Have a piece of furniture that is just screaming to be refinished? But you don’t know how to remove stain from wood? You’re in the right place!
I wanted to strip the stain from at least part of this buffet! I mean those curves, those amazing details! Ah!
But, what about getting into all of those details to get all of the old finish off?
What a pain!! It’s actually not THAT bad.
Let me show you!
I found this old buffet with these amazing turned legs this week. When I saw it I just knew I wanted those pretty legs to come back to life with fresh stain.
I definitely didn’t want to cover them up with the same old chalk paint we always do.
At this time, I hadn’t spent too much time removing an old finish from detailed wood so I was a bit nervous to go for it on such an amazing piece.
So I searched and searched for guidance on how to strip stain from wood.
I found a couple of written out tutorials on stripping detailed wood, but mostly I found tutorials on stripping stain from a flat surface. UGH!
I needed something MORE.
And when I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I decided I needed to change that. So without further ado…
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How to Strip Wood Stain from Detailed Furniture
**Update** Since I wrote this tutorial, I have used this exact method many times with great results. I added more photos of the process from another buffet that I removed the stain from.
Well, I’m not going to lie. It CAN be a pain.
But once you make these products do the heavy work for you, it’s really not so bad.
Supplies for Stripping Wood Furniture:
- Citristrip (the best stripper out there!)
- Cheap Paint Brush (to apply the Citristrip to your piece – also a metal bowl is helpful to pour the Citristrip in)
- Gloves (if these chemicals can remove old stain, they sure can make your skin burn)
- Cardboard Box or Dropcloth (to protect the ground)
- Scotch Brite Pads
- Steel Wool (I used 0000 grit)
- Toothbrush (can’t get into the small cracks without this! Also, toothpicks and q-tips work for even smaller spaces)
- Mineral Spirits (Dip all the scrubbers in mineral spirits to help remove all the finish and Citristrip)
- Plastic Cup (Holds the mineral spirits for easy dipping capability)
The trick is to choose the right wood stripper and use the right process!
Does Citristrip Remove Stain?
But will Citristrip remove stain? YES!
It can and will remove old stain.
Will it even work??
Citristrip is the best stripper out there because it doesn’t have a harsh smell like most of the other strippers out there which is so much better for our health. And it actually works!
How to Use Citristrip
- Work in a well ventilated area
- Protect the floor
- Brush on the Citristrip in a small area
- Cover with Plastic
- Remove the Citristrip
- Remove the excess residue
- Let the wood dry
Step 1: Work in a well ventilated area
First, take your piece out to a well-ventilated area.
Citristrip says it is safe for indoor use, but between Citristrip and Mineral Spirits, you’ll want to get fresh air while you work.
Step 2: Protect the floor
Make sure to lay a drop cloth, piece of plastic, or a cardboard box under your piece if you don’t want the ground to get messy.
Step 3: Brush the Citristrip onto a small area
How to Apply Citristrip
After pouring a bit of Citristrip into a metal bowl, brush on the stripper, being very generous as you go.
Brush the Citristrip on THICK. The thicker it is, the less it will dry out. So get it as thick as you can without it running down the sides.
Step 4: Cover with Plastic
Then cover it with some plastic wrap.
Make sure the Citristrip stays wet. Once it dries up it won’t work. If you’re in a hot/dry climate, wrap your wood with plastic wrap or plastic bags. Any brand is fine! The important thing is to make sure the Citristrip stays wet.
Step 5: Wait
Citristrip needs some time to work. The bottle says that it works after 30 minutes.
But I personally like to leave the Citristrip on overnight.
And honestly, from my experience, you can’t have Citristrip left on too long.
(If you leave it on too long, it will just dry up. You can apply more citristrip over it to reactivate it.)
I’ve left it on for a few days, and it hasn’t damaged the wood, but it has still taken off the old stain.
Not that I would recommend it, but if time gets away from you, it is possible to leave it on without damaging the wood.
You can brush on the Citristrip in the morning and start stripping it off in the evening, just make sure your piece isn’t in direct sunlight, or a very warm area so the stripper doesn’t dry prematurely.
I left mine overnight, for about 13 hours. Test a small area to make sure the finish is coming off fairly easily before proceeding.
Step 6: Remove the stain and Citristrip
How to Remove Citristrip
Before removing the Citristrip and the stain, test a small area to make sure the old stain (or paint) is easily coming off. If it isn’t easily coming off, leave the stripper on longer.
Pour some mineral spirits into a cup and get out all your scrubbers.
Make sure you put your gloves on for this, or your skin will be on fire afterward.
Dip your preferred scrubber into mineral spirits and start scrubbing away.
Each leg took me about 15-20 minutes to scrub down. I probably could have spent even more time than that!
Be as thorough with it as possible so your new finish will look polished and not splotchy.
Step 7: Remove the excess residue
If there is any sticky residue left behind, scrub it off with some more mineral spirits. The mineral spirits will break up the gunk and remove it from the surface.
Step 8: Let the Wood Dry
Then let the wood dry for a day or two. (Depending on the weather.) Once it’s dry, you’ll be able to see what it truly looks like.
More Citristrip Tips:
Use the toothbrush to get into tight areas. If you have even tighter areas than me, a toothpick and q-tips will help you immensely.
Go over the bigger areas with a Scotch Brite pad or steel wool. Whichever you prefer. I seem to like to go between the two.
Scrub the entire area until the finish is completely removed.
If it is particularly tough in an area, brush on some more Citristrip, let it do its thing for an hour or so, and try again.
Remember, wood sometimes can have funky grain. It may look like leftover finish, but it may just be the crazy grain of the wood.
Here is a video of the process!
How to Refinish Stripped Wood
When the stain or paint is removed, let the wood dry completely. Depending on your climate, this could take a day or more.
Then you can go over everything lightly with some fine-grit 220 sandpaper to make sure the wood is uniform, neat and smooth.
This is where a SurfPrep sander with foam pads will come in handy now that I have it.
Once all the dust is wiped down with a vacuum and tack cloth, it is ready for its new finish!
On this other buffet’s legs, I applied a coat of dark wax to stain them and seal them at the same time.
How to Bleach Wood
If the wood is still not very light, you can bleach the wood to make it lighter! Check out this post on how to bleach wood, to see how homemade bleach can make wood lighter!
See, it wasn’t that bad once you turn your favorite jams on! Now, what project can you tackle that you didn’t think you could before? I would love to hear from you below in the comments!
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