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.
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…
**Update** Since I wrote this tutorial, I have used this exact method to remove old stain from wood.
How to Strip Wood Stain from Detailed Furniture
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.
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!
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)
- Drop Cloth (or cardboard box 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)
** This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I also earn from qualifying purchases through other companies, or may receive free products. This does not cost you anything extra! All opinions are my own.
How to Use Citristrip
First bring 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.
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.
How to Apply Citristrip
After pouring a bit of Citristrip into a metal bowl, brush on the stripper, being very generous as you go.
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.
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.
Tips for using Citristrip:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 sandpaper to make sure the wood is uniform, neat and smooth.
Once all the dust is wiped down with a vacuum and tack cloth, it is ready for its new finish!
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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