This was my first time stripping furniture and using liming wax! The furniture stripping was … interesting. But I really liked the liming wax. (If you’ve never heard of it, I can’t wait to show you!) It was able to give me a cross between bleached and whitewashed wood.
Let me introduce you to this beast of a wine cooler. Marcello works in the wine industry and scored this cabinet for $200. The previous owner had a parrot that pecked away at the moulding and the sides were beginning to fray. It had that yellow oak stain that was popular a couple decades ago, but I could see through all of that! I wanted a rustic look anyway, so it didn’t need to be perfect.
Marcello said he really wanted to keep it a wood tone and asked that I not paint it white. If you didn’t know, I usually paint everything white — like this and this and this and this. Yes, he was right, I needed to try something new and agreed to keep it a wood tone.
I wanted to see if I could make it a bleached wood look, like this bench I have across from the kitchen. I was so naive. I thought I could just sand the thing with my dinky sander. It took about two seconds for me to realize that I had to try stripping it. Then I did that wrong by letting the stripper sit too long and had to do it over again! You can watch my DIY highlights on Instagram for a good laugh.
But I eventually got it pretty close! Here is the end result.
Guess where Marcello is from. And for the record, no, I can’t open any of them, haha!
So here’s how I stripped it and added white wax:
Stripping wood furniture
- cheap paintbrush
- putty knife
- wire brush
- rubber gloves
The left side of this picture was the first round of stripping. I left the stripper on too long (thinking it would work better?), but it turned into this cakey white coating that is difficult to remove. I also didn’t scrape the varnish off with even pressure of my putty knife.
On the right side, you can see I learned my lesson. I focused on one side at a time, instead of covering the whole thing in stripper at once. I scraped the varnish off with even pressure and while it was still wet.
I used Citristrip because it a safer chemical option than some others I check out. (That is an affiliate link, but this is not sponsored.)
This is the white cakey mess I was talking about. Not fun. Ok, on to the correct instructions:
1. Cover one side (fairly quickly) with a thick coating of Citristip with a cheap brush.
2. By the time I got to the bottom, it was time to start scraping the top.
3. Scrape off varnish with a putty knife while stripper is still wet and translucent.
4. Also, scrape with even pressure to prevent streaks. I even used two hands on the scraper for extra pressure.
5. Go with the grain. Go with the grain. Go with the grain. (That part is important!)
6. Scrape across the top and then the section below until you get to the bottom.
7. Go over it again, top to bottom to remove even more varnish.
8. If an area dries, reapply another thin layer of stripper to keep it wet.
9. Use the wire brush to get crevices and tough areas. I used the wire brush quite a bit. Maybe should have even bought two because it gets pretty gunky.
10. Wash furniture with damp rag until clean.
How to use liming wax
This part was much more fun and exciting! I had never heard of liming wax before and came across several bloggers who used it for a rustic, whitewashed feel. I love the look of the white wax settling into the crevices and when thinned with paint thinner, gives wood a bleached in the sun feel.
Here is the manufacturer’s FAQ page to get a better idea if it will work for your project.
I saw some bloggers used liming wax on furniture that had not been stripped also. I have not tried this though, so I’m not sure of the result. But I still have half a can of liming wax sitting in the garage, so it’s only a matter of time until I test it out!
Also, you do not have to use paint thinner. I used it to have a more subtle wash.
This process was quick, probably even under an hour.
1. Work in a well ventilated area, hopefully outside, because the paint thinner is strong.
2. Mix desired amount of paint thinner and liming wax into a bowl. I decided to make a lot at one time so the wash would be consistent over the entire piece.
3. Test it on a scrap piece of wood. You can see the whiter area is the liming wax without paint thinner.
4. Paint furniture from top to bottom, rubbing it in with the grain as you go. So, paintbrush in one hand and paper towel in the other. Don’t forget to wear gloves!
4. It doesn’t dry terribly quickly, so you have time to work with it and get it just how you want it. The right side is treated with wax.
5. Repeat until it’s as light as you want.
It took me a long time to figure out what kind of cabinet pulls I wanted. I decided on these distressed pewter handles.
In case you hadn’t noticed, this thing is huge. It’s in the dining room (which took three men and a professional dolly), but now what? It sticks out far and has weird spaces on the sides. I’m thinking Ikea wardrobe closets on either side and making them look built in. How is it that one project just leads to another?!
UPDATE: I have since also tried this technique on a dresser for my daughter’s room! I was surprised at the different results. See my bleached dresser post here.
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