Congratulations! You have decided to try your hand at updating an old piece of furniture! You have the perfect piece, you’ve decided what colors you want to use and how you are going to put them on. You’ve watched several videos on the painting technique and are confident that you can do this. You have purchased a high quality, no prep paint and wonderful paint brushes to get the best result. Now what?
Preparing your piece of furniture is the MOST IMPORTANT step in refinishing your piece of furniture. The most important step!!! But, what is prepping? Prepping is not fun or easy, but if it isn’t done correctly, your paint will not stick to your surface. You might get lucky and your piece looks good for a while, but eventually, your paint will begin to peel off. The first step is to clean your piece very well. Every piece is dirty, every piece has a build up of grime and oils. Normal use, hands touching and handling leave dirt and oil on every surface and they accumulate and build up over the years. There are several different ways to clean your furniture and I will go over a few of them.
For me, part of prepping is removing cobwebs inside and underneath my pieces. I use my trusty Shop-Vac to get rid all cobwebs and I wipe down the underside of each piece if I’m not going to paint or stain it. If I’m going to refinish the underside, then I would prep it the same as the rest of the piece.
The first way is just simple dish detergent and water. Make up a mixture and with a clean cloth scrub your piece down. You might need to use a Scotch-Brite Scrub Sponge to get the really deep grime off. Clean your entire piece. After I have cleaned it, I rinse it off. If any dirt comes off, I either clean it again with this mixture or I move on to a stronger cleaner.
A mixture of vinegar and water is a good cleaner also, it is about the same strength as the detergent and water. You don’t have to rinse this off. Clean the same way.
The next level of cleaner is using a degreaser. I like to use Mean Green or Awesome. You can Spray Mean Green directly on your piece and then scrub it or you can dilute it 1 part cleaner to 4 parts water. You can also use Awesome the same way. I always take a clean rag and wipe the piece down with clean water after I use these products, I don’t want to leave any residue that will interfere with my paint.
The most powerful cleaner that I use is Trisodium Phosphate or TSP for short. TSP is a heavy-duty phosphate cleaner and you must wear rubber gloves and a mask in a well-ventilated area. This is a powerful cleaner that will remove the finish and paint off your piece. This is a picture of a credenza that I refinished. The top picture is before cleaning and the bottom picture is after cleaning with TSP.
TSP is a beast so be careful when you use it. I used a scrubbing sponge on this to remove the finish on this piece if you just use a rag and elbow grease, your finish shouldn’t come off as much. Test your piece and the level you want the finish off. On some pieces, you won’t need to sand your piece after using TSP. You must use a clean rag and water to wipe away the residue that TSP leaves behind.
These are not the only cleaners you can use to start prepping your furniture for refinishing, but they are some of the most common ones. Cleaning your furniture is the first step in this process. After cleaning, you will need to sand your piece. On most pieces, you can use 120 grit sandpaper, wipe off the dust with a damp rag and let that dry. When dry, sand with 220 grit and wipe down again. You should now be ready to prime or paint your piece.
I have a short video that shows you some of these products and what they can do.
Thanks for reading, and I hope that I have given you some good information that you can use to transform your own worn-down pieces into ones that are uniquely yours!