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.

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6 COMMENTS

  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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