10 Best Ways on How to Remove Paint from Wood Furniture

old paint layers removed from wood

How to Remove Paint from Wood Furniture

If you’re trying to remove paint from wood furniture, you’ve come to the right place. Getting all those old layers off old wood furniture may seem like a daunting task, especially if this is your first time. There are so many different ways to remove paint from wood that it’s hard to know which is the best.

That’s why I’ve put together this list of the best ways! Because when you use the right products, removing paint from wood is seriously so satisfying!

Let’s get to the good stuff!

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Just a friendly reminder: This tutorial and any opinions or recommendations are genuinely mine, but this is not a substitute for consulting a professional. I also use affiliate links to earn a commission.

10 Ways to Remove Paint from Wood

showing one way to remove paint from wood using a chemical stripper

There are plenty of ways to remove paint from wood, some better than others. Some ways use chemicals, and others do not.

After trying many different ways to remove paint, I’ve learned that there are many different ways to get the job done, and sometimes that means using chemicals, and other times not.

And sometimes, what may be the best for one project is not for the next because of factors like where you work (inside vs out) and the project size to consider.

Multi-Layer Paint Stripper

I discovered this product after years of refinishing furniture and was seriously shocked that no one else was talking about this product!

My mind was blown by how incredibly fast and easy it was to remove several layers of old paint from wood. It’s also very thick, so it works really well for vertical surfaces.

This stuff can remove multiple layers all with one application, like up to 15 layers of paint! Not only does it work on oil and water-based paint (or stain), but it also works on more difficult layers like two-part epoxy and urethanes.

It’s also environmentally friendly and contains no methylene chloride, which is safer for you!

My absolute favorite way to remove paint from wood is using this paint stripper, which you can find out the name here in this guide I like to call “The Better Then Citristrip Paint Stripping Strategy“.

The cons to using this product are that it is a bit more expensive than some of the other options and has a strange odor. Although, it claims to be odor free, I found it to smell odd.

Now, I’d gladly pay a little more and deal with a weird smell than deal with the frustration of using a paint remover that also doesn’t work.

High-Speed Ready Strip

This Sunnyside Back to Nature product is another one of the best ways to remove paint from wood. I love it because it is available on Amazon, has no strong odor, and is safer for me and the environment.

It also comes in a convenient spray bottle; however, I’ve found it is too thick to spray. Instead, I give it a good shake, pour it on, and then spread it out with an old paint brush.

A bottle of this stuff will last for a project or two, depending on the size of each piece of furniture. It’s definitely not as strong as the first paint remover I talked about, but it gets the job done. It’s cheaper and more readily available, so sometimes I’ll default to this option.

Sunnyside makes a lot of paint strippers, so to prevent any confusion, here is a link to the one I’m referring to: High Speed Ready Strip

bottle of paint remover called Ready Strip

Green EZ Remover

Another great option for removing paint from wood is Green EZ Remover. The difference is this option is a soy-based product. The downfall of this wood stripper is it is harder to find – I’ve had success on Etsy and directly through their website. You’ll find it on Amazon occasionally, but it’s frequently unavailable.

Carbide Scraper

Liquid paint removers are messy, so if you’re not feeling like dealing with that, this Carbide scraper is an incredibly effective way to remove paint from wood.

The benefit of this option is no sticky blobs of paint to clean up and no sanding dust to worry about.

The downfall is that it takes more physical strength, but if you use too much force, you could damage the wood surface.

Random Orbital Sander

random orbital sanding hardwood desk top

Sanding away old layers of paint from wood is so satisfying! I love how I can apply the sander, move it away, and boom, the beauty of the natural wood appears. There is more instant gratification than with liquid stripers, which don’t instantly expose the natural wood like sanding does.

This method works well for removing paint; the fewer the layers, the better. It’s also nice not to deal with sticky paint and stripper blobs.

The downfall is the dust; no matter what, it gets everywhere. So, if you’re working indoors, there are better options than this one. Also, depending on the project’s size, the sandpaper cost adds up. In addition to the incredible amount of dust, it’s always amazing to me how fast I go through sandpaper.

Don’t get me wrong, I use the method all the time, but most often, it is in combination with a gel stripper.

Check out these random orbital sanding wood tips to learn how to sand wood faster and get that flawless finish!

Heat Gun

Using heat and a paint scraper and going with the grain of the wood, you’ll be able to remove paint from wood. I snagged an inexpensive heat gun from amazon and found it very useful for eliminating veneer from an old dresser. Unlike sanding, the most remarkable thing about using heat is it preserves the wood grain.

10 in 1 Tool

This method works really well if your paint is already peeling, and if the person had not properly prepped the wood. This is because without proper prep there is poor paint adhesion and the scraper gets under that and easily lifts the paint from the wood.

This paint scraper tool is also what I use in combination with liquid paint removers to remove paint from wood.

Since this is metal, you do have to be careful not to gauge the wood. But other than that, this hand tool is straightforward and simple to use.

Citri-Strip Paint Stripper

Although many other liquid paint removers work WAY better than CitriStrip, I didn’t want to exclude it since this is the one most often talked about. Listen, I’ve used this many, many times. And it works, but it takes an abundance of applications, which also means a lot of containers of product.

The benefit of this paint remover is it is available everywhere. Go to any hardware store, and you can get this, so if you need a paint remover quickly, this is a good option. Also, this option comes without a pungent smell.

The problem with this paint remover is it dries out, which is hard to remove once it is dried. So, you need to scrape it off before it dries out, but doing so often means it’s not getting through all of the old layers of paint. 

To combat this issue and for more effective results with Citri Strip, after applying the stripper, you can wrap your piece in plastic wrap (yes, the stuff you use in your kitchen) and leave it overnight. Doing this allows the stripper to sit longer and eat away at all the layers of paint without drying out.

Steel Wool

While this is not the easiest way or by no means the fastest route, steel wool is a non-chemical way to attempt to remove paint or varnish from wood. This method works best if the layer you are trying to remove is thin. There are various grits of steel wool (who knew!), so my two tips for removing paint with steel wool are to go with something coarse like #000 and move in the direction of the wood grain. 

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Looking for a more natural way to remove paint from wood? Then try creating a paste with vinegar and baking soda, apply it to the surface, let it soak for at least an hour, and then scrape it with the 10 in 1 hand tool. You can also try using steel wool to scrub away the paint.

This method is super safe and non-toxic, but it’s not as effective for thick or multiple layers of paint.

Things to Consider Before Removing Paint from Wood

So, you have your furniture piece, now what?! The good news is that the removing paint from wood process really is quite simple. But, there are a few things you need to know to ensure you’re happy with your results. 

What are you trying to strip?

Not all wood is created equal, and not everything that looks like wood is actually wood. It can be hard to know the difference, but once you know what to look for and with practice, you can get pretty good at figuring this out!

You’ll want to learn how to tell if furniture is real wood, fake wood, or wood veneer.

Is the wood surface a veneer?

If so, proceed with caution since veneer is essentially a very, very thin wooden covering. You can strip veneer, but again, this takes a little more finesse because you don’t want to go through this thin covering and expose what is underneath.

FAQ’s Removing Paint from Wood Furniture

Here are the most frequently asked questions I get about removing paint from wood:

What is the best paint remover?

I’m currently obsessed with this paint remover! I love this product because it never fails to blow my mind how well it works.

I love how thick this product goes on; it doesn’t drip and stays wet longer than any other product I’ve worked with, so the stripper has more time to work before drying out.

It’s so easy to use; I apply a generous layer to the wood surface and let it sit overnight. I came back the next day, and with my paint scraper, the paint layers literally wiped away as easily as cutting through soft butter.

Do I have to strip if I’m going to paint?

Nope! I bet you’re happy to read that answer, huh?! If you’re planning to paint, you don’t need to remove the original surface before you paint. Hold on, though; this doesn’t mean you can jump right to painting. In this guide you’ll learn all the steps to painting wood.

How do I know when to strip versus when to sand?

The more you work on this type of project, the easier it becomes, and you just kind of “know” when to strip and when to sand.

Also, the approach to this varies depending on your tools. If you have the fancy Surf Prep Pro sander, you can start with sanding, versus myself, who has a janky old orbital sander that is not nearly as effective as the Surf Prep.

And, lastly, it really boils down to personal preference! 

  • If I’m going to re-paint the surface; then, I do not strip, just sand. 
  • If I want to keep natural wood, I strip followed by sanding.
  • If the piece appears to have a thicker layer of paint or stain, I strip and sand.
  • If the layer of paint or stain seems thin, I jump straight to sanding. 
  • If there is lacquer or a shiny protective coating, I’ll start with stripping before sanding.
  • If I’m working with a veneer, I’ll hand sand to prevent removing too much of the surface.

How long should I leave liquid paint stripper on?

The time varies based on the product. My trick is to put on the paint stripper and then walk away. I’ll set a time and find something else to work on because if I don’t, my curiosity kicks in, and temptation tells me to start scraping too soon.

For best results, give the stripper enough time to work. The trick is to let the stripper do the work, not you! The longer it has to soak and sink in, the easier it is for you to remove all those layers of paint and shellac.

If you’re using CitriStrip, be mindful of how long you leave it on because this one will dry out faster than the other options. You’ll want the stripper to be still wet when you start scraping.

When you are close to having removed all the paint layers, you’ll need to be careful about how long the stripper is on since it will not only remove the current finish, but it can eat away at natural wood. At this point, you can apply your stripper in thin layers or switch to using a power sander.

You asked for the best ways to remover paint from wood furniture, and I gave you the top 10 best ways! Do you have a favorite method to remove paint from wood? Share with me in the comments!

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