Lacquer is a waterproof and durable sealant, meaning removing it from wood is hard. So, how to remove it?
To remove lacquer from wood, use a lacquer thinner. Lacquer thinner is a combination of different solvents that can dissolve the plastic resins in the lacquer, making the sealant lose its bond to the wood. Once it loses its bond, you can wipe it off.
You can also mix the lacquer thinner with denatured alcohol – then wipe the lacquer with the mixture. Or, you can remove it by using a chemical-based paint stripper or sandpaper.
Remove Lacquer Without Sanding
To remove lacquer from wood without sanding, you can use a lacquer thinner or chemical-based paint stripper. Lacquer thinner is reinforced with solvents, such as acetone, that will penetrate the paint coating and dissolve its particles. Once the paint particles are dissolved, the coating will liquefy, and you can wipe it off.
However, the lacquer thinner won’t leave the wood in good condition. After removing the lacquer with a chemical-based paint stripper, you must wash the wood (to remove the paint stripper residue), sand it (to remove imperfections), and allow it to dry before re-painting it.
On the other hand, sanding will remove the paint and smooth the wood at the same time. After removing the paint by sanding, you can immediately re-paint it. That’s because sanding removes imperfections and smooths out the wood, making it ready for paint. Also, sanding doesn’t wet it, so you don’t need to wait for it to dry.
How To Remove Lacquer From Wood?
Removing lacquer from wood or porous surfaces is hard. That’s because lacquer adheres strongly to the wood, and the finish is waterproof, so it’s hard for solvents to penetrate it.
However, this guide will show you three methods you can use:
Note: Always use safety gear while working with paint removers.
1. Use Lacquer Thinner
You can use lacquer thinner to strip lacquer from wood. Lacquer thinner is made from different solvents that can dissolve the plastic resins on the sealant. These plastic resins bind together to make the lacquer finish tough and durable.
Also, lacquer thinner is specially made to thin (and remove) a lacquer sealant. Once the plastic resins are removed, you can wipe the sealant off the wood.
For this method, you’ll need these:
- Lacquer thinner
- Paint scraper
- Mineral spirits
- A foam sponge
- Denatured alcohol (optional)
Here is a guide to this:
- Clean the finish with a dry rag to remove dust and debris.
- Damp a rag with lacquer thinner. To speed up the removal process, you can also mix it with equal parts (1:1) of denatured alcohol.
- Use the dampened rag to wipe the finish repeatedly.
- Wait 10 minutes for the mixture to penetrate and dissolve the sealant.
- Once the sealant is dissolved, use a rag to wipe it off or a paint scraper to scrape it.
- Re-apply the lacquer thinner to the leftover sealant.
- Use a paint scraper to scrape the leftover.
- Use mineral spirits to remove the residue of the thinner.
- Clean the wood with soapy water and leave it to dry.
Sanding will remove the lacquer sealant and smooth the wood surface simultaneously. To do this, you must use sandpaper to wear the lacquer sealant off the wood surface. However, you shouldn’t use coarse-grit sandpaper as it can damage the wood. Instead, it’s best to use medium or fine-grit sandpaper.
For this step, you’ll need these:
- Sandpaper (medium and fine grit)
- A vacuum or duster
- A pair of gloves
- A power sander (optional)
Here is a guide to this:
- Wipe the lacquer finish with a rag to remove dust and dirt. If you don’t remove the dust, sanding won’t be as effective.
- For large surfaces, use a power sander.
- Sand the lacquer finish with medium-grit sandpaper.
- Remove dust and inspect the surface every 5 minutes to see if the lacquer sealant is off.
- Sand the wood with fine-grit sandpaper.
- Remove dust.
- Re-use or re-paint the wood. (Optional).
3. Use a Paint Stripper
You can remove lacquer from wood by using a paint stripper and scraping the paint off. The paint stripper will soften and dissolve the plastic resins of the lacquer, making it easier to scrape the sealant off.
For this method, you’ll need these:
- A paint scraper
- Paint stripper
- A waterproof bag
- A paintbrush
- A plastic putty knife
- Sandpaper (optional)
Here’s a guide to this:
- Remove dust and dirt from the finish.
- Apply a thick coat of paint stripper over the finish using a paint scraper.
- Wait a few minutes for the paint stripper to dissolve the sealant. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to see how long to wait.
- Scrape the lacquer off the wood using a paint scraper.
- Apply more paint stripper and follow the steps above for leftover sealant.
- Once the lacquer is removed, apply mineral spirits to remove the residue of the paint stripper.
- Clean the wood with soapy water and allow it to dry.
Other Methods You Can Use:
You can use acetone to strip lacquer because acetone is an alcohol-based solvent that can dissolve any type of paint or sealant. However, you must sand the wood after acetone to fully remove it. The acetone will dissolve the lacquer (or soften it), and the sandpaper will scrub off the loose sealant.
Some paint thinners can remove lacquer, and some can’t. Read the manufacturer’s instructions on the paint thinner to know if it can remove sealants.
You can’t use vinegar to strip lacquer because vinegar isn’t strong enough to penetrate or dissolve it. So, you can use vinegar to clean it but not to remove it.
Goo gone can’t remove lacquer paint because Goo Gone is a commercial household cleaning agent. As such, it’s designed to be finish-friendly. So, Goo Gone will remove stains and dirt over the finish, but not the finish.
Mineral spirits can’t strip lacquer from wood because it can’t penetrate it. However, mineral spirits can remove tiny spots of lacquer.
To do this, sprinkle mineral spirits on the small stains and use a sanding pad or brush to scrub the stains off. In this case, the mineral spirits will soften the sealant and make removing it easier. But, mineral spirits can’t remove multiple dry coats of lacquer.
Stripping lacquer from wood is hard because it adheres strongly to it. Also, the lacquer coating is waterproof and doesn’t allow liquid to penetrate it. To strip lacquer from wood, use lacquer thinner, chemical-based paint remover, or sand the sealant off.