How to Remove Paint from Wood with Paint Stripper

Remove paint from wood with paint stripper and restore your piece of furniture back to its beautiful wood grain! This post shows you how to strip painted furniture step by step.

How to Strip Painted Furniture

It’s been a bit since I’ve redone a piece of furniture around here, but I’ve been working on our bedroom [VERY slowly], which included Donnie’s dresser that looked like this:

Painted Dresser Before Photo

I liked it, but it didn’t match with the aqua/white/gray palette that I had been envisioning, so I knew it was time to jump in and change up the look.

Waaaaayyyyyyy back in 2014, I bought this dresser on Craigslist for just $40 to turn it into a TV stand for our townhouse. It was beat up, but it also had a ton of character, and I couldn’t wait to make it our own.

$40 Craigslist Dresser Before Makeover

I painted it blue, spray painted the hardware gold, and it worked well as our living room TV stand for years before we moved.

Dresser Turned into a TV Stand and Painted Blue

In our current house, this piece does double duty as Donnie’s dresser + our bedroom TV stand. To help it fit in with the rest of our bedroom, I envisioned painting most of the piece white, but I really wanted to stain the top to give it sort of a coastal-y vibe.

In order to stain it though, I was going to have to strip the paint from it, which seemed like an intimidating job. It didn’t end up being all that bad though, so I thought I’d share the process I used in case you have a piece of furniture that could use a little TLC.

How to Strip Painted Furniture

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

Step 1- Gather Supplies

I used the following supplies to strip the paint from the top of my dresser:

Step 2- Assess the Surface

Not all furniture pieces are great candidates for stripping and staining. If the original finish had been painted, for example, I may not have had quality wood underneath that would be able to be resurrected.

Since my piece was unpainted when I got it, I knew that there was worthy wood under my coats of paint and that it would be able to take stain once it had been stripped.

Step 3- Rub Down the Surface with CitriStrip

There are many ways to go about removing paint from wood, but I opted to use a stripping gel called CitriStrip because it promised (and delivered!) no harsh fumes.

CitriStrip Stripping Gel to Remove Paint from Wood Furniture

Wearing gloves to protect my hands, I used a rag to spread a generous coat of the CitriStrip onto the top piece of the dresser. (You could also use a paint brush.) Per the instructions on the label, I let it sit for 30 minutes.

Rubbing CitriStrip on Painted Furniture to Remove Paint

Step 4- Scrape Off the Paint

Once the half an hour was up, I used a plastic scraping tool to scrape off the paint, which had now been loosened from the surface. (Don’t use a metal scraper– it could harm the wood!)

Plastic Scraper Used to Remove Paint from Wood Furniture

When the paint came up, it was kind of a gooey, sticky consistency. I wiped it from my scraper into a bucket we had, but I ended up having to throw the entire bucket away because it was so sticky and I couldn’t remove it all from the bucket. If I was doing it again, I would use a plastic tub or container that I was going to be throwing away anyway (like a big butter tub or gallon ice cream tub or even the bottom of a milk jug).

Step 5- Repeat the CitriStrip + Scrape Process as Needed

Some of the paint came up easily. In other places it was more stubborn. In the spots where it wasn’t coming up as easily, I would rub more of the CitriStrip, wait for a bit, then scrape again.

Step 6- Use Steel Wool to Remove Paint from Wood on Tough Spots

My dresser has a beveled edge, which made it difficult to scrape because of the bumps and grooves. On these smaller nooks and crannies, I rubbed steel wool against the paint after CitriStrip had been applied, and it took the paint off easily.

Beveled Edge of Stained Dresser

I also used the steel wool on some particularly stubborn spots on the top surface of the dresser, and it helped there as well.

Step 7- Use Mineral Spirits to Clean Up the Surface

Once I had CitriStripped, scraped, and used steel wool, I used mineral spirits on a rag to wipe down the surface and remove any excess paint and stripper.

Step 8- Follow Up with an Orbital Sander if Needed

After all of my scraping, the paint had been removed, but I could tell there was still a bit of a clear coating in some places from the previous finish of the dresser, so Donnie did a quick pass over the surface with his orbital sander to remove any final residue.

Dresser Primed and Ready for Paint

I wiped down the piece one last time to remove any dust, and then I was ready to stain!

Step 9- Stain (and Paint, if Desired)

I used 3 coats of Varathane Weathered Oak on the top portion of the dresser, allowing the stain to dry in between coats.

Since the bottom, painted part of the dresser seemed a bit slick, even after I had roughed it up with sand paper and I already had some primer on hand, I applied a quick coat of primer and then painted the bottom part of the dresser with Behr Marquee Cameo White in a satin finish.

Once everything had dried, I used three coats of clear Minwax Polycrylic to protect the entire piece, and it was complete!

Refinished Dresser with Stained Top
Wood Grain on Stained Dresser, Remove Paint from Wood
I love that I can see the beautiful grain and movement of the wood now!

While I also liked the blue, the new look fits in so much better with the feel I was going for in our bedroom!

Before and After Painted Dresser Makeover

This was one of those projects that was intimidating when I started, but it ended up being easier than I expected. (And the final outcome was definitely worth it!)

Thanks for following along! Have a wonderful day!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.