5 Ways of Stripping Furniture Without Chemicals

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 06/11/23 • 

Removing old and beaten-up paint or other finishes from furniture is always and sometimes a labor-intensive job. While there is no way to change that, knowing the best available materials can help. If you want to strip furniture without chemicals, you’re in the right place. This article discusses different methods to strip furniture without chemicals.

1. Hand and Electric Sanding

Sanding is the first method to remove a finish from furniture. There are two ways of sanding furniture: hand and electric sanding. Both methods will take your time, and you’ll need patience and skill to strip down furniture effectively.

When sanding furniture to remove the finish, you’ll need to use a lower grit sandpaper like #80 grit to cut through the finish to the bare wood. Afterward, you can progressively use finer sandpapers like #100, #150, and #180 grits to smoothen the wood before applying a new finish.

Hand sanding is the most common type of sanding for many people. Usually, a sanding block is used to make it easier to sand. Electric sanders are also great and make it easier and faster to strip down a finish. An electric sander is better for flat surfaces, and you’ll do more work in less time. For stripping the finish out of narrow grooves, such as chair spindles, backing the sandpaper to your hand or sign abrasive cords is the best option.

2. Using a Heat Gun

A heat gun uses heat to make paint softening the paint, which makes it more pliable and easier to remove. When using a heat gun, you’ll also require a paint scraper to remove the paint from the furniture’s surface more easily. Heat guns are great for removing old paint, varnish, and other film-building furniture finishes.

First, use a heat gun to remove paint, turn it on and heat it up to the highest setting. Hold the heat gun near the furniture’s surface in order to heat up the finish and soften it. Once you see the finish softening or bubbling, take your metallic scrapper and gently scrape off the loose layers of the finish.


A heat gun removes film-building finishes such as lacquer, polyurethane, varnish, and shellac. When on its lowest setting, this heat gun works well and can melt most finishes from wood. It feels nice on your hand and is not heavy or too bulky. It's also simple to use with just one switch.

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Using a heat gun might only remove some of the finish from the furniture by itself. Once you’re done scrapping off the paint, you will slightly sand the furniture for a smoother and more even surface.

3. Use a Paint Scraper

A scraper is another tool you can use to strip a finish from furniture. Unlike the standard paint scraper you use, a carbide paint scraper is a better option and removes more paint faster. It can be used to remove film-building finishes like lacquer, varnish, paint, shellac, polyurethane, varnish, and much more.

A carbide scraper is a hand tool that has a blade made from carbide. Carbide is a popular metal used for different woodworking cutting blades because of its durability and faster cutting. The carbide paint scraper is easy to use and quickly cuts through paint and other finishes.

Bahco 665 Ergonomic Carbide Scrape

This carbide scraper removes paint and other film-building finishes from wood. It is easy to use and has an ergonomic, comfortable design. The scraper cut through layers of paint easily to remove the old finish. Overall, it is an excellent performance when removing finishes.

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To use a carbide scraper, hold it onto the surface at a slight angle and apply a little pressure as you pull it towards you. As you pull the carbide scraper, it will remove paint from the wood. However, apply slight pressure, and remember to go toward the grain so you don’t damage the wood. Carbide scrapers are better for larger and flat surfaces.

4. Pressure Washer to Strip Paint

For outdoor furniture where you want to remove loose and peeling paint so you can refinish, a pressure washer is a better option compared to manually scraping the paint. Apart from removing paint from outdoor furniture, a pressure washer can be used on larger wood projects such as decks and fences.

To remove paint using a pressure washer, it is recommended to have a PSI rating of at least 3000. Also, use the pressure washer at an angle to effectively peel paint from the wood. Move the pressure washer along the grain of the wood so that you don’t risk damaging the wood when stripping the paint.

5. Try Natural Paint Strippers

Most chemical paint strippers contain methylene chloride and other potentially dangerous chemicals to your health. However, there are natural paint strippers that are less toxic and contain fewer volatile organic compounds. These include soy-based and citrus-based paint strippers.

Citrus-based strippers contain organic compounds, like terpenes, that are derived from plants like oranges and pine resin. Because of their low toxic levels, citrus-based paint strippers take more time to strip paint but are completely safe for removing most finishes from paint, polyurethane, varnish, lacquer, shellac, and much more.

Citristrip Stripping Gel
$22.40 ($0.70 / Fl Oz)

The Citristrip is a stripping gel that can easily strip different finishes from wood from polyurethane, varnish, lacquer, shellac, latex, and oil-based paints. Apply the stripper and let it sit for a few hours for the best results. It is easy to use and works well when stripping different finishes.

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Soy-based paint removers also contain organic compounds, like methyl coyote derived from soybean oil. Methyl coyote is a better solvent than petroleum-based solvents because its low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), has no ozone-depleting chemicals, and has low flammability. It is very safe to use on wood and other surfaces where you’d want to remove paint or a finish.


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