How to Strip Paint from Wood Easily

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It is not hard to learn how to strip paint off wood furniture. With a little patience and my favorite paint stripper, you can easily remove paint from painted furniture without a lot of elbow grease!

collage of round table before and after stripping paint with text reading how to strip paint the easy way

When we moved into our house last summer I knew there were a few areas that I wanted to buy furniture for. I’ve already shared our new living room furniture but hadn’t yet told you about our search for the perfect furniture for our eat-in kitchen area. Here is a picture of the space when we bought the house, before painting the walls and changing the lighting.

A kitchen with wooden cabinets, red walls and green walls in foreground

I knew from the get-go that I wanted a round table in this space. We’re a family of 5 and eat dinner in our regular dining room, I saw this space more for my boys to have breakfast at in the mornings before school and do homework so four chairs would be enough.

My husband was also wanting us to find something old to put in the space rather than buy a new table. Scouring the local vintage shops became our new hobby! Finally we found a table with the perfect “bones” for our space. It was painted a pretty sage green that unfortunately did not at all look good with our wall paint. It was time to strip that paint off the wood to see what was underneath!

sage round table in garage

How to Strip Paint off Wood Furniture

Sanding versus Stripping

I highly recommend stripping paint off wood over sanding whenever possible. Chemical strippers are easy to use and take a LOT less elbow grease. They also make it easy to get paint off intricate areas if you have wood furniture with carvings or details.

Using a chemical stripper also helps you get the paint off the wood without damaging it.

What is the best paint stripper for wood?

Years ago I realized that the easiest way to strip paint is with Citristrip. It’s a gel so it’s not messy and doesn’t have all the fumes other methods have.

How to use paint stripper safely

As with all paint strippers, Citristrip (affiliate link) is a strong caustic material. It is VERY IMPORTANT to follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly in order to safely use it.

  • Always use heavy duty gloves
  • Use is a well ventilated area and if in doubt, use with a respirator for added safety
citristrip, gloves, and paintbrush

Supplies for stripping paint off wood:

gloved hand holding paintbrush painting citristrip onto table top

Step by Step

  1. Clean your surface of dust and debris.
  2. Put on your gloves then apply a generous coat of Citristrip (affiliate link) to the painted surface using a paint brush, you’ll notice the Citristrip (affiliate link) has a thick, gel-like consistency and does not have the strong odor of other paint strippers.  It is important to use a thick coat (if your Citristrip (affiliate link) begins to dry out, it was not thick enough.)
  3. Allow the Citristrip (affiliate link) to sit on the project for 30 minutes and test a small area with your scraper.  You can leave the Citristrip (affiliate link) on the project for up to 24 hours before scraping.
  4. Scrape the Citristrip (affiliate link) and paint off the surface, scraping in the direction of the wood grain. The paint should be removed easily.
  5. Remove paint debris and thoroughly clean the bare surface. If there is lingering residue use an abrasive pad and mineral spirits to remove it.
  6. Sand surface lightly to remove any residual paint if necessary. That’s it!
A close up of a table with citristrip paint stripper on it

Video of Removing Paint from Wood

round table with paint stripped off the top

(I only stripped the top of the table that I wanted to stain, I painted straight over the sage paint on the bottom using three coats of this white milk paint.) I used this Dark Walnut stain on the top. I simply used an old cloth to apply it in the direction of the wood grain.

Here are my best beginner tips on how to paint furniture!

gloved hand wiping wood with stain

It applied beautifully, even in the areas you can see where there was some paint residue I couldn’t remove without damaging the wood. I used two coats of the stain followed by two coats of this polyurethane. Here is the table after the staining and painting were complete.

A round wooden table with white base

And here is the table in our eat-in kitchen, doesn’t it fit perfectly?

A kitchen with a dining room table and modern light fixture

I’m so pleased with the final look of the table and grateful I was able to transform it into exactly what I wanted!

Have you tried stripping paint before? Tell me about it in the comments!

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  1. Do you have tips on how to apply the stain? I don’t think I’ve done it well on previous projects and looking to improve.

  2. Really nice.. Got real useful tips I will definitely use this tips as a future reference, thank you!

  3. I’m doing a table very similar right now. It’s been our table for 20ish years and it needs a serious refresh due to water marks and just being outdated. I’m having trouble getting the hang of how much Citristrip to use. I’ve done two coats and scraped in between so I’m clearly not getting enough on there. But boy is it satisfying to scrape it off. I do have a question about scraping the rounded edges. How do I do that??

  4. I LOVE Citrustrip. After you “paint” it on the project cover it with cling wrap; it keeps the Citrustrip “wet” while it works it’s magic.

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