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Removing Paint Pt 1 – A Video Tutorial


I remember the first piece of furniture I purchased at a yard sale to refinish.  It was a small 1950’s highboy that I scored for $10.  I slid it into the backseat of my car and couldn’t wait to get it home to test out my DIY skills.  I had never refinished a piece of furniture, but I was pretty confident I could figure it out.  We lived in a tiny apartment, so I lugged the dresser onto our porch and started to work.  It had a dark finish on it, so I decided to sand it all off.  Well, after about 2 hours of working with a palm sander, the finish was gone, my arms were vibrating and I was covered in dust.  It was glorious and I was hooked.  That dresser had five different looks while in my possession until I sold it a few years ago.  (I couldn’t find a picture of it!)

When I decided to tackle refinishing a painted piece, I wasn’t fooling around.  I bought a very ornately carved door with about 18 layers of paint and then bought some highly toxic chemical stripper to go with it.  I had no idea what I was getting into and, to make the experience even worse, I started the project on a very hot day and worked outside in the intense summer sun, which dried the chemical stripper to a gloppy, crusty mess.  It was a disaster and I chucked the door and swore never to strip paint again.

After about seven years, I broke down and decided to give it another try.  This time I stripped only the top on a small table and worked with a water-based stripper in my cool basement.

 Ah, there is a classic Miss Mustard Seed makeover from deep in the archives of my blog!

 The decision to strip only the top was out of laziness, but has become a signature look for me.  I’ve stripped dozens of pieces since this one, so I decided to do an updated video tutorial.  In this video, I use a chemical stripper called Stripeeze from True Value that’s safe to use indoors and is biodegradable.


…part two (and the furniture reveal) coming soon!

By the way, I’m headed to Monument, Colorado next week for a book signing and some workshops!  Check out my side bar for details.  Hope to see some of you there.

I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as my writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

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  1. I really enjoyed reading your post. Years ago I stripped a piano and believe me I worked on that project many nights and weekends. When I got down to the last side panel I realized that at some point the piano had been damaged and someone had used a large piece of plywood to fix it. Boy, was I ever disappointed. I think I ended up selling it to a neighbor really cheap just to get rid of it. You never know what is hiding under paint…Connie

  2. LOVE the video! Stripping is not one of my favorite things but I have found myself really loving the stained top with painted bottom. I’m stripping a piece now & I ran into some issues with water damage. I can’t wait to see part two! And especially the reveal!

  3. Hey chickadee!! I loved this video!!! You answered allot of questions! what do you do if you have small like rounded legs that have details? How do you get the paint out of them? I was wondering what you do when you get a piece like I did today that has chipped sides like the wood has been kinda ripped on the sides and how do you clean real wood? vinegar and water? water-hose? haha I am clueless and a newbie to this whole cleaning furniture usually I just get the cheap particle board stuff but after having to move and half of the things falling apart I am on a HUNT to find real wood furniture on a budget! I would love to hear from you and get your answers to my questions that are making this chick crazy! 😉

    • Hi Sarah,

      I thought I might tackle some answers to your questions….

      To get old paint out of rounded edges, like table legs and the like, you can use steel wool as Miss Mustard seed mentioned in her video. Steel wool is availalbe in most hardware stores – just look in the wod stain/stripping area. You could also try using a wire brush, but be careful not to scrub too hard as this could damage the wood beneath the paint. Steel wool is great because it will conform to the shape of the wood and get in the nooks and crannies!

      There is a whole lot of info on how to properly clean wood out there…don’t resort to blasting your piece with a lot of water – water will ‘raise the grain’ of your wood and you’ll end up having to sand it down again when it dries. It can also cause old wood to crack…or crack more! Try using mineral oil (available at drug stores for cheap) after you have sanded down bare wood. This will bring out the natural grain of the wood, but can make it difficult to paint. If you are trying to clean wood to prepare it for painting, some sanding after stripping works. Dust off the sanding residue and wipe over your piece with a tack cloth (a special sticky cloth that will catch the dust particles you can’t see but which will get into a paint or fine finish. Again, you can get this at most hardware stores).

      As for wood that seems ripped or chipped…depending on what you envision for the piece, this could add to the charm. Paint helps a lot – sand down the edges and slap on a few coats! The imperfections will fade away! Magic!

      Have fun with your DIY!

  4. Great Video! A couple of questions –

    1. How do you know what kind of paint is on a piece (latex or oil based) ?

    2. Are there any environmental issues with the disposing of the paint goop after you are done?

    Thanks Marian!

    • Evie, Marian probably has more ideas, but as far as testing for oil-based, what I do is saturate a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and see if it removes the paint. If it doesn’t, it is oil-based. It might get a little bit of the color on the cotton ball, but if it is latex, it will completely remove the paint from the wall or piece you are painting.

      Also, I had to remove lead paint from a house I was living in, and what a disaster! There are all kinds of laws regulating it. We had to pay to dispose of it. If you are just working with a piece of furniture, I would bag it all (just leave the scraps on the paper plates) and then call to find out where to drop it off. If there is no lead, you may be able to just toss it in the garbage, but it varies by city.

      Good luck!

  5. Thanks for posting the video! You were definitely helpful and answered my questions. I’ve tried stripping paint before and it hasn’t gone well so I am excited to try it again after watching this. I also wanted to say that I LOVE your hair like that! It’s so pretty and flattering but also a little sassy :) You look great in the video!

  6. Kelley Hively says:

    Perfect timing! I stripped a piece yesterday and was working on staining it this evening. I have a question, though. Sometimes I find that the new stain will take beautifully to the top, but appear splotchy on the edges of the top. Do you have any advice on how to get a more even stained look? Thanks!

  7. Melissa says:

    Can’t wait to meet you in Monument on Friday! I’m new to Colorado and your blog and totally geeked out when I found out you were coming here. Your blog and book have been such an inspiration to me! My husband and I are building in Castle Rock, CO and I have been loading our one bedroom apartment with tons of thrifted furniture in preparation for our new space. I have big plans for several pieces and this tutorial series will help me immensely! Right now I am reupholstering a $10 thrift store arm chair with drop cloth. I’m to the part when I have to sew the cushion cover… Ugh! She’s looking beautiful and I’ve been calling her Marian. :)
    Safe travels to you and see you soon!
    Melissa Linnenburger

  8. I have stripped flat pieces like this, but I have a round ornate table that was my mom’s the finish on it is peeling (it is wood but the varnish is peeling/looks bad.) I have thought about painting it, but it’s one of those types that is just so pretty being wood and so many other things in my living room are painted, so I like this being wood. But it has carvings all around the top edge. If I strip it, how do I get into those areas…do I use steel wool with the stripper and rub it off? I’ve just never done anything real detailed. If all else fails, I will paint it…but I wondered what your thoughts were.

  9. Hi,
    I am stripping a coffee table, and have run into a problem I just can’t figure out. The wood is maybe ash, very light an very little grain. They had it stained very dark with what might be a gel stain and high gloss finish. After stripping and scrubbing with steel wool, TSP and a little bleach the wood still is very yellow looking. I think it is from the stain used previously, but I can’t get it out. I stripped again, scrubbed again, and sanded for almost 45 minutes, but it is still yellowish!!!! The legs are curved, but I think I’m just going to paint them. Do you have any suggestions on how to get this hideous yellow out of the wood? I would be so grateful for any suggestion.

    Thanks, Melody

  10. I am working on stripping a highly ornate Louis XVI desk with veneer and ormolu. The pulls do not come off the drawers, so I have to work around them! I have come to my senses and realized it would look better painted with ASP. I’m not getting any younger. I don’t want to keel over from old age before it’s done!


  11. Thank you so much for this tutorial, I am in the process and was not having a good time , You have helped me so so much with the product from true value. Thanks again.

  12. Shelly Windeknecht says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I stripped my first piece Thanksgiving weekend and will be staining soon. I will be trying your milk paint and ASP on future pieces, but this piece was sortof a special piece and I want to just stain it. Stripping went better than i thought it would. I used the instructions in your book! :).

    Thanks!! :)

  13. I stripped my first piece of furniture as a Junior in high school. Twenty two years later I am still at it. Thanks for the reminders!

  14. Peggy Brogdon Morgan says:

    I want to strip the paint and repaint my kitchen cabinets. We moved in four years ago and they didn’t look great then and only look worse now. So your video is very timely for me and I’m excited to do the project now. I’m assuming the stripper will be runny so I’m sure doing the cabinets themselves will be a challenge; however I can do the doors in the cabinets too! I do have a question for you (I see you have many to answer from this video!); can I use your milk paint on the cabinets and if so do I need to seal them with something other than the wax so they can be cleaned without risking paint removal?

    Thank you so much for this video!

  15. Peggy Brogdon Morgan says:

    Yeah, that should have said “do the doors in the basement” not “in the cabinets”!

  16. I can’t see the video AT ALL, its says it’s been removed WHY ??

  17. June G. says:

    Yep stripping is a chore but what a beautiful piece you’ll have when it’s all said and done!! The stained top painted bottom is fast becoming my favorite look. Keep up the good work. I wish I could meet you in Colorado (your getting closer to CA) but I won’t be able to. I read your book and I loved every minute of it..I just may be ready to make some drapes or slipcover something!! You definitely inspired me.

    Have a safe trip,

    June G.

  18. Hi, what location in monument CO? Would like to come up

  19. Hi Marian,
    I may have to re-think my pledge to NEVER strip another piece of furniture in this century! Yes, I did it in the sun and probably many other mistakes, but what a pain…especially on round legs! Omg! Get my gun! Doing the top alone is still challenging, I’m sure, but possibly manageable.

    I had my FIRST milk paint class yesterday! So fun!
    Take care,

  20. I have been avoiding this messy task on a couple of pieces but your video has encouraged me to give it a try. Thank you for the great post and looking forward to the reveal.

  21. Walter Stevens says:

    I’m hoping to buy some discount furniture from Minneapolis while I’m there visiting my kids this holiday season.

  22. Great tutorial! I’ve never stripped furniture before, but I have few pieces that might needs this. Thanks, Marian.

  23. sharon k. says:

    Great video, has inspired me to do something with some old painted pieces I have. But made me wonder- should I be concerned about lead paint? How would I know?

  24. My first stripping experience was a nightmare too. I probably have central nervous system damage from it all. It was awful! I haven’t tried it since!


  25. You are so timely! I am redoing a painted dresser to make it two tone with lettering. HOORAY! Now I can get started on my first paid project! Thank you!

  26. Christine says:

    Just browsing your blog again to get some ideas. I’m currently waiting for stripper to settle here in my master bedroom, where I’m working on 4 kitchen cabinets.

    It occurred to me to ask if you’re still fussing with these flesh-eating chemicals or if you’ve discovered Citristrip or Soygel? This stuff makes stripping almost fun. Finish, paint AND stain lift right off if you leave it for a couple hours. What doesn’t come out of intricate detail can be jiggled out with a toothpick.

    Anyway, you’re so on top of things, the answer is probably “of course,” but if not, shoot, I’ll buy you some. This stuff changed my life and the life of my home around me. Pretty radical, huh? Well, not if you remember I actually have no life. HAHAHa! Gotta have my fun where I can.

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  1. […] snapshot from the Removing Paint Part One video.  It had a few layers of paint, the last one being a white oil based paint that had yellowed and […]

  2. […] can see the part one of the video tutorial HERE and the finished dresser […]

  3. […] stand up the way it needed to.  (You can check out my video tutorials on stripping furniture HERE and HERE.)  Once the finish was entirely removed and cleaned.  I applied four coats of Waterlox […]

  4. […] can check out my tutorials on stripping furniture here – Part 1 & Part 2.  I love painted furniture, but I like wood tops on pieces.  I think it feels nicer […]

  5. […] so I consulted Miss Mustard Seed’s website to figure out how to strip paint.  Her tutorial is so helpful.  Marian recommended this paint […]

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