How to Remove Lacquer from Wood: Stripping Lacquer

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 06/09/23 • 

Lacquer is a fast-drying finish that imparts depth and richness to wood furniture, guitars, and other wooden surfaces. It has excellent durability and offers protection from different elements. If you’re looking to strip lacquer from your wood furniture, we’ll look at some methods you can use in this article.

Using Lacquer Thinner/Refinisher

Lacquer thinner is a solvent made by dissolving different solvents and blending them in many combinations. When dissolved correctly, lacquer thinner evaporates very quickly from a finish, which is sometimes desired when applying lacquer. However, to strip lacquer, lacquer thinner can be used to wash it off a wood’s surface easily.

Klean-Strip Lacquer Thinner
$27.38 ($0.21 / Fl Oz)

Lacquer thinners combine different solvents in different ratios. The Klean Strip Lacquer thinner is medium drying and great for thinning lacquer, washing brushes after applying lacquer, and stripping lacquer and other wood finishes. 

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A refinisher, on the other hand, is a mixture of solvents that will readily dissolve lacquer or shellac, turning it back to liquid form. However, a refinisher does not work on finishes such as polyurethane, paint, or oil varnishes.

Minwax Antique Furniture Refinisher
$22.98 ($0.72 / Fl Oz)

The Minwax Antique furniture refinisher combines different solvents and can easily strip varnish, shellac, and lacquer finishes from wood. The product works well and easily removes old finishes, and you can then use steel wool or a scraper to remove the melted finish. Also, remember to use it in a well-ventilated area.

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Both lacquer thinner and refinisher are flammable and poisonous and should be used in a well-ventilated area. These two work very fast and are the best method of removing lacquer from wood. You can also use a respirator mask or gloves to avoid inhaling or touching the solvents.

Stripping Lacquer Using Lacquer Thinner/Refinisher

Using a Chemical Stripper

Apart from lacquer thinner or a refinisher, you can also use chemical strippers to remove the lacquer. Most chemical strippers are more powerful and can easily remove lacquer, shellac, polyurethane, varnish, and many other wood finishes. When using other chemical strippers, follow the steps above; those will work when removing the lacquer.

Citristrip Stripping Gel
$21.48 ($0.67 / 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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However, be sure to be careful when using chemicals such as methylene chloride (DCM) or Caustics. While both are non-flammable, DCM is hazardous, while caustic can be very harmful to the skin and mucous membranes. Handle them with care and use necessary protection.

Using a Heat Gun

A heat gun uses heat to soften a lacquer finish, which can then be scrapped off the wood’s surface using a plastic scraper. Heat guns can be used to strip different finishes from lacquer, polyurethane, varnish, shellac, and other film-building finishes.

BLACK+DECKER Heat Gun
$30.99

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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When using a heat gun, turn it up to the highest setting and pass it over a lacquer finish. As the lacquer finish breaks down and becomes soft, scrape it with a scrapper to remove it. Although it will take more time, this is another effective method of removing a lacquer finish.

Once you’ve removed all the lacquer finish from the surface, you might have to slightly sand the wood’s surface to remove the remaining lacquer from the wood’s pores.

Sanding a Lacquer Finish

If you plan to remove lacquer by sanding, we recommend not going this route. Lacquer and other finishes, such as varnish, are hard to sand and will clog up the sandpaper faster. This will take you more time and sandpaper to sand down the lacquer finish. Most of the above-mentioned methods are more effective and will guarantee the best results when done properly.

MWB-Team

Hello there! This is the Make Wood Better Team. Here, we share informative how-tos and guides focused on making wood better. Whether it's finishing wood, maintenance, or restoration, there's something on this website for you to learn and improve your skills.