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Pro Tips on Refinishing Old Furniture

Refinishing old or antique furniture may be a time consuming process but it’s not necessarily a complicated one. Whether it is a family heirloom or a piece of furniture that needs restoring, there are particular steps you need to follow, in order to ensure there’s no damage. We’ve listed down a few steps you can follow while refinishing old furniture in your home.

Ensure Safety

The most important protocol to follow before you get started with refinishing, is safety. Restoring old furniture may involve the use of chemicals and tools that can be hazardous. Taking precautions becomes imperative for you and everyone in and around the house. First and foremost, make sure the tools you use are correct and easy to handle. This makes the task less complicated. Using protective gear like rubber gloves, long sleeves, eyewear can protect you from chemical spillage. If you’re working with chemicals, it is advised to work in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors, to avoid inhaling harmful vapors. Before using tools and products, make sure to read the instructions carefully. Working with solvents and paints may require certain professional or expert help, in case you’re not very sure about the job. 

Identify the Finish

Before you get started on the restoring job, it’s important to identify the finish on the antique furniture. While pigmented finishes like paint or enamel are easy to identify, natural finishes like shellac, varnish and lacquer may require you to perform some tests. You can start off by applying some denatured alcohol to an inconspicuous area of the furniture. If the finish comes off with the alcohol, it can be identified as a shellac coating. If it requires lacquer thinner to remove the finish, you might be dealing with lacquer. If it’s neither of the two, it could well be varnish.


Sometimes all you need to restore a piece of furniture is to give it a good round of cleaning. There are oil-based wood cleaners available in the market that help you cut through the layers of dirt and wax on the surface of the furniture. If the wood cleaner doesn’t work, you can switch to a solution of warm water and liquid detergent. You can apply the mixture with a cloth while also making sure the wood doesn’t get too wet. Once you’ve rinsed the area thoroughly, you dry it off with a soft, clean cloth. If none of this works, you may need to work with a solvent cleaner to refinish the piece of furniture. 


Before you start this process, make sure you fix the piece of furniture you’re working with. Make sure all the hinges are oiled and dried, the cracks are filled in and any broken pieces are repaired. Use a sandpaper with 100-120 grit and sand the piece of wood. After this, clean the surface using a vacuum and tack cloth. Now you can get started with applying a new coat of stain and finish for a new look. 

Restoring furniture can be a rewarding process if done properly. Make sure you read up about the process online or speak to someone who has done it before. Using the right tools and products can go a long way and remember to prioritize safety through the entire process.

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