We often get asked how to get a professional painted finish on wood furniture. Our answer often surprises people: a good cleaning! Cleaning wood furniture before you start painting is THE most important step to get a durable painted finish. Below we share with you the best way to get clean furniture before painting.
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Tip #1 – clean BEFORE you sand
Old furniture will have dirt, dust, grease and grime that you cannot see. It seems like it goes without saying that you need to clean your furniture before painting. However, sometimes people are lulled into thinking cleaning is not necessary when using a “no prep” paint. Or, even more often, people assume there’s no need to clean before you sand since you’re sanding off the existing finish anyways. But, if you start sanding before you clean, you will sand all that nastiness into your wood and it will ultimately compromise your painted finish. Taking a little extra time to clean your wood furniture before sanding will make a huge different to the quality of your paint finish and its durability.
Tip #2 – use a degreaser
There are many products you can buy, or recipes you can make, to use as a cleaner. Make sure that whatever you use, it will remove grease! The easiest way is to apply it to your furniture using a spray bottle, working in sections, and rubbing gently with a soft cloth. Here are some of our favorite cleaners:
- Homemade – equal parts water and vinegar with a few drops of dish soap.
- Furniture prep – Cottage Paint and Fusion Mineral Paint make excellent products specifically designed to clean your wood furniture before painting. These products are highly effective AND do not require rinsing before you sand/paint!
- TSP or alternative – easy to find and effective. But see tip #4 below!
Tip #3 – use a soft cloth
It’s tempting to use abrasive pads or sponges to scrub away at dirty wood furniture. Resist temptation! Abrasive cloths can scratch your wood surface! An old t-shirt or these awesome scrub pads are really good for cleaning wood furniture before painting. If you need to get into some tight crevices, a soft bristle toothbrush usually does the trick!
Tip #4 – rinse thoroughly
If you are not using a cleaner designed for furniture painting prep, you need to make sure you thoroughly rinse it off your wood furniture surface before you can sand/paint. And residue left from a cleaner can react with your paint and compromise its durability. It’s easiest to do this with a soft cloth and a spray bottle filled with water. Once your wood furniture piece is dry, you are ready to sand. You can read more about why we always sand before painting here.
Tip #5 – remove sanding dust
The final step to cleaning wood furniture before painting is to properly remove all the dust from your sanding. I like to give my pieces a quick once over with the shop vacuum or dry cloth. PRO TIP: Once you have removed most of the sanding dust, use tack cloth to get up all the sanding residue you can’t see. Try it once and you’ll be amazed at how much was left behind when you thought it was clean and ready to paint!
Learning how to clean wood furniture before painting is the best way you can make sure your painted finish will last the test of time. Our friends at The Spruce put together a list of common mistakes professional furniture flippers always notice and it’s no surprise lack of prep is number one! You can check out the rest of the list here. We hope you learned some tips and tricks for cleaning wood furniture before painting that will help your next project look like it was painted by a pro!