How to Strip Furniture with this Easy Tip

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I know I just published a post showing you how I used two household items to refinish scratched wood,  but even after I removed the scratches I still wasn’t happy with the antique desk.  I tossed around the idea of completely stripping the wood with Citristrip, but it made me tired just thinking about it. I know, that might sound silly, because I love to refinish and paint furniture.   Just when I was about to give up on the idea of refinishing the desk, I got a tip from a friend on Instagram on how to strip the paint and sealer off of furniture with minimal sanding. Let me tell you friends, this is a game changer.

how to strip the paint and sealer off of furniture

I’ve been stripping paint from furniture for years, and to be honest, it’s not my favorite thing to do. It’s labor intensive and time consuming and takes forever to strip all the layers off of an antique piece of furniture.

Like I said earlier I was about to give up on my plans to refinish this desk due to, well, my desire for a quick fix. Let me show you what it looked like.

It’s a solid wood antique table with a cherry finish. I love the style of the desk, but I don’t like the red finish.

My choices to refinish the desk were simple; paint it (probably with chalk paint), apply stain over the old stain, strip it, or leave it as is.

Lately I’ve been finding it hard to paint over solid wood. I love the look of solid wood and I hate to hide solid wood with a paint color that I might not like in the future. I just didn’t want to hassle with stripping furniture.  I made up my mind that I would keep the desk as it is.

Just when I almost gave up my idea of removing the layers of stain and sealer, I got a great tip from a friend on the best way to strip furniture.

The easiest way to strip wood furniture

Y’all ready for this? She said to apply Citristrip paint stripper on the desk and then wrap it with saran wrap and leave it overnight.

Saran Wrap? Whoa, this was a new one.

I’ve been stripping polyurethane, paint and stain off of furniture for years…

Why had I not heard of this? Either way, I had to give it a try.

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The best furniture wood stripper I’ve found that makes minimal fumes with LOW VOC’s

My favorite paint stripper is Citristrip. Most paint strippers have harsh chemicals and create super strong fumes. Citristrip does not.

It comes in a gel form and a spray on (spray can). I’ve used both and they both work well. I would use the spray can for smaller jobs and the gel form for larger ones.

Materials to strip the paint and sealer off of furniture:

How to strip furniture of paint, stain and sealer

  1. spray the desk with Citristrip or any other paint stripper. Make sure the desk is clean before spraying it.
  2. cover the desk with saran wrap (there isn’t an easy way to do this, just make sure the saran wrap is up against all those curves and crevices)
  3. wait at least a few hours or overnight. It is better to leave it overnight.
  4. remove the saran wrap and use your brillo pad or scraper and scrape away the residue
  5. after all the residue is removed, spray a clean brillo pad or heavy paper towel with the after wash or mineral spirits solution and wipe away any extra residue.
  6. start sanding
  7. For the hard to reach spots like the nooks and crannies of the legs, use a liquid sander or deglosser.
  8. continue sanding until you have reached your desired finish!
  9. Apply a sealer to the wood (especially if it get’s a lot of use)

Here are some images from the progress:

wrapping the furniture with saran wrap after applying the wood stripper

I sprayed it down with Citristrip and covered it with saran wrap.

After I finished stripping most of polyurethane and stain off the wood, I applied the after wash.  You can use “after wash” or mineral spirits. I think they both do practically the same thing.

sanding the wood after stripping the paint and stain off

I used the electric sander for the top of the wood and some of the flat areas.

For the legs and the drawers, this is where the liquid sander came in handy. I used a little bit on the legs of the table below to help with the hard to sand places. 

Letting the paint stripper sit overnight with the saran wrap made it easy to remove the extra stain without much effort.

how to strip the paint and sealer off of furniture
stripping furniture

After most of the sanding, this is a little before and after of what the desk looked like.

Before and after stripping the wood furniture

I picked up some new hardware from Ace’s Hardware. I wanted to keep with the “vintage antique” vibe.

I was happy with the transformation so far, but the red tones on the drawer and the top still bothered me.

I tried using a dark wax, a “weathered” stain, and a clear furniture wax with no luck! All these products still brought out the red tones.

After doing a little research, I decided to try to bleach the wood. This is new, I had never done this before, but I’m so glad I did.

How to bleach wood:

FYI: I used regular household bleach because I didn’t have anything else. This isn’t the best option, but it’s all I had at the time.

If you are planning to bleach a piece of wood or furniture I would highly suggest buying wood bleach. You can see a great product HERE.

using bleach to strip the wood

Above is the drawer before I used the bleach.

I dabbed a little bleach on a heavy paper towel and wiped it all over the wood on the desk. I let it dry and then repeated this process about 5 times.

After wood was bleached

You can see where the bleach has already dried on the wood, and where it is still wet.

After bleaching the areas of the wood that still had “red tones,” I sanded a little more, and then I was almost done!

Lastly, I added a sealer to the top and sides of the desk.

For those of you wanting to know how I sealed the raw wood, check out my post on how to seal furniture for high traffic. I’ve shared my favorite furniture and wood sealer with a list of other sealers too.

after the wood furniture had been stripped
how to strip the paint and sealer off of furniture
how to strip the paint and sealer off of furniture
how to strip the paint and sealer off of furniture
Stripped wood furniture- top view

Well there you have it; a total furniture transformation.

I love the raw wood look and I’m so pleased with how well the saran wrap trick helped me strip the paint off of this old desk.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ve been inspired to strip a piece of furniture the easy way!

How to Strip furniture with this Easy Tip

stripping furniture the easy way

Learn how to strip the paint and sealer off of wood furniture with this easy tip that reduces the time it takes. This little furniture stripping tip is a game changer.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Active Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Difficulty Medium
Estimated Cost 30 dollars


  • gloves
  • plastic drop cloth
  • saran wrap (I still couldn't believe I would be using this)
  • paint stripper
  • paint scraper
  • brillo pad or steel wool (a couple of these)
  • sand paper
  • electric sander (not necessary, but helpful)
  • paper towels
  • Mineral spirits - to clean up paint stripper
  • Klean Strip Liquid Deglosser


  • Paint Scraper
  • Sander


  1. Spray the desk with Citristrip or any other paint stripper. Make sure the desk is clean before spraying it.
  2. Cover the desk with saran wrap (there isn't an easy way to do this, just make sure the saran wrap is up against all those curves and crevices)
  3. Wait at least a few hours or overnight.
  4. Remove the saran wrap and use your brillo pad or scraper and scrape away the residue
  5. After all the residue is removed, spray a clean brillo pad or heavy paper towel with the after wash or mineral spirits and wipe away any extra residue.
  6. Start sanding
  7. For the hard to reach spots like the nooks and crannies of the legs, use a liquid sander or deglosser.
  8. Continue sanding until you have reached your desired finish
  9. Apply a sealer to your wood piece

If you enjoyed this post I would love for you to pin the image below!

How to Strip furniture and wood


105 thoughts on “How to Strip Furniture with this Easy Tip

      1. That was totally awesome. I am about to strip my dining room table and it will help me so much. Thank you.

          1. There is 5 coats of paint on my WINDSOR chairs the thought exhausts me too

            Those spindle ughhhh
            This helps

    1. I tried refinishing a harvest table that was soaked with deer blood. First I tried using a stripper which worked but the blood stains were still there so I got the bleach out and poured it on, OMG. I almost killed myself by mixing the two products which created deadly fumes. So my friends be careful with how you use the bleach,

      1. Anytime you need to get blood out of anything, use hydrogen peroxide. it works for clothes, and as far as I know it works on anyting.

    2. Wait, so you didn’t apply a protective coat over it when you were done? Did I miss that? What will you do to keep it looking nice and not dry out? I want to do this with some chairs I have, but I have kids so gonna need some protecting.

      1. I would apply clear polyurethane varnish on the bare wood. It’s water resistant and won’t change the color.

  1. I’ve used the cling film w CitriStrip and it works great! Haven’t tried the other stripper yet. I also bleached a chair but I used oxalic acis crystals, never just regular bleach. Good idea. The crystals sure burn if you get them on your skin, at least it did for me. The table came out great, such pretty lines. See why you wanted to keep it straight wood. Nice work.

  2. Your desk really looks great! I am so happy to have found this post as I just purchased a vintage bankers chair and want to strip it and have it look like the finish on your desk. I have never stripped furniture before, only painted, so I know this will save me time and effort. Thank you so very much!!!

    1. you are very welcome and I sure hope it works! I’ve stripped a lot of furniture and every piece is different as far as how long and how much effort it takes the remove the layers. Good luck!

  3. You do some amazing work. I found you from the link party on Organize 31. I am going to subscribe to your blog so I can keep this handy. I am about to build a house and need some great ideas that me and my wife can do to decorate it. I also followed all your social media profiles. Again really love your pictures and work. Your blog looks amazing. Big like from me!

      1. We have a lot of mahogany and cherry finishes on our furniture, most of which was given to us by parents and grandparents. We are getting ready to rehab an 1870’s farmhouse and want to incorporate some different finishes on the furniture we own. This gives me dozens of ideas. Thanks!!

  4. What an awesome tip! Definitely saving to my DIY Tips & Tricks boards…because I KNOW I’ll need this someday (I’ve got an old jewelry chest that could use a little love) Thanks so much for sharing at the #happynowlinkup!

  5. WOW I love this. I did see your post on instagram and I was wondering what you did. Thank goodness I found your post at the handmade hangout party. By the time I went back on instagram, I couldn’t find it again. ha. Thanks so much for your post! I love new refinishing techniques:)

    1. I struggled to figure out a way to seal it without bringing the red tones out. All i’ve done so far is seal the top of it with a matte polyacrylic. It did bring out a little bit of the red, so I’m still trying to decide if I want to use it on the rest of the piece. If you have any suggestions on another product I’m all ears.

      1. What about Annie Sloan White Wax? It is very subtle and has to “sit” a while before wiping back or it does not leave a white residue. You might even like the look if a tiny bit fell into the crevices 🙂

        1. Now I’ve never tried their white wax! I use their clear and dark wax all the time, but I’ve never heard of the white wax. Is it a new product? I’m definitely going to look into this, thanks for the tip.

        2. I love the way the desk turned out! Very helpful tip for my future project!! Was wondering though how you got the bleach smell out? Or did it not smell ?

      2. You will never completely get rid of the red tone but by incorporating more brown into the wood with a darker stain you would be able to stain it then seal it with a tung oil which would bring ou the luster of the wood. Right now it looks unfinished.

        1. Found you as I was scanning pinterest and I am so glad. I’m just learning about painting and stripping furniture and you instructions and videos are awesome. I have read Alito and I mean ALOT of info on this and you have my vote for easiest to understand. Thanks for all your effort and support for beginners like me! I just keep reading your stuff and saying….”who knew”…….. you do that’s who!! Thanks again.

  6. I love the Saran wrap trick. It makes sense, that it will just sit and cook and give the stripping compound time to work. I will try this! Thanks for sharing with PitStop.

  7. Love, love, love this post. Your project. The tips + end results. ???? Thanks for sharing this at the Inspiration Spotlight party. Pinned & sharing.

  8. Oooo eeM Gee Lindsey, she turned out so gorgeous. I’m so glad you decided to strip instead of paint. I think sometimes we go a little overboard with the whole paint thing. Pinned to my Hacks&Revamps boards, because I’m so going to try this

  9. I’ve never stripped furniture before but I’ve wanted to. When I do these tips are going to come in very handy. Thank you for sharing with us at Celebrate Your Story, and have a great weekend.

  10. In the process of doing this to a plant side table and a beautiful dresser. Yes I know (crazy) two projects at once. So far so good, I didn’t let the gel stay on long enough for the legs of the side table so I’m letting the dresser go a full 24 hours. Will tag you in photos!!

  11. Hi Lindsey – I just purchased 2 beautiful oak dressers that the seller painted white. She was going for the
    Shabby look, but they look awful. Was going to strip them and then saw your idea! Do you think it would work as well on PAINT. She also painted the drawer pulls instead of removing them! Yikes.

    1. Hi Tani,
      this technique works BETTER on paint than stain actually! I’m about to strip a piece of furniture that had a “shabby white” finish too. I hate when people paint over pretty wood! Good luck with your project!

  12. Today when I read the Blog that you have posted and it was amazing.
    The contents were useful and knowledgable.
    Thank you for Sharing this, for sure it will help many others too.

  13. Hi Lindsey! The table is beautiful!

    I have not had much experience with repurposing wood furniture but just found a beautiful oak kitchen table that I’d like to strip down so it has an unfinished cottage look. After I strip the stain and sand, like you’ve shown above, is there anything you’d recommend to seal that wood so it would be easy to wipe off kid’s markers or food spills? I have a three year old daughter that loves to do crafts.. 😉

  14. I strip furniture often, and discovered wood bleach early on when to my horror stain color did not always look the way I thought it would. I use Zinsser Wood Bleach. So I sometimes will stain a “mistake” then put the wood bleach on, and the result is always beautiful. I will try regular household bleach on a piece of wood to practice.

  15. Hi,

    I’m just wondering what you used to seal your project? I love the natural wood look!

  16. Very interesting process. Sounds like it works great. Oxalic acid or wood bleach are best for bleaching. The Citrastrip in a spray sounds great, never used the spray version. Another idea is shrink wrap on a hand held roll because it comes in a small with like 3″ and I’ve used it up to 3′ for wrapping and it might be a tad thicker than saran. Thanks for the tips.

    1. I agree with Oxalic acid, which is excellent for water stains.
      I splurged and picked up some of the two-part bleachs, which remove pretty much everything.
      Citristrip is a waste of money, really. You don’t need an even coat, just press the plastic into it so it stays against the wood. You get more for your money with a paint brush.

      Don’t forget it also removes old dried paint from brushes…

  17. What a great idea! I’m going to try this on my kitchen table and chairs; quick question when u say you sprayed the Citristrip, what did you use to spray it, I Tried a spray bottle and because it is a gel, unfortunately it’s too thick and doesn’t come out … please help 🙂


  18. So..
    Why are you using unnecessary chemicals to neutralize Citristrip, when you can do it with water?
    Even the website (now) says to neutralize with water, because chemicals can cause stain to reactivate back into the wood. My 1st piece did –in a nice, magenta color. Yup. Which I think contributed to the blurb on the website. (I have pictures on my tiny blog.)

    Anyway, water and a good scrubbie will remove everything left. Then I turn my pieces on their side, so the grain is vertical to the ground. Often I just spray the garden hose on it to rinse, but then run my (plastic) scraper along the grain to press out excess moisture. Yes, water on wood. Briefly.

    I also find a nice 2nd coat of Citristrip will such the remaining stain out of the wood. I’ve returned 15 antique doors to their raw wood state. They are unbelievable.

    You also don’t have to leave it on over night. I would actually be careful of veneered pieces, because Citristrip is wet and can cause the veneer to lift. I’d check it in 3-4 hours, which is often enough time to lift 6-7 layers of paint.
    Another reason I run that plastic scraper down along the grain when I’m done.

    You don’t have to worry about getting all the Citristrip off, either. If it dries on there, just take a 220 grit and smooth it off when you smooth the grain . That’s really all the sanding needed after this method, anyway.

    A final thought. Why waste Saran wrap when you can cut open some of those millions of plastic grocery bags and press them into the Citristrip? Makes me feel less wasteful for using plastic when I use them for something like this.

    Your demonstration piece turned out beautifully. It’s wonderful what can be done nowadays, which won’t eat your flesh, destroy your lungs, yet yield incredibly revived furniture, isn’t it?

    1. Hi Christine, You’ve made a lot of good insight here! I only left the citristrip overnight because it was solid wood and had LOTS of layers of stain and sealers. I definitely would not do that with veneer. As far as using the after wash to get rid of excess citristrip- I’ve found it removes the “gunk” much easier than water. It is toxic and smells, so water is better for that! Every piece of furniture is different and requires a little different technique, right? Thanks for stopping by and leaving some insight!

  19. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this excellent blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group. Talk soon

  20. Is there a trick with the deglosser? I’ve tried that for my kitchen cabinets and it didn’t seem to do anything. Love the final result of the table!!

  21. Love this information! Thank you for sharing! I wondered how you feel about using heat guns for stripping furniture? I painted my kitchen cabinets about 5 years ago, and I wanted to change the color on the bottom ones to something darker. I heard some positive reviews about heat guns, but I wanted to know your opinion. Thanks for the wonderful post!

    1. I’ve never used a heat gun to strip anything so I can’t tell you first hand what I think. I think it looks pretty tedious. It seems like it would work ok on a flat surface but I wonder about curves like spindles. Since cabinets are mainly flat it might be a good option!

      1. I tried this process for the first time. After a couple of hours I pulled back the saranwrap and checked it. It was kind of dried on there so I freaked and took it all off and started removing. I’m wondering if that was normal and should of waited or did I do something wrong?

  22. Hey hey! Even easier than saran wrap are garbage bags. Simply cut the bags down the seams and open them up. Wrap and then let it sit. I like to let it sit for 12 hours. Doesnt require that long, but the heat trapped inside keeps the stripper wet and easy to scrape off. I like to use a plastic scraper. Works wonders and doesn’t scratch the wood at all.

    Happy Refinishing 😍

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