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

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 the furniture. Then, remove the existing finish using a paint stripper and sand and prime the furniture. 

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

This article reveals the method to prep furniture for paint, including the cleaner to use and if sanding and priming are necessary. So, let’s dive in.

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 furniture. If the furniture 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 paint will have stains and stain rings. Applying paint over dirty furniture will cause the stains to affect the paint and discolor it. In some cases, the stains will bleed through the paint and ruin the paint job. 

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 the furniture. If the furniture has damaged spots, you must fix them before painting. 

Sand The 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 furniture grain and remove imperfections from the surface.

Sanding is necessary if you are painting new furniture. That’s because sanding will even out rough edges and splinters and remove nail holes, pencil marks, and other defects from the workshop. To sand new furniture, start with medium-grit sandpaper and finish with a fine-grit sandpaper.

If you paint over rough edges and splinters, the finish will develop paint bumps and swell up as dry air gets underneath it. If you don’t sand furniture before painting, the finish will have bumps, fish eyes, and uneven spots. 

Sanding is also necessary if you are painting old furniture. The old furniture is already painted and has imperfections. Sanding will remove the existing finish and create a smooth layer for the new paint to stick to. 

Prime The 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 furniture surface may have.

For instance, if the furniture has blotched or discolored spots, a dark-shade primer will cover the imperfections before the paint is applied. 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 furniture 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 furniture, you must use a primer. The primer will cover the old finish and prevent bleed-through. 

However, you must pick the adequate primer for the type of paint you will use. Use a water-based primer for water-based paint and oil-based primer for oil-based paint. 

How To Prep Furniture Before Painting?

Prepping and cleaning furniture is essential to having a perfect result after painting. To clean and prep the wood, you need the following tools and supplies:

  • 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 or paint on objects you don’t want to.

Cover all objects around it with a drop sheet and masking tape if you can’t take the furniture outdoors.

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

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

4. Clean Stubborn Stain With a Solvent

Here’s how to remove stubborn stains from furniture using rubbing alcohol:

  1. Pour rubbing alcohol into a clean bowl,
  2. Soak a clean rag into 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 From Furniture

The sticker residue will prevent the paint from sticking to the furniture. 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 to dissolve the sticker glue. The best solvent to use for this task is Goo Gone. 

To remove sticker residue from furniture:

  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 furniture is clean and dry, sand it with a fine-grit sandpaper. Sanding produces a lot of dust, so vacuum the dust and wipe the furniture after sanding. 

Also, you must apply primer before painting furniture. To apply primer, use a paintbrush and apply 2 coats of primer. 

7. Paint The Furniture

After sanding, you can paint the furniture.

Products To Use To Clean Furniture Before Painting

Products To Use To Clean Furniture Before Painting

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

These are:

  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. Vinegar can dissolve and remove stubborn old stains from wood furniture. 

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 vinegar 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 furniture, especially furniture with an existing finish.

Acetone is a natural paint remover that dissolves and removes oil paint from surfaces. Since rubbing alcohol contains a percentage of acetone, it can be used on old paints. 

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

After using rubbing alcohol on furniture, you must clean the rubbing alcohol residue using a clean rag. 

3. Mineral Spirits

You can use mineral spirits to clean furniture before painting. But, you should use mineral spirits over furniture painted with oil-based paint. That’s because mineral spirits is a petroleum-based solvent that removes oil-based stains and paints. 

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

4. TSP (Trisodium Phosphate)

TSP is a crystalline solution in a solid form that can clean the furniture surface. However, you must mix TSP with warm water before using it. 

TSP is alkaline, making it perfect for absorbing smelly stains on the furniture.

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

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

6. Olive Oil and Baking Soda Solution

Olive oil and baking soda mixture will remove any stain from the furniture. 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 the wood. 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 furniture 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 furniture before paint is applied.

Goo Gone is perfect for removing sticky film and glue from wooden surfaces. Also, the cleaning agent leaves a nice citrus fragrance behind. 

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