Are you crushing over those drop-dead gorgeous natural wood finishes but cringing at the thought of using those harsh, toxic chemical strippers? This may be the answer your looking for.
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Natural Wood Finish – Sanding vs. Stripping
I’ve had this sideboard for a while now and have used it as my dresser. I wanted to strip the varnish down to a natural wood finish for a bit now, but as life would have it, things kept getting in the way—typical excuse.
Plus, I wanted to know what all the buzz was about with the GREENEZ strip & clean. Is it that good? Can it do the work of an electric sander?
Usually, I would have used my SurfPrep sander and just sanded away the old varnish down to the raw wood, but I thought I’d try it. Plus, it’s good to try new things. You never know why; you might find what you didn’t know you needed.
But before I do, let’s review a few differences between sanding and stripping.
- Sanding works best on large, flat wood surfaces.
- Strippers work best with delicate detail areas that sanding can’t get to
- Strippers take less effort
- Sanding with an electric sander is loud and messy if you don’t have a vacuum attachment.
- Strippers can be toxic and hazardous to your health
- Strippers typically take more than one application and are very messy
- Sanding away an old finish can clog sandpaper and make it challenging to finish your project
With that said, which method is best for a natural wood finish on furniture? The method that works best for you. I use both.
How To Get A Natural Wood Finish On Furniture
STEP 1: PREP
This product promotes that it’s environmentally friendly and non-toxic. However, it would help if you always took precautions when working with strippers. Always wear gloves, protective eyewear, and a gown (protective clothing) before applying.
Clean your wood furniture with the products of your choice and make any necessary repairs before starting this process.
The wood should be in good condition and able to withstand some vigorous scrubbing. Yes, I said, scrubbing. I’ll explain later on in this post.
How To Apply The Stripper
STEP 2: APPLICATION
Read the directions on the bottle, just in case I missed something. Not intentionally, but it does happen.
Shake the stripper well before applying. Use a disposable chip brush and apply a liberal amount to the wood. I used a good amount because other strippers I’ve used tend to dry out quickly in the past. The directions read to leave the stripper on anywhere from 2 to 4 hours.
The hardware on this piece wasn’t removable without damage, so I took a chance and left it in place. I was a little nervous but felt that it would be okay.
Next, I waited for the magic to begin. I daydreamed about natural wood finishes while I waited.
STEP 3: STRIPPER REMOVAL
After about 2 hours, I couldn’t stand the wait any longer. I was all daydreamed out!
It was visible that the stripper was eating away at the old varnish, and since this piece was old and had a thin varnish, I opted to go ahead and see how it was working.
So, I grabbed my paint scraping tool and started removing the gooey leftover mess. This is the part I HATE and why I don’t particularly appreciate using chemical strippers. But so far, it wasn’t so bad. No smell, and it was reasonably easy to remove.
Get ready to have an oopy goopy mess on your hands. I used a plastic-lined trashcan and disposed of the old varnish on top of paper towels to absorb the liquid.
As you can see in the photo that the stripper was very much still wet on the surface. The dry time is a lot longer than most strippers. Strippers are only active when damp, so this is a good thing in my book.
TAKE IT OUTSIDE!
After removing as much varnish as possible with the paint scraper, I did the unthinkable. If you have used strippers before, you know that the leftover stripper must be removed from the surface before you can finish your project piece. It needs to be as clean as a whistle.
Since the stripper is water-based, I decided to take it outside and GIVE IT A BATH! OMG, and it was 100 degrees when I did it! What was I thinking? That’s why I have no photos to show you.
I used the water hose and a spray nozzle with a scouring pad and went to town scrubbing. This method allowed me to get into all the hard-to-reach places. A toothbrush works well with fine details.
As I scrubbed (with a scouring pad), I rinsed with water and saw all that wet leftover varnish melt away.
The wood was still very dark, saturated with water, but the varnish was gone.
After allowing it to dry completely overnight, I was pleasantly surprised at the beautiful natural wood finish I had achieved.
Is this method unconventional? Yes, but it works. At least it works with this product.
Finishing Off The Natural Wood Finish
The wood will and did swell after getting wet for a prolonged period. You can expect the wood grain to be raised and rough to the touch after drying.
And the hardware was not damaged in any way. That’s a huge win for me! Sa-weet!
STEP 5: SMOOTHING THE WOOD GRAIN
Use 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the wood grain. You can do this by hand or with an electric sander. That’s totally up to you.
Wipe any remaining wood dust from sanding with a water-damp cloth.
To Seal Or Not To Seal The Natural Wood Finish?
That is the question! This step is optional in my book. Let me explain why.
I wanted a natural wood finish, meaning I wanted it to look like it did after stripping and cleaning. Raw wood!
There is no product that I have found that will not darken or alter the color of the wood. Hold on; I know what you’re thinking. The wood needs to be protected from wear, spills, and grime. I agree.
But it’s okay if you want to leave it all-natural. No rule says you must complete this step. Just be careful and use it in a room where it won’t get touched a lot.
This sideboard is going in my bedroom and will get very little traffic. I LOVE it!
The Finished Natural Wood Look
I’m sure this old gal never had a bath. LOL, but she now has a beautiful natural wood finish. Naked wood!
What about you? Would you leave the wood unsealed? I’d love to hear what you think about this makeover. Or say hi and let me know you stopped by. I LOVE hearing from you.
Thanks for sharing!
Until the next project… xo, Do