I bought a GIANT candle stick from a vintage market. It’s solid wood and I’ll use it for my bedroom that we’re currently making over- probably as a plant stand. I think it’s cute painted, but I definitely bought it planning on stripping it. So I thought I’d share some paint stripping tips especially since this is a tricky piece with detailed wood.
Here’s what the plant/candle stand looked like at the vintage market.
You can see that there were some drips of polyurethane. The bones on this piece are so good! Ready to see how paint stripping works on it?!
paint stripping tutorial
Let’s start with the video tutorial so you get an overview on what I did. Then, I’ll dive in with more details below:
If the video doesn’t work here, you can watch it on YouTube here. I’d be over the moon happy if you subscribed to my YouTube channel! Videos are actually released on YouTube first (usually the night before they’re published on the blog). Thank you!
- Plastic Wrap
- Chip Brush
- Rubber Gloves
- Mineral Spirits
- Steel Wool (Super Fine #0000)
- Plastic Scraper
- Scrub Brush
- Contour Scraper Set
I wanted to provide a price breakdown for this paint stripping project. Turns out, removing paint can add up! I spent $13 on stripper, $9 on mineral spirits, $5 on steel wool, $1 on a plastic scraper, $4 on a scrub brush, and $16 on the contour scraper set. I had the plastic wrap, chip brush, and rubber gloves on hand.
For stripping this plant stand I spent $48.
When removing paint from furniture, there’s three main options- stripper, heat gun, or sanding. For furniture with details or curved edges, a stripper works best on those areas because it’s the easiest way to get paint out of the crevices and rounded areas.
If furniture has a combination of detailed areas and flat areas, you could also sand or using the heat gun on the flat surfaces and then use stripper on the curved or intricate sections.
The down side of stripper is that it’s a slow process. It’s also messy and can be smelly.
step 1- prep
Start by laying dow a piece of cardboard or plastic sheeting under whatever you’re stripping. This is a messy project and there is a lot of debris from the scraped paint and stripper, so it’s good to protect the ground. In the past I’ve stripped my stairs and the stripper got everywhere and ruined a few things. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Remember safety and wear gloves on your hands. The stripper removes paint so you definitely don’t want it to touch your skin. I recommend rubber gloves instead of latex gloves since the stripper can eat through latex. I ended up needing two sets of gloves because the first ones ripped while I was working on the piece.
Work in a well ventilated area. Even thought the stripper is safe to use inside, if possible, work outside. If using inside (which the Citristrip container says is safe), make sure to turn on a fan and open a window since it is a little stinky.
step 2- apply the stripper
Brush on Citristrip with an inexpensive chip brush. Put it on liberally– the thicker the better! The more stripper that’s brushed on, the better it’ll work at pulling up the old paint. My piece has three coats of paint, so I definitely needed to go thick. I like to brush on the stripper until all I see is the pink gel and none of the finish underneath.
Make sure to work in small sections as the stripper is applied. You don’t want to cover the whole piece in stripper because it takes too long to scrape it off. So some of the Citristrip might dry up and more will have to be re-applied. Scrapping off the paint is a tiring process so it’s best to break it up into workable sections.
Cover the Citristrip with plastic food wrap. This will trap in the moisture from the gel stripper and keep it working longer. Push out any air bubbles and make sure all of the stripper is covered.
Let the stripper sit. According to the instructions on the Citristrip bottle, you can leave on the stripping gel on a surface from a minimum of 30 minutes to a maximum of up to 24 hours. The longer the stripper is wet on the surface of what it’s being applied to, the easier it’ll be to remove the stain or paint.
I personally recommend letting the Citristrip sit overnight and having it sit on the piece covered for at least 12 hours. Let the stripper do the work for you! Plan ahead that it’ll take a few days to complete all the stripping so it can sit and paint removal is as easy as possible.
step 3- paint removal
Next, remove the plastic and see how the finish is looking. If the paint or stain removes easily, start working on it. If not, cover it again and come back to it later.
Here’s the process I like to do to when paint stripping from wood-
First, I use the plastic scraper to remove as much paint as possible. I keep a plastic bag near by so that I can scrape it off the furniture and dump it in the bag. I get off all the paint and stripper that’s on the flat surfaces first. This is the easy (and fun!) stuff to remove. Especially when it comes off in big chunks!
If there’s a stubborn section of paint that won’t come off with the plastic scraper, I use the back of the scrub brush to rub a little harder. There’s a plastic edge that you can put more pressure on than the plastic scraper. I don’t love the scrub brush for removing the stripper- it just fills with gunk and doesn’t remove it well.
A wire brush is another option instead of the scrub brush. I didn’t feel like I needed it, but it’s nice to have many tools to see what works on the piece and what you prefer. When using a brush, make sure to wear goggles so that the stripper or paint doesn’t end up in your eye.
Second, I dip a piece of steel wool into mineral spirits. Make sure to use the #0000 super fine steel wool so the wood doesn’t get scratched up. I keep the mineral spirits in the bottom of a milk jug that I cut in half (that way I reuse something and can throw it away later).
I rub the steel wool over the detailed surfaces and anywhere with gooey paint/stripper still on the furniture. Since this gunks up the steel wool, I use different sections of it as I go. The steel wool is flexible so it’s great at getting in curves and around detailed wood carvings.
Third, I take a dry piece of steel wool and rub it over the section of the furniture I’m currently working on. This removes any bits of gooey gunk that might be on the surface still.
Last, I use the contour scraper with the pointiest tip to get the paint out of all the cracks and crevices. This helps remove the last bit of paint the other tools couldn’t reach. This has a metal tip so be careful to not gouge the wood. A toothpick would also be able to get in the tight spaces and not damage the piece (thought it’s not as strong).
And now continue to work across the whole piece of furniture. I like to apply stripper first thing in the morning, then if it’s ready, remove it around 6:00pm. Once that’s first section is done, I apply more stripper so it’s ready for scrapping in the morning. That makes it so I can do two sections of stripping each day.
How long does stripping take? Each section I removed took an average of one hour of scrapping. That’s hard work with lots of elbow grease. I was able to strip my piece in three days. Each piece will take a different amount of time and will depend on the size, how intricate the wood is, how many layers of paint/stain, and how long the stripper is left on for.
Finally, once the whole piece is done, use sand paper and clean up any sections that might have a bit of paint left.
Clean up. I threw away the cardboard and swept the ground of any peeled off paint. The reason I use a $2 chip brush is so I can dispose of it after stripping projects. I cleaned off my tools and put them away.
Note, the furniture will need to dry. It gets soaked in the stripping process from the stain and the mineral spirits. Let it dry a few days and note that the wood may lighten up in color as it dries.
Here’s what it looked like wet. After a few days, it had nicely dried out to a lighter color-
Then I made the mistake to add a furniture butter to the piece. I should have tested out one section, but I was ready to be done to I covered the whole thing. Now it’s too dark for my liking so I’ll be working on it again- stay tuned.
Here’s how it turned out. I’m happy with the paint stripping, but not the dark color. I couldn’t get all of the paint out of the crevices, but don’t mind it.
I do love that it’s easier to see the details and the beautiful wood grain now!
I think this piece will be great for holding a plant, candle or bust. It’s super big and heavy and will be really pretty in the bedroom we’re redoing!
Anyway, I hope this paint stripping tutorial was helpful! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.
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