Furniture Stripping Tutorial

by | Sep 19, 2009 | Miscellaneus | 13 comments

I purchased this piece of furniture a few weeks ago off of an antique store porch (you know, the junk section.) It was $39, which was a bit more than I wanted to spend, but I loved this table and it was coming home with me! The table was fine as it was, but the faux finish made it look dirty and it was not living up to it’s potential. So, here was my plan…strip the top, finish it in a dark walnut, paint the legs white, and then add some painted details. Here’s the problem with my plan…I hate stripping furniture. I tried it years ago (a few times) and every time I ended up throwing the thing I was stripping into the trash. It’s a messy, smelly, time consuming process. But, I think this table deserves, let’s give it a go. Maybe it’s not as bad as I remember it. (Famous last words…) By the way, I have the same plan for my French Provincial reproduction dining room set that I found on Craig’s List.

I don’t like using oil based products or highly toxic chemicals that you have to “dispose of properly.” I only work with oil based products when I’m using spray paint or doing floors. So, I was pleased to find a water-based paint stripper. I was a little skeptical, but willing to give it a try. I purchased this bottle at Wal-Mart for about $8.00.

For this project you’ll need a plastic cup to pour the stripping gel into, latex gloves, eye protection, a chip brush (shown 2 photos down), a 3M heavy duty stripping sponge, a putty knife, a 3M sanding sponge and a rag. You’ll also want to put a plastic sheet under the piece you’re stripping and something to put the removed paint & goop into. I used a plastic paint tray liner.

1.) Liberally apply the gel using a chip brush. Make sure your hands and eyes are protected while working with any paint remover. It’s also a good idea to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated area.

2.) Wait 5-10 minutes for the gel to do it’s work.
3.) Now use the putty knife to scrape off the paint. I used the edge of the putty knife and the 3M Stripping Pad for the sides. This was the painful & time consuming part of it. As you can see, it only pulls off the top layer of paint, so this is going to take me a while.

Here are what the lifted paint looks like. I just swept them with the putty knife into my plastic paint tray liner.

4.) Repeat. As many time as it takes. For me, it took 5 times to get all of the layers of paint off. This is the part when I clearly remembered why I don’t like stripping furniture.

Here’s a lovely cream layer of paint…

I had a few phone calls and left one layer of stripper sit for about 20-30 minutes. I think I should have done that in the beginning. Look at how well the paint is bubbling up.

There is wood under there! Hooray! And an interesting silver coat of coat of silver paint…daring.
5.) With a damp rag, wipe away any residual stripping gel and paint. I the case of my table, I had to do one extra step. There was still some paint in the nooks & crannies of the table edge, so I used a 1/8 inch chisel and a sanding sponge to carefully coax the rest off. I also used a palm sander on the top to prepare the surface to stain.

And hello gorgeous wood. OK, I hated the process, but it was definitely worth it. It took me about 2 hours (including wait time when I worked on something else) and about half the bottle of paint remover.
My advice to someone who wants to strip a piece of furniture is this – make sure it’s really worth it and don’t try a piece with lots of nooks & crannies your first time.
You can find the “after” for this table here.


  1. Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions

    This table is gorgeous and, I agree, worth the time and effort to strip. I think I stripped something a long time ago {so long I can't remember what it was}. This is going to look fabulous once it's done!

  2. bj

    One of the things I hate in this world is furniture stripping. I, too, learned a loooong time ago that the piece sure better be worth all the trouble, mess, and tears!! :O) Thanks goodness that one of the things I LOVE in this world is painted furniture!! Love it!!

    Your little table is precious!! Now, MY eyes can just see it painted in the Mackenzie-Childs style. Ummmmm baby!! 🙂
    xo bj

  3. Peanut-Butter Kitty

    What a lovely little table. When your done it will be well worth the time you put into the project. I hate stripping furniture, I usually use that orange stuff but will try what you used. Thanks for the tips. Look forward to the finished table.

  4. Patricia

    adorable table and so worth the hours of labor!

  5. Let it Shine

    Great tutorial. That table has gorgeous detail, and was seriously covered in some funky paint.

    There is a new citrus based stripper that is 100% non-toxic, smells great and would be safe to have around kiddos. They have it at the Mart too. Check it out, my Dad swears by it and he is the wood – guru. You just spray it on and it comes right off……

    Hope you are having a good weekend, all things considered.

  6. Molly @ A Bit O' Shine

    Wow that wood is gorgeous! I have a small table of my great aunt's that I've been contemplating stripping. Currently it is painted the most hideous yellow green ever – I don't know what she was thinking.

    And is that photo of your dining room? Oh my is it gorgeous!

  7. The Little Red Shop

    Wow…why did they paint over that pretty wood? I just purchased a spray bottle of stripper which is supposed to be eco-friendly..and less stinky. I have tons of stripping to do. waha. My kitchen island..and a french door to start. I bought some plastic scraping knives for my project. I've heard they are more kind to wood than metal. I'll let you know how it goes. you use a treatment before staining..I can't remember what it's called.

    I'm looking forward to seeing your finished table!

    Julie M.

  8. Shari @ My Cottage of Bliss

    You are such a tease! I have a soft place in my heart for little tables like this so I was anxiously waiting to see the results at the end of the post. I guess I'll just have to keep coming back so I can see the big reveal! 🙂

  9. Amber

    Thanks so much for your great tutorial! Were you pleased with the water-based stripper or will you go back to something else? Just wondering for future projects…


  10. Miss Mustard Seed

    I thought the waterbased product worked just as well as more toxic products I've used in the past. I would used it again, but I may try the spray Orange Stripper that "Let it Shine" mentioned.

  11. LukesLove

    Wow – love the wood! Wonder why anyone would ever paint that? (Though I'm going to be painting something that has an inlay pretty soon – someday someone will probably wonder the same thing about me!) =) It's not near as pretty as yours though!

  12. Room to Inspire

    Thank you for the tutorial. I am also skeptical about using some of the strippers out there – this one is going on my list. The table is beautiful. I love all of the details!


  13. Valerie

    I linked to your blog from another blog and was wondering if you could post a link to the "after" on this project! I'd love to see it!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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