How To: Remove Paint From Decorative Wood Details

How to remove paint from wood carvings - pocketful of PosiesThis post contains affiliate links however, all goods used were purchased by me and all opinions are my own. For my full disclosure policy click here.

Have you ever found a piece of furniture with great bones and beautiful details that you want to refinish, but have no idea where to start?  Today I am going to show you how to remove all the paint and old stain from those beautiful details it can be refinished.

I want to start out by saying I think painting furniture can be a wonderful and amazingly transformative but, I also don’t think  every piece of furniture I makeover needs to be painted.  I think sometimes we get too caught up in slapping another coat of paint on something and we forget about the history that comes with a lot of these pieces.  A lot of these pieces are older than our parents and even our grandparents.  They have often already gone through several lives or changes before we see them.

For instance the project I am currently working on, our entry table, has gone through at least 5 such lives, It’s original walnut, then a powder blue, lime green, puke green and it’s new life with me.  Its an old 1930s-1940s walnut table with beautiful turned legs that someone committed a terrible sin against by painted it such a putrid color.  My dad picked up this hidden gem for me on one of his antique adventures a couple of years ago and I am finally getting around to fixing it up.

No matter what angle you look at it, this is just not a nice color and it doesn’t blend with our house at all.  So I want to give it a new look.  For this project I am going to repaint the lower part and refinish the top bringing back the natural beauty of the wood.  However, this is all to come in a later post.

Today I am only focusing on the process of removing all of this old paint from the top detailed edge of the table.  It is a decent amount of work but in the end I think it will have a much prettier and warmer look than just adding more paint.

project recipe

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  • Back to Nature Ready Strip I love this stuff because it doesn’t stink, it won’t burn your skin, it’s environmentally friendly, it costs about the same, and it even does a better job removing old paint.
  • Latex Free Disposable Nitrile Gloves I prefer disposable gloves when working with stain and especial stripper.  They will get a gunked up and it’s nice to just toss and forget.  Always be sure to use latex free.  Regular latex gloves will disintegrate as soon as the stain or stripper comes in contact.  Not good at all.
  • Paint Scraper   I prefer the kind with the little tooth on the end.  This especially came in handy on this project because it helped me scrape the last little bits of paint from the grooves.
  • Stripping Brush
  • Old Tooth Brush
  • Small Bucket of Water

To start my project I simply applied the Ready Strip to the surface of my project using a paint brush.  Any brush will work fine, apply in a even coat.  Not too thin, it should be thick enough to see the opaque green color.  Then let it sit. This will take anywhere it took anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for it to change color. The instructions say it will turn an off white color when it is ready to remove, but I found that it was ready when it took on the color of the paint underneath.

When the stripper turned the same puke green as my table I took my wire stripping brush and scrapped off all the paint that had lifted.  You will want to use firm but not harsh strokes when removing the paint. If the the wire brush seems like it is too stiff you can also use the toothbrush for this step.  Next I used my toothbrush and bucket of water to wash away as much paint and stripper from grooves as possible.

After a quick dry with a paper towel I repeated the process.  There was so much paint on the table it took me three passes to remove all the paint.  On the final pass I used the tooth end to my paint scrapper to lightly scrape out any remaining paint and debris left in the grooves.  Be careful not to scar or scratch the wood by pushing too hard.  These marks will show up later should you decide to restain the wood.

Once everything has been thoroughly cleaned and dried you are ready to move on with your project.  For me, I will be staining the top.  But you could be removing the old paint so the details will still be clear if you decide to repaint.  Remember that chalk paint is thicker than normal paint so it will always hide more of the details.

Are you working on any projects right now?  I’d love to hear about them below!

Shop my styleLooking to remove some old paint or stain?  Here are few of my favorite products.

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55 thoughts on “How To: Remove Paint From Decorative Wood Details

  1. I agree, that one most take care in choosing to paint a piece! I always have shied away from stripping a piece as it seems like too much work and a dirty job. Thanks for sharing this, I may give this a shot! 🙂

  2. Excellent step by step instructions. That looks like a lot of work, but it is something I have always wanted to try.

  3. this is an excellent tip. bookmarking your site for my husband. He has a couple projects he is working on.

  4. Great tutorial! I love painting furniture but I also have several pieces in my home in their original state that I’d never dream of painting. I love your step by step instructions for removing paint!

    1. Thank you Amy! I love having a mix of pieces. Some are painted, some are not. I love the warmth of the wood but color is nice too! Thank you for always leaving such nice comments!


  5. Great info! I so prefer unpainted furniture to painted. I’m a more traditional person.

    1. Thank you M! I love to have a nice mix. Some painted, some not. But I always consider what I am painting first!

  6. Those are great tips. I’ve never tried doing a project like this, but you made it so easy.

  7. Hi Cat! This is a really helpful post that I’ll be sure to pin! I see that you’ve linked up to The Fab Furniture Flippin’ Contest at Anastasia Vintage; however, as noted above the link up, the contest is open only to the bloggers who’ve joined our FB group and signed up to participate this month. If you’d like to participate in future contests, we’d love to have you! Please contact Evey ( or Stacy ( to find out how! Thanks! 😀

  8. Thanks forthe information! I hate stripping paint off furniture! Pinned to my Furniture board. LindaCrafts a la mode

    1. Thank you Linda! I agree stripping can be boring and sometimes it takes forever, but the end result is so amazing!


  9. This is a great piece. I have never tried anything like this as I haven’t had the guts to try them and because I didn’t know where to start and now I do. I have a few pieces that I could do this to. Thanks for the great post! (found you on Marv. Mondays).

    1. Thank you Denise! I hope you give it a try! Refinishing furniture can be intimidating but it really isn’t that difficult. Mostly it takes time and patience. The hardest part for me is always the patience. Good luck! I’d love to see one of your projects!


  10. The piece is fantastic! There’s so much character in the details so I love how you stripped it down to the original wood. I’m sure it’s going to look fabulous once it’s finished. Can’t wait to see! Pinned and tweeted. Thanks for linking up to Merry Monday, hope to see you again next week!

  11. This is a great tutorial! I know it will come in handy for some pieces that I’ve seen while thrifting. 🙂 Thanks for linking up to Friday Favorites and hope to see you again this week! I have also pinned your post.

  12. Thanks so much for sharing this great tutorial at Something to Talk About Cat! It’s great for folks like me that would have been hesitant to try and remove old paint!

  13. Thanks for linking up with our party! I’m featuring your post on tomorrow’s new link party, so grab a button if you’d like :)

  14. Wow, I find it hard enough painting the walls (a project I am working on right now) rather than painting furniture! Awesome job.

    Thanks for linking up to Marvelous Monday on Smart Party Planning.

    1. Thank you Catherine! Good luck with your walls! I am in the middle of one of those projects too!


    1. Thank you Lorraine! You should definitely give it a try! The hardest part about refinishing furniture is convincing yourself you can do it! Good Luck! I’d love to see your first project when it is finished!


    1. Thank you Shonee! I really appreciate it! I am finally getting around to writing the post on how the table turned out!

  15. I am working on a small antique table. I has many years of coats on it and it has been a real chore to get them all off. I am using Ready Strip and really recommend this stripper. The legs have groves that are the hardest to work. The toothbrush is a great idea. I will try that. I would have never thought of a wire stripping brush for fear of damaging the wood. I may try that too. Thanks for your advise and I enjoyed reading what others are doing.

    1. You’re so welcome Carolyn. You should always use caution when using the wire brush keep your pressure very light, and find one with “softer” bristles. The more flexible they are the less likely they are to scar the wood. Also always make sure you are working with the grain. If you go in any other direction, it can and will scar.

      Good luck on your project!


  16. You’re a person after my own heart. I also prefer the natural look of wood to nasty paint. Do you go for the matte finishes for that reason as well? I do, as I don’t like wood to look like plastic. 🙂

    It was probably my grandmother who coated a beautiful small night stand with a beigish olive paint. When I started removing this horrid paint from it (yes, uglier than your shade even), I discovered that it was a beautiful red oak underneath. So kind of like the paint in your picture, but imagine it with a bit more beige. It’s funny you mentioned puke green. I have been calling mine puke olive.

    I have been having a hell of a time getting the painting out of the grooves though, so I was looking online for ideas and found your post. But I was already using a toothbrush, except I was using Citrustrip for the stripper. It’s also less harsh, but it likes to stay in the grooves as well. Even when I try to wash it out.

    Fortunately this thing only had the one coat of paint, although underneath it was a couple of coats of stain and varnish to remove as well.

    I have to admit that I am starting to get impatient with it. I have done other pieces of furniture before, but this one has way more crevices and such. I think it will probably be very pretty, but I am kind of tired of it. It’s actually been sitting in my garage for some time half done because it was getting so annoying trying to get the paint and stripper out of the grooves. Today I took it up again because it was so humid outside that I wanted a project I could take inside and work on.

    I just put a coat of wood conditioner on the top. There is just one section I am concerned about that when I removed all the paint and stain looked like someone has spilled something black on it. Perhaps that is why I got painted. So I had to super sand that part, but now that section looks lighter with the wood conditioner on it.

    Since it is red oak, it is quite dark wood to start with. If it stayed the color the conditioner brought out in it, it wouldn’t even need stain, but I don’t know what will happen once it dries. I have never used wood conditioner before. Perhaps a coat will hide imperfection in the wood I mentioned.

    Anyway, saw your post, and it just reminded me of how I feel about some of these old pieces of furniture that end up with paint over them. I can see why they do that with new furniture. I bought some newer pieces at a thrift shop recently that I assumed by their weight were real wood. When I stripped them, I found a nasty cork wood section instead. It only cost $5 though. So this old furniture is worth it because it does tend to be beautiful wood underneath, but it is a pain as well.

    Anyway, good luck with your wood projects!

    1. Thank you so much Sheryl for all of your kind words! It is so nice to know that my site can reach someone so deeply! I hope you’ll come back and visit us some more! I would love to hear from you!

  17. I am remodeling the first Governor’s house in SD. It is an Italianate style home built in 1890 with amazing woodwork under about 20 layers of paint. Thanks for the tip, as there are miles of tiny grooves to clean out!

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