How to Strip Wood Furniture
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After removing the finish from the flat areas, use scotchbrite, a stiff brush (plastic, natural bristle, or brass) to remove the finish from all the curved, recessed, and raised surfaces. Brushes make the task easier, but you want to be careful to avoid scratching the wood; especially with soft woods. In most cases a stiff natural bristle brush or Scotchbrite will be your best choice. Brass bristle brushes are useful when trying to remove paint residue from the pores of wood like oak.
Use Scotchbrite and/or brushes to remove the finish from surfaces that aren't flat.
Once it looks like the stripper has removed all it's going to, use scotchbrite and liberal amounts of lacquer thinner to clean the residue from the wood. Lacquer thinner is strong enough to help remove any residual finish and will also remove the wax that's in the stripper. Pour the lacquer thinner in another can and wash the piece down thoroughly. Follow the scotchbrite with clean cooton cloths or heavy duty paper towels (e.g., Scott Shop Towels) and more clean lacquer thinner. Look for any shiny spots that indicate areas where the finish hasn't been completely removed and scrub them clean. If the lacquer thinner doesn't remove the traces of finish from the shiny spots, use a little more stripper on them. When clean towels and lacquer thinner stop picking up residue, the piece is stripped and clean. Let it sit for a day to dry out before starting on the new finish. The wood should look dull and dry if the old finish has been completely removed.
After removing the finish, take all the sludge and mix it with wood shavings or kitty litter in one of your cans. Leave the can open in a safe place and let the solvents completely evaporate. Once the solvents are gone, you're left with the same finish you had, only it's dried up in a can and you can dispose of it safely. Check with your local trash company to see if the waste can be disposed of in the regular trash or if you need to take it to a hazardous waste disposal site. Some localities have scheduled days for disposing of household hazardous waste at no charge.
Methylene Chloride (MC) is non-flammable, but it is toxic and a suspected carcinogen. When inhaled, the fumes metabolize in the blood to form carbon monoxide. This causes your heart to pump harder and can trigger heart attacks in people with existing heart conditions. If you have a heart condition, avoid using a stripper that contains MC.
Alkali fortified MC is often used in "marine grade" finish removers and are available at most marine supply stores (your local home center, hardware, or paint store may stock it as well). Alkali fortified MC strippers are effective on tougher coatings such as epoxy and polyester. They are more expensive and hazardous to work with so additional care should be taken when using these strippers.
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