Intermediate Skill Level Tips and Tricks

What Stripper Should You Use?

Skill level

This is a common problem when DIY stripping, what stripper should you use to take off the old finish? When I owned my refinishing company we used two industrial strippers from Benco a methane chloride and a citrus based stripper. Since my shop is also in my home I do not use either of those products. However I can share with you what I will use.

First you need to evaluate your piece of furniture style, and what kind of finish it might be to determine the best route to remove it.


Style needs to be taken in to consideration. If it is straight lines, I would opt for CitrisStrip. It is easy to apply, odorless. It is however messy, and goopy so anything with detail this stuff is hard to work with.

stripping finish off a table
stripping table top

You can take plastic wrap after applying and let it sit. Although I have not tried this method I can completely understand why this would work. You want the stripper to stay wet, exposed to air it will dry out so plastic wrap will keep it wet and working.

Type of Finish Stripping

Most furniture before 1920 was finished in Shellac which is an alcohol based finish. After 1920 to about present day is finished in Lacquer which is solvent based.

Denatured alcohol will melt a shellac finish, you need to keep in mind the evaporation rate with denatured alcohol is fast so you may need a lot of alcohol to remove a finish. You can use an old lint free rag soak it and rub but you will need to keep the rag wet. The odor with denatured alcohol is minimal but more than Citris Stripper. Caution this is highly flammable.

Lacquer Thinner will melt a lacquer finish this too has a very quick evaporation rate. I find that lacquer thinner works best with a combination of a natural bristle brush dipping into the thinner and brushing on your piece. Eventually once the finish is loose you can use a saturated rag and wiping off the old finish. This will have a very strong odor and take awhile to dissipate. Caution this is highly flammable.


Here is a glimpse of the stripping section on my Furniture Painting eBook. This will show you first hand how I use CitrisStrip.

Stripping is defiantly a commitment that will pay off in the end. Check out this table after it was completed. There was bleaching and sanding involved to achieve this outcome.

Once you know what your furniture is made out of you will know just what to use to strip it. One thing I did not mention is a water base finish. Waterbase finishes are very durable and if you have ever stripped one you know just what I am talking about. You can use CitrisStrip for a waterborne finish it will take a good thick coat and a long time but it will wrinkle and come off in long sheets.

What strippers have you used? Which one would you try?

Happy Stripping,

Tara Lou

Types of furniture strippers

** Affiliate links please read my disclaimer page.

Tara Lou

Mama, wife, furniture connoisseur, small business owner, nature-lover, homebody, hunter.

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