How To Easily Remove Paint & Varnish From Old Furniture!

6 Materials
5 Hours

Hi, I'm Brittany! I am passionate about sharing time saving projects around the house for other busy families.

Today I want to show you how I removed this black wax, red latex paint, and 40+ years of varnish from this buffet rather easily.

Goal: Remove any varnish and paint from this buffet so that I could stain the top and paint the remaining buffet.

You can see the full tutorial here
how to easily remove paint varnish from old furniture
Remove all old hardware, including door hinges.
To save yourself lots of effort and time, spend about 10 minutes and sand over your entire piece with coarse sand paper.
Make sure to sand in direction of the wood. What you’re doing is prepping the remover to do an even better job than its advertised. I’ve found that a bit of effort goes a long way when you have furniture with wax or special finishing on it (like mine!).

While this process is easier and safer than more traditional methods, it will still take some time. You have to wait in between remover coats and then there is some physical labor involved. Easy yes, but prepare to spend a bit of time on it depending on the size of your piece.
Paint a very thick coat of the (affiliate) Citristrip on your wood surface. Be very liberal in your application. Don’t worry about using too much. I’m so frugal when it comes to paint supplies and it took me a minute to ‘let it go.’ But it was kinda fun. 
Make sure to get into every nook and crannies on your piece. The paint won’t remove unless there has been product directly applied to it. Since it’s so thick, I ‘painted’ the remover on the legs and sides and it didn’t budge too much.
how to easily remove paint varnish from old furniture
After about 2 hours of letting the Citristrip lying on top of the wood, begin removing the paint. Start off easy and use plastic putty knives.
how to easily remove paint varnish from old furniture
You can see how the paint and varnish came right off. I thought it was pretty cool. The wood is still wet underneath and will be for at least 12 hours after you’ve finished removing the paint.
Use clean cloths to wipe up paint and residue as you go. Otherwise you’ll end up with paint pieces all over the floor and you don’t want to be stepping in them.
how to easily remove paint varnish from old furniture
Use wire brushes to go over any nooks and crannies. Because I had so much wax on some surfaces, I needed to use additional paint remover.
how to easily remove paint varnish from old furniture

Finally, your furniture looks almost too perfect to paint over.   I even told my husband, “Wow, who knew ours would look so good?”
Using your cloths, wipe down your item. Then, using an orbit sander, sand over the entire piece using a fine grit sand paper.
Be sure to be firm while sanding and still going in the moving in the general direction of the wood.
how to easily remove paint varnish from old furniture
And here it is ready to be finished for the next project!

See the final [painted] project over on my blog!

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Suggested materials:

  • Citristrip
  • Coarse Sand Paper & Fine Sand Paper
  • Wire Brushes
See all materials
Brittany | Our Home Made Easy

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 22 questions
  • Mandy
    on Sep 19, 2017

    I'm sorry but did I miss something? I was interested to find new idea or affordable way to remove paint - using paint remover is obviously what it's for as your article shows - but expensive - any cheaper or natural product ideas (besides heat gun) out there?

  • Debbie
    on Sep 20, 2017

    can you buy the stripper in Canada and if so which stores I would like to try this I will try some store while waiting for the answer

  • Ryp32841039
    on Mar 7, 2018

    does this remove the stain also or just varnish??

Join the conversation

3 of 58 comments
  • Jay
    on Jan 18, 2018

    5 years ago everyone was all gung ho about painting EVERYTHING in that crappy milk paint or similar stuff. Shabby they called it! Now everyone is going to be stripping all that crap off to get back to the beautiful wood it was at first. I said it then, I’ll say it again, it’s a fad that won’t last. Now you waisted time painting it, and twice again over to strip it. If you would have just cleaned it up the first time you’d still be looking at that great piece of furniture and not worried about how it’s looking. And spend that time loving the kids or taking a nap!

  • Linda Brewer
    on Jan 29, 2018

    i wanted to see the refinished product

    • Hi Linda! The focus of this post was to remove the paint & varnish. I have more posts that show it in the painting & retaining stage. It's a large project!

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