How to Strip Furniture with Oven Cleaner
A complete guide on how to strip furniture with oven cleaner to get a beautiful, raw wood finish!
Getting the right beautiful, raw wood furniture finish can be achieved in multiple ways… But they all start with removing the old finish first. You can strip furniture physically, by sanding, or chemically, by using furniture stripper. Today I’m going to teach you how to chemically strip wood furniture using oven cleaner.
Note: as always, safety first! Please read the product directions carefully when stripping furniture using chemical strippers. And follow all recommended safety precautions, such as eye protection, gloves, etc.
Before I give you the step-by-step instructions for stripping furniture using oven cleaner, I’d like to mention a few things about stripping furniture in general. At the end of this post, you’ll find even more FAQs related to oven cleaner.
Stripping Wood Furniture
What is the easiest way to strip wood furniture?
I get this question and others like it SO often: what do you strip furniture with? What is the easiest way to strip furniture? What is the easiest way to remove varnish from wood? And so on…
Unfortunately, my answer is complicated: it depends. And stripping old paint and varnish is almost always a time consuming process.
Sometimes sanding with a palm or orbital sander is best, especially if the furniture is real solid wood and the surfaces are flat. On the other hand, though, if there is a veneer or lots of intricate carving, then chemically stripping the furniture is likely better. Here is one of the methods of chemical stripping that I have used many times. If the piece is painted, then a paint stripper is probably your best method.
However, if the piece is solid wood and has some curves or carvings… especially if you are trying to achieve a raw wood look, then oven cleaner might be a great solution.
Sometimes, a combination makes sense. In the image below, I sanded the doors and sides of this antique armoire with medium-grit sandpaper (on the bottom), while I used oven cleaner to strip the decorative carved portions (on the top).
How do you remove stain from wood?
Many strippers can remove polyurethane or varnish, but it can be difficult to remove the stain color that was applied beneath that top protective layer. I think that’s my favorite thing about the oven cleaner method: it seems to remove not only the top protective layer but also strips old stain colors out of the wood, leaving them with a more raw, natural look.
What kind of finishes can you remove with oven cleaner?
I have not had success with using oven cleaner to strip paint, but I have had success with removing various varnishes, oils, and poly finishes on vintage and antique furniture.
However, most furniture stripping projects are like a chemistry experiment: they sometimes involve some trial and error to remove the finish (especially if you don’t know exactly what kind of finish was on the piece originally), so be prepared for that.
What kind of wood furniture can you strip using oven cleaner?
The oven cleaner method is best used on real, solid wood. It will not work on manufactured wood (such as mdf). While it can be used on wood veneers, I would not recommend it because it can damage the wood veneer.
Because you have to get the piece of furniture wet to wash off the oven cleaner, veneers often will bubble or warp in the process. I have used it on a piece that had small sections of veneer on the drawers, and while it did not ruin them, I did have to reglue a portion.
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How to strip furniture with oven cleaner
- Easy Off oven cleaner
- bucket, dish soap, and soft bristle scrub brush (like the kind you would use for dishes or cleaning a tub)
- water hose with sprayer
- old towels or rags
- 220 grit sand paper (may not be needed)
- alcohol or mineral spirits and rag or tack cloth (for removing sanding dust)
How do you use Easy-Off oven cleaner to strip furniture? Here’s the step by step process:
- Prep your furniture and space.
Remove all hardware and place furniture in a well-ventilated outdoor location. I like to set up in the dirt or grass. But if you need to set up on the driveway or other finished surfaces, then you will want to lay down a tarp to contain the mess and protect your flooring.
If your piece of furniture has an underside that needs to be stripped, as well, then start with your piece upside down. Complete all the following steps for the underside first, then flip the piece over to do the top side.
- Spray the piece with oven cleaner.
Even though the oven cleaner says “fume free” and “no gloves required,” I would encourage using protective eyewear, gloves, and a mask just to be safe. Do as I say, not as I do. 😉
Generously spray oven cleaner over all the wooden surfaces until there is a thick layer of foam. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes (at this point the foam will begin to dissolve, which is fine, just try not to let it dry out completely).
- Scrub the piece with soap and water.
Put a teaspoon of dish soap in a bucket of water. Using a soft bristle scrubber, wash all the oven cleaner and former finish residue from the wood.
- Rinse the piece with clean water.
Using your water hose, spray off all the soap and other residue from the piece.
Note: real, solid wood can get wet without being damaged, but it should not remain wet for long. Dry the piece off as much as you can using the towels or rags and let dry in a well ventilated area. The wood color will lighten considerably as the piece dries.
- Repeat if necessary.
If you still see remains of the old finish or color when the piece is fully dry, repeat steps 2-4 until you have achieved the raw wood look you like.
- Lightly sand the piece.
This may not be necessary. But since wetting the furniture usually raises the grain of the wood slightly, I like to finish with a quick sanding either by hand or using a palm sander. Using 220 grit sandpaper gives the piece a fresh, smooth finish.
- Clean the piece.
Whether you intend to leave it natural or to protect it with a finish, you’ll need to clean the piece thoroughly to remove any sanding dust. I like to wipe the piece down with a rag with a little mineral spirits or alcohol (this should also remove any remaining paraffin from the oven cleaner if you intend to apply a different finish). You can also use a tack cloth to remove any sanding dust.
FAQs about Stripping Furniture with Oven Cleaner
- Is oven cleaner safe to use on furniture?
All chemical strippers come with some risk, so be sure to read the warning labels and decide for yourself. With proper precautions and ventilation, the risk is similar to using the product in your oven.
- What brand of oven cleaner should I use to strip furniture?
Easy Off is the only one I have tried, and I have found it effective!
- How does oven cleaner work to strip furniture?
Oven cleaner has solvents to break down the grime and grease in your oven, and those same solvents can break down old furniture finishes and stains. The thickening agents that help it stick to your oven surfaces also help it to stick to the surfaces of your furniture. This allows it to work on the surfaces longer than some typical chemical strippers which can run off or evaporate.
- Can I give furniture a new finish (i.e. paint or stain) after stripping it with oven cleaner?
Sure! I do recommend wiping the piece down with mineral spirits before staining or finishing just in case there is any remaining paraffin wax from the oven cleaner, as this could affect the way your wood takes a new finish.
I hope you find this new technique helpful in bringing out the beautiful wood grain of your next furniture project!
Hi Rachel! Your stripped peace looks really good but I have heard nothing but negative opinions on using oven cleanser. I guess I would try it on a small piece of home decor or something first. I heard that the mess that it makes is not worth the work and that the toxic levels in oven cleaner are worse than say, Citristrip.. that is the strongest and only stripper I have ever used. Thank you for sharing.
Hi Cheryl! Definitely explore what you are comfortable with. 🙂
Hi Rachel! Your pieces are gorgeous and are inspiring me to try the method! Have you ever stripped the finish off of kitchen cabinets? I have a lot of maple cabinets that are in great shape but I would like to lighten them up. They are stained what I would call a medium brown color. I fear this might be extremely labor intensive or not work at all. Any thoughts or experience with this? Thank you!
Maple is typically a difficult wood to stain as it is a hardwood. You’d have difficulty ventilating your kitchen space for the cabinet bases as well. For this application, I’d probably try an eco-friendly stripping option, but removing all the stain without sanding is probably not going to be possible.
This is amazing.. can you use it for cabinets? Wanting to strip my bathroom builder grade cabinets for a cheap upgrade. 😉
You’d have difficulty ventilating your bathroom space for the cabinet bases. I’d try a more eco-friendly option for indoor use. Often you can sand off the finish on builder grade.
Thank you for all the terrific information! I love the pictures, the cautions, and the thought that went into this article.
So glad you found it helpful!
Beautiful piece!! Absolutely love it. I use this technique and finished a desk. It turned out lovely but now I don’t know what To finish it with to keep the wood looking raw. I looked online but I just can’t find any answers. Any ideas? What do you use to finish off your lovely pieces of furniture and keep the raw look?
Hi Hilary! I have a whole post about that: https://www.maisondepax.com/how-to-get-raw-wood-look/
I been away, because I just loss my husband. I am not sure just how long I will be able to continue. Today, I feel a little stronger.
I love what you did here. Never heard nor thought to use oven cleaner, but I will going forward. Thank you!
Oh Ivory, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Praying for an extra measure of strength for you today!
I want to do a side board that has a small mirrow.. Do I need to clover it?
It wouldn’t hurt to protect it with plastic liner and painters tape
I want to use this technique on the top of dining table which is mahogany. I have already sanded off the dark red varnish and stain. Will this wood work with this technique? And how should I finish so it won’t stain from food or wine etc… varnish in Mate so it retains the raw wood look??
Sorry for the delay! If you’ve already sanded off the varnish and stain, then you don’t need to use oven cleaner… or are you referring to the legs? If the stain and varnish has been stripped, then what you have left is what raw mahogany looks like. It won’t look the same as my pieces because they were other kinds of wood. Either way, though, when you are happy with the look, you’ll want to protect it with some kind of sealer. Here are some ideas to try to maintain the raw wood look. I hope this helps!
Help! Followed your instructions and there is a white film everywhere on my table and legs after rinsing. We let it dry and it’s still there. Do I redo with the oven cleaner? We followed everything exactly so I’m confused as to what might have happened to my wood??? Was so hoping my table would turn out like all your pieces Thanks! .
I’m so sorry to hear that you’re having trouble, and I’m sorry for the slow reply! I’m behind on answering comments. When the oven cleaner dries, it does leave a white film… but mine has always washed off when scrubbed with the soapy water. You might try a light sanding to see if that removes the film… or you could certainly try another round. There are several pieces I’ve had to do twice since the full finish didn’t come off on the first round. I hope this helps!
Do you have pets? I am thinking of using this method on a China cabinet in the backyard but I am concerned some of it will be left and my pets will somehow get into it. Does it kill your grass?
Hi Carri, We don’t have any pets. I didn’t have issues with it killing grass, but you could use a plastic base to protect your lawn.