Preparing and Cleaning Furniture

Whether it is an old piece of furniture that has been sitting around for years waiting for a face lift or a recent craigslist or garage sale find, I always recommend a good cleaning before painting.   I use mineral spirits because it dries fast and I am usually in a hurry to get started.  However, I do recommend waiting at least 30 minutes before painting.  

Remove all knobs and hardware from the drawers, it makes it easier to paint.  You can also paint the knobs using Chick Paint.  Sometimes I paint the base of a dresser and knobs one color and the drawers a different color.  It makes for a nice contrast. 

Methods of Cleaning: 

TSP     Note: If there is oil base paint on the furniture then I would clean with TSP (a granular product that is mixed with water and can be found at most hardware stores)  TSP roughens up the gloss of the oil base.  Be careful with TSP because it will remove some surface paint.  This is also good to use on laminates or glossy surfaces.  Use an old t-shirt or lint free cloth, dip in solution, wring cloth and wipe down the furniture.  Allow it to dry thoroughly before painting.  This method takes the longest to dry because you open up the grain of the wood and it stays wet for awhile.  I recommend waiting 12-14 hours before painting.  Always wear gloves when using TSP.

Mineral Spirits     Using an old t-shirt or a lint free cloth, dampen the rag slightly with mineral spirits and wipe down the piece making sure to rub in the direction of the wood.  Mineral spirits removes dirt and oil/grease.  This is my personal preference for cleaning.  It dries in about 30 minutes.  Then p

Alcohol     You can also use alcohol with a ratio of 60% alcohol and 40% water.  Again, wipe down in the direction of the wood grain and allow to dry.  This takes a little longer to dry because of the water. 

If the furniture is a laminate or polyurethane, please see my notes about laminates on the How To Use Chick Paint page.

Stains and Bleed-thru:  Sometimes this can be a problem. If it is an old piece of furniture with a red based stain or the furniture has water marks, it is difficult to cover up those imperfections.  You can use up to two or three coats of paint and for some reason there is still bleed through.  I use a product called Zinsser.  I like the clear spray because it is easy to use, but read the warning label.  It must be used outdoors and with adequate ventilation.  If there are water marks on the top you must spray the entire top, it will have a different ending finish if you just spot spray it. 

Zinsser also comes in a quart size container that you can use a brush to apply.  It only comes in white and again if you are planning to Zinsser the entire piece it is perfectly fine to use, but I prefer the clear.  Just personal preference.  The primer can be tinted at the hardware store.  If you are planning on distressing the piece and you do not want the white to show thru, have the primer tinted close to the color you want to show thru.  

Remove loose paint or rust:  It is important to remove any loose paint or rust before painting.  I find sandpaper works great.  You always want to start any project with a clean smooth surface.



Caution:  Any time you sand furniture, especially old furniture it is important to protect your eyes and lungs.  Old furniture may contain lead-based paint and is dangerous.  If you scrape or sand old furniture you may release lead dust.  Lead is toxic and can cause brain damage, especially in children.  Pregnant women should avoid exposure.  Wear a NIOSH approved respirator to control lead exposure.    

Under most circumstances you need not prime or sand for the paint to adhere.  Again, if you have a laminate finish or glossy finish please refer back to my previous statement on the How to Use Chick Paint page for my suggestions.  

Sand using a fine grit sandpaper.  Sandpaper grits of 180-100 are appropriate for light sanding of laminate/glossy surfaces.  Wipe down the surface with a lint-free cloth and follow with wiping it down using mineral spirits on a lint free cloth.  Since laminates and glossy surfaces are sometimes difficult for paint to adhere, I suggest testing an area first j
ust to make sure you do not need a primer.  

I sometimes use a 320 grit sandpaper as a final once over before waxing.  It just removes any imperfections that may be on the furniture and gives the final product a silky smooth finish.  Takes about 5 minutes, if that long.  Not necessary to do with Chick Paint unless you are looking for a high gloss shine.  


Mineral Spirits
Mineral spirits.  Dampen cloth and wipe down furniture. Removes dirt and grease/oil. Let dry.
Great for covering up stains and bleed through. Don't forget the goggles and use in a well-ventilated area.

Good cleaner for glossy surfaces and laminates, just be careful what you touch with the cleaner, it will remove paint.

Sandpaper can be found in various grits, my favorites are 150, 220 and 320. The higher the number of grit the finer the sandpaper.

This is a NIOSH approved respirator. Be careful when removing or sanding old furniture because you can release toxic lead dust.