How To Remove Paint from Wood Furniture


How to remove paint from furniture for a natural finishAs I mentioned when I shared my hutch makeover a few weeks back, I tried several different methods to remove the finish from the shelves. I wanted a natural look on that and although it was a bit labor intensive, it was definitely worth it. I also wanted to practice on that one before touching the vintage dresser I found on Facebook Marketplace.

You can read the different methods I tried to remove the finish from the hutch here. Today I will focus on how I removed the paint from this vintage dresser, using the methods I found most effective.

What You Will Need to Remove Paint From Wood*:

Zip Strip

Spackle Knife

Palm Sander

Wire Brush with Scraper

Angled Sanding Sponge

Safety Glasses

Rubber Gloves


This is what the dresser looked like when I picked it up. I realize it’s beautiful as it was. However, the one time I find a piece that is painted beautifully it turned out that color was the exact same color of the walls in the bedroom where this was going. What are the odds? Had that not been the case, I would’ve left this as-is. Also, my original design plan for this bedroom was for an unfinished wood dresser, so there were 2 legitimate reasons to tackle this project.

vintage whitney dresser


First I removed the drawers and brought the dresser outside. The chemical stripper I used is called Zip Strip, and while it’s not the worst thing I ever smelled, it definitely needs to be done outside or in a really well-ventilated area. I purchased it from a local hardware store. I did an online search and found it isn’t carried in the major stores as I would expect.

You should wear rubber gloves & safety glasses when using these chemicals to protect your skin. I had a drop or two splatter on my arm and it was uncomfortable.

I worked in sections, painting the zip strip on and letting it sit. The directions say to wait 10-20 minutes, but I found 10 was enough. After 20 it was starting to dry, but that could also be dependant on the weather conditions, so I would recommend testing it first.

Then I used a spackle knife to scrape off the paint in the areas where I applied the zip strip. I found using one straight motion rather than a back and forth motion was much more effective.

I did all the flat surfaces this way, sometimes going over stubborn areas twice.

stripping the finish off furniture

The top section definitely had to be done twice. Here is another progress shot when I moved onto the sides.

furniture stripping


Once I went through the process with the chemical remover, I sanded the entire piece down with my husband’s palm sander. This helped smooth it out as well as get down to the lighter wood tone underneath which was what I was looking for.

What made me nervous about removing the paint on this vintage dresser was the spindle legs on the front. Scraping those would be too difficult. I picked up a wire brush from my local hardware store for those sections. I used the paint remover on the spindles first as I did with the rest, but I wiped it off with paper towels rather than the spackle knife. Then I used the wire brush to remove the rest.

removing the finish from furniture for a natural wood tone look

The wire brush worked well for this, thankfully. One end had a small scraper on it which really came in handy.

Once the frame of the dresser was all done, I worked on the drawers in the same way. First the chemical remover, then scraping and finally sanding. For the knobs, I let them sit in a bowl of the zip strip and used the wire brush on those. I found the more generously you apply the Zip Strip the better the paint will come off.

stripping paint from furniture


I also used an angled sanding sponge to get down into some of the corners where the wire brush didn’t fully get to. That worked perfectly.

angled sanding sponge


I’m so glad I didn’t let the amount of work required to remove paint from wood furniture to deter me from doing it because I love how this looks now!

removing the finish from wood furniture for a natural look


I am still considering adding a light cerusing wax or possibly a whitewashed stain, like on did on the hutch shelves. I’m going to wait until the rest of the bedroom is complete before I decide on that.




Next up is to buy a headboard. I know there will be lots of Memorial Day sales this coming weekend so I’ll be shopping for the best deal.

removing paint from wood furniture, vintage dresser


(Update:  You can see the finished bedroom makeover here.)

Pin it for later:

After trying several methods we found this to be the most effective way to remove paint from wood furniture

*This post may contain affiliate links, you can read my full disclosure here. Linking up with BNOTP.


  1. Wow. That’s not an easy task. Especially when you are going to leave it natural which means getting every little detail done. Great job!

  2. I absolutely love this dresser in the natural state and love the style as well. I think you’d agree it was worth the effort although it was a huge undertaking.

  3. I have stripped furniture over the years and it’s a ton of work. Worth it though, depending on the piece!

  4. I just love the look of natural wood. You did a fabulous job. Thanks for the tutorial and ideas.

  5. It turned out great, well done! The natural wood is really something special! Thanks for sharing. All the best, Carolina at Ironmongery Experts.

  6. Looks sooo good! Getting sick of beautiful wood furniture being turned into carnival pieces!

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