How to Prep and Clean Furniture Before Painting? (7 Steps)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

To get a smooth finish, clean and prep the furniture before panting. But, how to do it?

To prep your furniture, remove all objects over and around it. Also, remove its existing finish using a paint stripper and sand and prime the furniture.

You also must remove any bumps or gouges from the furniture. Once it is cleaned, sanded. and primed, you can apply the paint.

Why Should You Clean Furniture Before Painting?

You must clean the furniture before painting to remove dust, filth, and grime from the surface. These contaminants will prevent paint from bonding perfectly to the surface. If the surface is riddled with dirt, oily scum, and filth, the paint will have a weak adhesion and peel off after a few days.

Besides peeling off, the finish will have stains and stain rings. Applying paint over dirty surface will cause the stains to affect the finish and discolor it. In some cases, the stains will bleed through the finsih and ruin it.

Cleaning the furniture also helps you to get a clear view of the surface you will paint. This way, you can spot blotched and damaged areas of it. If the surface has damaged spots, you must fix them before painting.

Do You Need to Sand Furniture Before Painting?

Sand The Furniture Before Painting

You must sand furniture before painting to get a smooth finish. Sanding with medium and fine-grit sandpaper will even out the wood grain and remove imperfections from the surface.

Sanding is necessary because it will even out rough edges and splinters and remove nail holes, pencil marks, and other defects from it. To sand new furniture, start with medium-grit sandpaper and finish with fine-grit sandpaper.

If you paint over rough edges and splinters, the finish will develop bumps and swell up as dry air gets underneath it. Sanding is also necessary if you are painting old furniture. The old surfaces are already painted and have imperfections. Sanding will remove the existing finish and create a smooth layer for the new paint to stick to.

Do You Need to Apply Primer To Furniture Before Painting?

Prime The Furniture Before Painting

You must prime furniture before painting to create a smooth layer for the paint to stick to. Priming also helps to cover any imperfections or holes the surface may have.

For instance, if the surface has blotched or discolored spots, a dark-shade primer will cover these imperfections. This prevents the discolored spots from affecting the appearance of the finish.

Priming can also help if you want to switch the paint type (oil or water). For example, if the surface has an existing oil-based finish and you want to use water-based paint, you must apply a primer first. This is because the primer will cover the oil-based finish and allow the water-based paint to stick.

Also, if you want to change the shade of the finish, you must use a primer. If you want to paint white color paint over existing black-painted finish, you must use a primer. The primer will cover the old finish and prevent bleed-through.

How To Prep Furniture Before Painting?

Prepping and cleaning furniture is essential to having a perfect result after painting.

Here are the tools you need:

  • A vacuum
  • A pair of work gloves
  • A cleaning solution (pick one of the 7 discussed above)
  • A clean bowl
  • Warm water
  • A sponge or scrubbing pad
  • Sandpaper (Medium and Fine-grit sandpaper)
  • Paint primer
  • Paintbrushes

1. Remove Objects Over The Furniture

First, remove all objects on and around the furniture. If you can, move the furniture to a workshop, garage, or backyard, so you have more space to work with. There is also less risk of getting dirt on objects you don’t want to.

Cover all objects around it with a drop sheet and masking tape.

2. Wipe Down The Wood With A Rag

Next, wipe the wood with a rag. Don’t use solvent yet because you don’t know where all the stains are. After wiping the wood, inspect it to find the stains.

3. Wash The Wood

Start cleaning the surface by using a mixture of dish soap and warm water. Dip a scrubbing pad into the mixture, squeeze it and start scrubbing the surface. You must use a scrubbing pad that doesn’t absorb water so you don’t oversaturate the wood.

Once you clean it, rinse it with clean water and leave it to dry. Check for stains that didn’t come off after the surface is dry. You must remove these stains with a solvent.

4. Clean Stubborn Stain With a Solvent

Use rubbing alcohol to remove stubborn stains:

  1. Pour rubbing alcohol into a clean bowl,
  2. Soak a clean rag in the rubbing alcohol.
  3. Use the dampened rag to blot and dab over the stained areas.
  4. Leave rubbing alcohol over stained spots for 15 minutes.
  5. After 15 minutes, the rubbing alcohol will dissolve and remove the stain.
  6. Once the stains are gone, clean the surface.
  7. If there are leftover stains, repeat the process.

5. Remove Sticker Residue

The sticker residue will prevent the paint from sticking. You must remove the sticker residue before painting. If you don’t, the paint will peel off from the spots the residue is on.

To remove sticker residue from furniture, use a solvent that can dissolve it. The best solvent to use for this task is Goo Gone.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Apply Goo Gone solvent to the sticker residue.
  2. Wait a few minutes.
  3. After, use a toothbrush to scrub down the affected area.
  4. The sticker residue will come off as you scrub.
  5. Apply more Goo Gone if there’s leftover glue.
  6. Once the glue residue is off, clean the surface with a damp rag and leave it to dry.

6. Sand and Prime The Furniture

Once the surface is clean and dry, sand it with fine-grit sandpaper. Sanding produces a lot of dust, so vacuum the dust and wipe the surface after sanding. Also, you must apply a coat of primer too. To apply primer, use a paintbrush to apply two coats.

7. Apply Paint

After sanding, you can paint the furniture.

Which Products Can You Use to Clean Furniture?

Products To Use To Clean Furniture Before Painting

You can use different cleaning products to clean furniture. But, cleaning agents that contain acids like bleach can etch and discolor the surface if used carelessly. So for you to don’t end up damaging your furniture, we have compiled a list of cleaners you can use:

  1. Vinegar
  2. Rubbing Alcohol
  3. Mineral Spirits
  4. TSP
  5. Dish soap
  6. Olive oil and baking soda solution
  7. Goo Gone

Let’s check them out.

1. Vinegar

Vinegar is a mild acid that can be used to clean wooden furniture. It can dissolve and remove stubborn old stains. To remove oily grime from wood, you can mix vinegar with other cleaning agents such as olive oil, lemon, or talcum powder.

However, you should use vinegar only for filthy and stubborn stains. If the wood isn’t too dirty, you must dilute it before using it. That’s because vinegar in high amounts can bleach and damage porous wood.

2. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is an ethanol and acetone-based cleaning agent that cleans wooden surfaces. Acetone is a natural paint remover that dissolves and removes oil finishes from surfaces. Since rubbing alcohol contains a percentage of acetone, it can be used on old finishes.

However, you must use rubbing alcohol in small quantities. If you use too much rubbing alcohol, the wood will absorb it. When this happens, it will be difficult to paint over the furniture because it has absorbed a natural paint remover.

After using rubbing alcohol, you must clean its residue using a clean rag.

3. Mineral Spirits

You can use mineral spirits to clean furniture that have an oil-based finish. That’s because mineral spirits is a petroleum-based solvent that removes oil-based finishes.

Mineral spirits help to highlight flaws like discolored spots on the surface. This can help you notice areas to fix.

4. TSP (Trisodium Phosphate)

TSP is a crystalline solution in a solid form that can clean different surfaces. However, you must mix it with warm water before using it. TSP is alkaline, making it perfect for absorbing stains on the surface.

After cleaning with TSP, you must wipe the wood with a clean rag to remove its crystal residue. If you don’t, they can cause bumps and pimples in the finish.

5. Dish Soap

Using dish soap is a perfect way to remove stains from wood before painting. For best results, mix the dish soap with warm water, and use a sponge or scrubbing pad to clean the surface. The soapy water dissolves the stain while the sponge scrubs off the stubborn stains.

After using dish soap, you must rinse the wood with clean water. This removes the excess soap residue. The downside of using it is that you must wait a few hours until the furniture is dry before painting it.

6. Olive Oil and Baking Soda Solution

The olive oil and baking soda mixture will remove any stain from any surface. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 cup of baking soda into a bowl of warm water and stir. The mixture will create an abrasive layer that will scrub off old stains from surfaces. You can also add lemon juice to the mix to increase its potency and fragrance.

Soak a microfiber cloth into the mixture and use the dampened rag over the wood to remove the stains. You don’t need to use a scrubbing pad for this. However, after you remove the stains, you must clean the surface with water to remove the mixture residue.

7. Goo Gone

Goo Gone is a powerful citrus-based cleaning agent that you can use on furniture. It dissolves, removes, and disinfects surfaces before paint is applied. It is perfect for removing sticky film and glue.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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