft, scrap off the old finish with a putty knife.
  3. Rub the surface down with steel wool or a plastic scouring pad dipped in the recommended solvent to remove the remaining finish and stripper.
  4. Sand the furniture starting with coarse grit sandpaper and working up to a fine grit.
  5. Apply a penetrating stain the piece. After a few minutes, wipe off any excess stain, and allow it to dry. Though they’re messy, rags give greater control than brushes when applying stain.
  6. Topcoat with several coats of a clear, built-up finish such as polyurethane.

Sand stripped surface         Stain furniture               Finish furniture

For more information, see our article on The Proper Approach to Refinishing Old Furniture.


  1. Danny,

    Thank very much for sharing your knowledge, I have some projects that I need done and wondering if you could help me finish the work. Recently I purchased a few Vintage/Antique pieces that I love but it needs work, mostly cosmetic and I wish to purchase a Sanding Machine but I need the one that can stand up to big or small job of sanding since I can’t afford to buy a few different machines.

    Please guide me to the best and affordable one with this project and many more await in the future.

    I thank you very much in advance, Wyola

  2. I did not know that you needed to sand with a coarse grit sandpaper. When I think about it, it makes sense since you need to have a surface the paint can stick to later. I think this is where I’ve been messing up and I might need to try this with my future furniture refinishing. Thanks for the great step by step guide!

  3. If your furniture is outdoors and you are staining it … If you have been adding furniture oil on the piece to try and keep it from cracking from weather … Will the stripper be the first step?
    Or do you need to clean the wood first, let it dry. Then strip the wood, and follow the steps to re-varnish it?
    Will you also need to re-varnish it every one or two?
    The videos were informative.
    Last question … If your piece has a decorative finish, is there anything special you do to preserve the decorative detail?

    Thank you.

  4. i have an old dinning room dinning room table. I’m trying to refinish. After properly stripping the table top I’ve applied 3 coats of stain. There’s now whitefish blotches that are showing up on the grain and my table looks bad. I went to my local hardware store where I bought the stain and they told me to wipe the table down with mineral spirits. I did and now it looks even worse! Please help!!!

  5. I I placed a vinyl tablecloth on my beautiful table and it has eaten into my finish in three big places. What do i. Red to. do

    • Hi, Suzy.
      Sorry to hear that happened. This would be difficult to answer, though, without knowing more about your table. For starters, what is it made of, and is it sealed?


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