Strip Tease

Relax!  I’m keeping all my clothes on! ….maybe….

just kidding I am.

A while back I was gifted this little number (read: my roommate moved out and left it behind), and I absolutely love it except for one itty bitty detail.  It's black.
(We’ll address those safety goggles in a moment)
Now I have nothing against dark furniture, it's great for some people, but I am just not a black bedroom dresser kind of gal.  In addition to being black, the paint on this guy had a shiny finish that thwarted all of my attempts to paint over it.  If I wanted to keep the dresser, my only option was to refinish.

Like any good millenial, I trusted that the google gods could teach me how to refinish like a pro, and you know what I discovered?  There is not one decent "how-to" for this on the interwebs.  Not one. So I *gasp* went to the library, read some stuff, and now I'm here rectifying this awful internet wrong.

Hey! Google! This is how you refinish things!

It's definitely a project that will take some time, but it's weirdly meditative and the results are absolutely worth it.  So pick a piece of furniture you like (preferably in an awful color), grab some stripper, and cue that Genuwine.

Step one: Assemble everything you’re going to need.
  • paint stripper
  • turpentine
  • a flat edge scraper (something like an old spatula or spreading tool)
  • Paintbrush
  • Empty paint can
  • Old rags
  • Sand paper
  • Swiffer pads
  • Your favorite paint
  • rubber gloves (the heaviest duty you can find)
  • Long sleeves and pants you don’t mind destroying
  • Eye protection
Step two:  Remove hardware and move the dresser to a well ventilated area
Keep the hardware all together with screws etc. so nothing gets lost in this process (it’ll be a few days before you can put it back on)
Ideally you want to do this outside.  Stripping chemicals smell to HIGH HEAVEN and you don’t want to breathe those fumes for any longer than you have to.  If you care at all about the surface you’re stripping on, be sure to use protective covering on the ground….this gets MESSY
Conveniently for me, my porch already isn't in the most beautiful condition, so I felt confident I could get away with just a few pizza boxes underneath…you should probably use something bigger.
Step three: Put on your safety gear
These chemicals are Nasty (capital N) and you do not want their carcinogenic, smelly, and corrosive selves getting onto you.  The stripper will literally eat through paint and it will also literally eat through your jeans.  Cover up!!! AND all this protective equipment is a good second use for those chemistry goggles from college you never threw away!
Step four: Cue the Marvin Gaye and start stripping!!!
Lay the furniture piece horizontally with the first side you’re going to strip facing up.  Spread a thick layer of stripper on with the old paintbrush.   This is not the time to be stingy, put on as much stripper as you think is enough, and then add some more. It’s best to do this in an area less than 3′x3′ so the fumes stay at a minimum, but if you’re outside or wearing a charcoal filter mask you can get away with a little more surface area at a time.  Let the stripper sit on the furniture for at least 20 minutes.  Don’t touch it, don’t look at it, don’t think about it.  Go inside and have yourself a nice glass ‘o lemonade.  When you come back out, like magic, the paint should be blistering up
Use the scraper or old spatula to *gently* remove the paint.  It should slide off very easily.  If not, apply more stripper and wait longer.  The edges of the spatula can easily cause scratches to the softened wood, so be careful not to press too hard.
Collect the paint/stripper sludge in the empty paint can, then continue to the next section, repeating until the whole piece is stripped of paint.

Step five: Turpentine!
Most strippers leave behind a waxy residue you may not immediately notice that will stop the new paint from clinging to the wood.  To get rid of the residue, apply some turpentine to a clean old rag, and gently wipe down the freshly stripped piece.  The turpentine will also help to eliminate any small bits of paint left clinging to the wood.  Because you’re removing the waxy build up, switch the section of rag frequently so it is still effective.
Step six: Wait.
Put the piece in a well ventilated area, and allow it to dry COMPLETELY.  This will take at least 24 hours, although leaving it longer never hurt anyone.  Bare wood absorbs water like craaaaazy so be sure where ever you leave it is dry, and the piece won’t get, for example, rained on.
Step seven:  Dispose of the sludge
Fun fact: paint stripper sludge can spontaneously combust
Fo realz.  Set the paint can full of sludge in a *cool* well ventilated area and allow it to dry out completely.  Only once dry, put the lid on the paint can, and then call your local waste disposal to find out how to dispose of it properly (you can’t just throw it out with your regular trash).
Step eight: Sand
To get this beauty in tip top shape before painting, sand her down to get rid of any last remaining paint, and any ridges that may have been caused by your spatula scraping.   While you’re at it, go ahead and give her a name.  You two have spent a lot of time together, and now you’ve seen her naked.  It’s only fair.

Step nine: Wipe off the dust
Use a swiffer pad to gently wipe all the dust off the newly sanded piece so the paint can stick properly.  Do this a few times, you’ll be surprised how much comes off

Step 10:  Paint!!!
After all this work you’re finally ready to finish!  Apply your favorite paint all over, re-attach the hardware, and voila! A brand new dresser!!


  1. Thank you thank you thank you so much for this tutorial!!!! I'm srtipping my first piece ever and appreciate all the details you included. By the way, the stripper I chose is an " orange" smelling type. So nice when I have to do it in my garage!

    1. Good luck!!! Just be very patient because it is a long process but sooooo rewarding!

  2. I have just downloaded iStripper, and now I enjoy having the hottest virtual strippers on my taskbar.