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Do I Need To Strip Furniture Before Painting?

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There are lots of preparations that you should do before painting wood furniture, depending on the type of wood and paint that you are going to use. You can either scrape, sand, or strip it. So do you need to strip furniture before painting or is sanding enough?

Do I Need To Strip Furniture Before Painting?

You need to strip furniture before painting depending on many different factors. It includes the type of wood and paint used, its physical condition, and its previous color or the stain of the wood. Sometimes, stripping is unnecessary depending on the situations above as well. 

Below are the specific reasons why or why not strip the furniture before painting. If you feel like you need to strip the furniture that you have before painting it, we have provided procedures on how to strip your furniture, too.

Man preparing a chair before stripping it raw

When to Strip Furniture Before Painting

Stripping furniture can be difficult, messy, and time-consuming. Just like sanding it will require some hand effort and a lot of patience. You will also be required to use some chemicals to help you do the stripping. When to strip furniture before painting, then?

  • You need to strip the furniture before painting if the previous paint on your wood is too old. You have to completely remove it because bubbling and peeling may happen when the new paint is combined with it. Stripping the old paint will allow the new paint to grip stronger on the furniture.
  • You strip the furniture if the wood has lots of obvious scratches.
  • You need to remove old paint on the furniture if you notice dampness.
  • You need to strip the furniture using a chemical stripper if you want to restore it to its previous wood stain. You may also use this for the detailed parts of the furniture. You should observe proper safety precautions when using a chemical stripper.
  • Stripping may be necessary if you want to change the color of the furniture from dark to light.

When Not to Strip Furniture Before Painting

Stripping is not always the solution if you want to repaint your old furniture. In some situations that we are going to talk about below, stripping may not be the best option. There are other things that you can do to clean up your furniture, which can sometimes be easier than stripping.

  • If you can use wood fillers for scratches, cracks, chips, and holes, stripping the furniture won’t be necessary.
  • If the furniture has minor dents, you can just use steam or iron to fix them.
  • If you are planning to change from light-colored furniture to a darker one, stripping can be skipped. You can just sand some rough or uneven surfaces and paint them.
  • Repainting with the same color of paint is good enough if there are just stains and spots on the old paint of the furniture.
  • You don’t have to do the stripping part if you are planning to paint raw furniture. Some light sanding will do.
Man sanding a furniture before painting

How to Strip Furniture Before Painting

If you have honestly assessed the condition of your wood furniture and decided that it needs stripping, here are the steps on how to strip furniture before painting. If not, you can go on and start with your project.

Step 1: Prepare the Stripping Tools

Before beginning with any handy work, make sure that you have all the materials that you need around you. This is to avoid going in and out of the house or the area where you work. Having all you need reachable by hand can prevent spills and other accidents.

Here are the materials that you should prepare:

  • Protective gloves
  • Chemical stripper
  • Brushes
  • Sander
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Protective goggles
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Scraper/Putty Knife
  • Mask

Step 2: Find a Safe Work Area

Since you are working with chemicals, you don’t want your children or pets to be playing around and smell all the chemicals in the room. Choose a spot in the yard or garage where you can work quietly and freely. Also, stripping a piece of furniture can be messy, so you don’t want to do it on the carpet.

Make sure that the area is well-ventilated, far from any source of fire or any flammable substances, because it can react to the chemical that you’re going to use. You may also want to cover your work area with a tarp or old newspaper to avoid stains.

Step 3: Prepare the Furniture and Begin Stripping

Remove all drawers, knobs, or handles from the furniture. Wear your protective gloves, mask, and goggles. Apply the chemical stripper all over the furniture carefully. Let it stay there for 30 minutes and you will see the paint sliding off the furniture like melting butter. 

Hand painting a table in white

Step 4: Scrape Off the Remaining Old Paint

Remove all the remaining old paint using a scraper or a putty knife. Make sure to have a small bucket or any container or cloth where you can clean the edges of your scraper. Do the scraping by portion to avoid skipping any part of the furniture. 

If there are still some parts of the furniture with old paint, you can apply a second coating of the stripper. Wait for it to dry and repeat the scraping process until it’s all clean and ready.

Step 5: Sand and Stain or Paint

Last but not the least is the sanding part. Before covering your furniture with paint, you need to make sure that it will stick to the wood. By sanding it with medium-grit sandpaper, you can prepare the wood for staining or painting.

After sanding the furniture, don’t forget to wipe it first with a lint-free, damp cloth before applying any primer, stain, or paint to avoid a bumpy look. If the furniture feels rough enough for the paint to get a grip, sanding won’t be necessary. It will also depend on the primer and paint that you’re going to use.

Related Questions

Is It Better to Sand or Strip Furniture Before Painting?

Sanding or stripping will depend on the condition of the furniture. If you want to have a cleaner starting point, stripping is better than sanding. Through stripping you can completely remove old paint with less effort, while sanding can only smoothen or roughen the surface of the furniture. However, stripping is a lot messier than sanding.

How Do You Neutralize Wood Furniture After Stripping?

You can neutralize or clean wood furniture after stripping by using a mixture of water and vinegar. Combine the two liquids in equal amounts. You may use a piece of cloth to apply the solution to the surface of the furniture. Allow it to stay for a few minutes then wipe it dry with a clean cloth.


Stripping furniture before painting is optional. It can depend on the condition of the wood furniture and the paint on it. If there are a few scratches and spots on the surface of the furniture, stripping won’t be necessary. If the furniture looks beaten up, then stripping would be a great option.