Painting a Dresser White

Painting a dresser white can be pretty easy as long as you use a good primer and use the right paint! Check out this simple way to get a durable and professional finish on a white-painted dresser!

Find more DIY dresser makeover ideas here.

Tall wood dresser before getting painted white

So, we found a set of dressers… and thought it would be fun to have a little friendly competition between my wife and me.

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Now it’s my turn to paint this tall dresser, and you get to decide who did it better!

Supplies Used for Painting a Dresser White

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Grab our list of 10 must have painting furniture supplies too!

Preparing Dresser for Paint

Just like any makeover, we had to prepare the dresser for paint. Here’s exactly how to prepare furniture for painting. I got started by removing the old hardware and then fixing the drawer.

The top-drawer track was cracked so I glued it back together and clamped it. When the glue was dry, I screwed it back into the dresser.

Gluing a broken drawer track back together

It was a really tight spot and my small screwdriver wouldn’t fit in the back, so I used a handy little flexible drill bit attachment to screw it back in back there.

Then I used some Krud Kutter and a damp rag to remove all the nasty dirt and grime. I also took some time to vacuum out the drawers and the inside of the dresser too.

Check out our post on how to clean furniture before painting to learn more.

There were also a few minor dings and scratches that I filled in with a little wood filler. Learn more about the best wood fillers for furniture here.

When the wood filler was dry, I sanded the areas that I filled, and I scuff-sanded the rest of the dresser with 220 grit sandpaper. Learn the importance of sanding before painting furniture here.

Sanding wood filled scratches with 220 grit sandpaper

Then I vacuumed off the dust and wiped off any remaining residue with a tack cloth.

Removing Wood Stain

To get the 3 bottom drawers ready to be stripped, I put small pieces of tape on the inside of the hardware holes to help keep the stripper from dripping into the drawers.

And then I wrapped the drawers with pre-taped plastic.

Now I was ready to generously apply Citristrip on the drawer fronts. We love this stuff because it doesn’t have the harsh smell that some other strippers do!

Brushing citristrip stripper onto the drawer fronts

One trick that Natalie has taught me is to cover the stripper with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight. This keeps the stripper from drying out too fast and lets it work its magic on the wood a little bit longer.

The next day I removed the plastic wrap and scraped the stripper off the drawers.

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Then I used a sponge and some mineral spirits to scrub the drawer fronts to remove the stripper residue. We usually use steel wool for this part, but we didn’t have any, so I made a sponge work.

Learn more tips and tricks on how to remove wood stain and check out the best tools for removing paint or stain from wood here.

Scrubbing drawer fronts with a sponge and mineral spirits

It took a few days for the wood grain to dry out to see how the drawers looked, so we went back to work on the dresser and moved it outside to prime it.

Priming Dresser Before Painting

I sprayed 2 coats of BIN shellac based primer on the dresser, letting it dry for 30 minutes between coats. Check out this painted armoire makeover where we also used BIN shellac based primer.

Not only does primer help the paint to stick better, but it also helps your paint have much better coverage and this primer helps stop stains from coming through paint…especially when painting white like I planned to do with this dresser!

Learn more about how to choose the best primer for painting furniture here.

Spraying a dresser with BIN Shellac Based Primer

When the second coat of primer was dry, we moved the dresser back into the garage and I lightly sanded down all of the primed surface to make it nice and smooth.

I personally have a fear of sanding primer too far and having to redo it again and again, so I sanded pretty lightly. Check out the best sanders for furniture here!

Using a SurfPrep sander to lightly sand the primer before painting the dresser

And of course, I cleaned off all that dust I created while sanding with a vacuum and tack cloth again.

Painting Dresser White

Then it was finally time to paint! For this dresser, I used General Finishes White Enduro Poly, mixed it really good, and then poured it into my paint sprayer.

Check out the best paints for wood furniture and the best HVLP paint sprayers for furniture here.

This paint doesn’t need a topcoat, and it’s already thin, so you don’t have to thin it before putting it in the sprayer, which makes my life as a beginner so much easier.

Check out how I used black enduro poly in painting a dresser black.

Spraying the first coat of white paint on a tall dresser

I was pretty happy with how well it sprayed on…until I looked a little closer and saw a nice drip on the side by the leg.

So, I rubbed the drip out with my finger as much as I could while it was wet, and then I sanded it down smooth after it dried.

The rest of the dresser felt a little more textured than I prefer, so I also did a quick hand sanding job with a fine grit foam pad.

Then I cleaned all the dust off and sprayed a second coat…and whoopsie!!!! I thought the first coat dripped bad, but the second coat had some pretty thick drips and runs.

So, I brushed those drips out the best that I could, waited for them to dry, and sanded them back down smooth.

Check out my guide on how to fix spray paint drips here to learn more.

Using a small brush to brush out some drips of wet paint

I figured before spraying the third coat that I better test out the sprayer and lower the amount of paint that came out. After that, I sprayed the third coat and it went on so much better with no drips!

The finish felt pretty good on the dresser after 3 coats, but I did rub a brown paper bag all over it just to smooth it out a little bit more. The top also still felt a bit rough from the overspray that settled on it.

So, we laid the dresser on its back and sprayed the top and sides with a 4th coat, hoping it would be smoother as it dried vertically instead of horizontally…and it worked!

Get more tips and tricks on how to paint a dresser for a stress-free makeover.

Spraying a fourth coat of paint on the sides and top with the dresser on it's back

Refinishing Dresser Drawers

There were a few spots where the finish on the drawers didn’t come off all of the way. So, I sanded that off with 220 grit sandpaper.

Using a SurfPrep sander to sand the remaining finish off the drawer fronts

Oh, and remember this top drawer with all the detail on it that we painted white!?

Well, I stole Natalie’s idea to sand the raised part down to bare wood and leave the white paint in the recessed areas. Check out the best sanders to remove paint here.

Sanding the paint off the raised detail on the top drawer

Then I cleaned all the drawers off and gave them 3 coats of Varathane polyurethane for a topcoat… Learn all about the best polyurethane for furniture here and how to apply polycrylic to painted furniture here.

But when I wiped the poly over the wood detail on the top drawer, I accidentally got poly on some of the white-painted areas too.

And the poly had somehow picked up the dust from the wood, so it wasn’t clear anymore.

Yellowish-brownish spots on the white paint on the detailed drawer from the poly getting on the paint

And since Natalie has a much steadier hand than me, she offered to fix my mistake and touch up the white paint for me. And I think it looks so much better now!

Touching up the white paint on the detailed drawer with a small paintbrush

Adding DIY Leather Pulls

All this dresser needed now was some new hardware! I wanted to try these leather pulls that you might have seen Natalie use on some of her other makeovers.

Attaching leather pull hardware to the drawer fronts.

The bolts were a little big for the existing hardware holes, so I used a drill bit to make the holes slightly bigger. Learn how to make these DIY leather pulls here!

Watch the process of painting this dresser white below:

Here’s what it looks like now!

Top view of white painted dresser
Full view of white painted dresser with wood drawers and leather pulls

More Before And After Makeovers

Click any of these “before” photos below to view the “after” of that makeover.

Angled full view of white dresser with wood drawers.
Closeup of two toned white and wood detailed drawer with gold knobs.

I personally love the white with the contrast of the wood drawers and the leather pulls. I think this is my favorite makeover I have done yet…even though it’s only my third one!

If you’re wondering is two-toned furniture in style, check out this post to learn more.

Get more white painted dresser ideas here. Check out my list of the best white paint for furniture for more options.

But the real question is… do you like my dresser better or Natalie’s dresser better (see hers in this painting a dresser post)!?

Painting a Dresser White

Tall white dresser with wood drawers

Here are the steps for painting a dresser white with a durable and professional finish.

Instructions

  1. Prep your furniture for paint by removing old hardware and making necessary repairs. Clean inside and out of the dresser using Krud Kutter, a damp rag, and the vacuum. Fill in any scratches with wood filler then sand/scuff sand the dresser with sandpaper.
  2. Get the drawers ready to be stripped by wrapping them with pre-taped plastic and putting tape inside of hardware holes. Apply Citristrip and leave overnight. Remove the plastic wrap and scrape the stripper off. Scrub off stripper residue with a sponge and mineral spirits.
  3. Apply 2 coats of BIN Shellac Based Primer on the dresser, letting it dry for 30 minutes between coats. Lightly sand primed surface to make it nice and smooth.
  4. Mix General Finishes White Enduro Poly and spray 3-4 coats to the dresser. Watch out for paint drips. If there are any, brush those drips out, wait for them to dry, and sand them back down smooth.
  5. Sand and clean drawers, then seal with 3 coats of polyurethane.
  6. Attach the DIY leather pulls to your white painted dresser.

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Tall wood dresser before getting painted white.

2 Comments

  1. TOTALLY, LOVE THE WHITE & NATURAL WOOD.
    BEAUTIFUL!!!
    PRESERVED THE BEAUTIFUL OF THE ORIGINAL VINTAGE PIECE; ADDING, A TOUCH OF CLASS💝

    1. Thank you so much for the love Rose! I agree with you completely on this one. <3

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