Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to strip furniture and tips for the best results. Then comes this awesome little secret, liming wax! It’s SO easy and gives wood a bleached, white-washed finish. It’s amazing.
Clara was in desperate need of a dresser (picture clothes all over the floor), but I have been holding out for a DEAL. I happened to glance at the front of the kids consignment store as we were leaving and saw the perfect size dresser for $30!
I remembered I had half a container of Citristrip furniture stripper and some liming wax in the garage leftover from our wine cooler project. Why not try the bleached wood look again?
I used the same technique, but I did not get the same result! It’s not a bad thing, but it wasn’t what I envisioned. Let me show you the difference with the two pieces side by side:
Wine cooler vs. dresser: The dresser was much darker and had a thicker veneer, so the stain was harder to take off and the outcome is more rustic.
IF I would have chosen to be patient and gone a fourth pass with Citristrip, I think it would look more uniform like the cabinet. But it was a busy/super hot weekend and I chose to call it quits. Also, the rustic look was intriguing me.
Here’s what I learned about stripping furniture:
All wood pieces will come out differently, depending on:
- wood type
- darkness of stain
- thickness of varnish/veneer
The thickness of the varnish determines how uniform the stripping will be.
The application of the stripper also affects how uniform the stripping will be. Apply Citristrip evenly and in the same direction, with the grain.
You might have to do three rounds of stripping if the varnish is heavy or dark. If you’re picky, just keep at it until it’s gone!
My middle-of-the-line sander didn’t help take off a lot varnish. Stripper does a much better job.
- Large bottle of Citristrip
- cheap paintbrush
- putty knife
- wire brush
- rubber gloves
- Take off hardware.
- Work in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves.
- Cover one side with a thick, even coat of Citristip with a cheap brush. Let it sit 5-10 minutes, until varnish is coming up.
- Scrape off varnish with a putty knife while stripper is still wet and translucent. Use even pressure. I used two hands on the putty knife most of the time.
- Go with the grain. Go with the grain. Go with the grain.
- It will probably take 2 to 3 passes to completely remove stain. Just keep apply and scraping and brushing until it looks how you want it.
- If an area dries into a white cakey paste, reapply another thin layer of stripper to keep it wet. Don’t scrape it when it’s white, it’s a waste of time.
- Use the wire brush to get crevices and tough areas. It will get gunky, but you can use the putty knife to scrape it off.
- You may choose to sand if you have a sander. If you don’t have one, you can skip this. All my sander did was take off some dried Citrustrip clumps.
- Wash furniture well with a wet towel.
This is during the first pass of Citristrip. This is the part where you’re wondering if you should have started this, haha! Keep going!
Stripping furniture is messy business, for sure. I like to use a large garbage bag, cut open, so that way I can just scoop it all up and throw it away!
Time for the second pass of stripper. This is when it gets fun and you can see the real color of the wood!
The bottom drawer has two passes of Citristrip, the top two only had one. You can see I didn’t do a good job applying the stripper in a uniform direction on the top one and that made for more work, removing the swirls, later.
Use the wire brush to scrape off the edges. I used it on tough to remove places and edges too.
The edges on this piece were impossible! I don’t think they are completely wood.
After you’ve scraped and applied and scraped and applied, comes the fun part! Liming wax! This fun little product takes very little (I’ve used this can for two projects and still have more) and goes on super fast. I even did the giant wine cooler in less than an hour!
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. You can even thin it with paint thinner for a more subtle look. I did not for this dresser.
- liming wax
- cheap brush
- rubber gloves
- soft rag or paper towel
- Work in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves.
- Test the wax on a lesser seen area or another piece of wood.
- Paint furniture with loose strokes, rubbing it in with the grain as you go. So, paintbrush in one hand and rag in the other.
- It doesn’t dry terribly quickly, so you have time to work with it and get it just how you want it.
The top photo is stripped, but before liming wax. The bottom is after the wax. The project took me a few days to complete.
Q: Can you use liming wax on un-stripped furniture?
A: I don’t really know! I haven’t done a whole piece, I did do a sample on this dresser before I stripped it. It didn’t stick well at all. I think if you used it on an un-stripped piece it would only really adhere to the cracks and crevices.
Q: Do you have to seal liming wax?
A: I didn’t seal either project and haven’t had any problems, but I would if I were doing a dining room table or similar I would. Briwax says: “The Liming Wax should be overcoated with BRIWAX for a more durable finish.” I haven’t tried it yet.
I added some pretty acrylic knobs. It makes me a little crazy that I spent as much on the knobs as I did the dresser!
All that work and it goes in Clara’s closet! But nothing stays in the same place forever in my house, so you never know where it will live next.
This is how I made over her doll house I found by the side of the road with spray paint and contact paper!
See more of Clara’s room and her garden mural.
17 thoughts on “How to strip furniture and apply liming wax”
Wow, your dresser turned out beautiful!!! Thank you for sharing. I was wondering could I use liming wax on my sanded floors?
Thanks so much, Sandy! I’m not sure if you can use liming wax on floors. I would think so, but I’ve never tried it. Briwax has a whole FAQ section that’s helpful though: https://www.rustins.ltd/briwax/resource-centre/faqs
I would love to do this on oak kitchen cabinets. I don’t have a big kitchen so it’s a small project. Don’t really want do paint them. This seems like a great alternative. Thoughts??
I think it would be beautiful! I’ve never done cabinets, however. Here is a FAQ list from Briwax on how they seal things, if it helps :)
Stripping is much- MUCH easier with Jasco Stripper; water based; (paint and stain can literally fall off your project); and which I have used on/off for 39 years.
All stripping is messy; I use paper towels; stripping pads and scrapers of course; a spray bottle of water for rinsing and mineral spirits for clean up -then you need to sand the project to remove any stripping chemical residue that was missed.
You worked too hard!!
Thanks so much for sharing, Aimee. I used CitriStrip because it is supposed to be safer as far as harmful fumes. I have asthma so that is important to me. I love the mineral spirits trick!
If I use liming wax on oak kitchen cabinets, what should I use as a top coat.
Or do I just buff?
I’ve not tried using a sealer yet, but here is the Briwax FAQ section: https://www.rustins.ltd/briwax/resource-centre/faqs
Open grain timber such as Oak is the best, when using Lime Wax
Would this be good on Kitchen cupboards and would you seal them?
You said your sander only sanded up gunks of citristrip. Wash your piece down with mineral spirits after stripping and then sand. You can also buy an after stripper cleaner but mineral spirits is best. Some strippers say wipe up with water and citristrip might be one. Even so you always need to clean your piece down after stripping or it can affect your finish
Thanks for sharing, Ashley!
I enjoyed your tutorial! I’d love to do this on barstools. Can I use stripper on stain and paint? And is stripper the way to go on a barstool or should I sand? Also, these barstools will be used daily, do you think the wax will hold up? Do I worry about it wiping off onto clothes? Thanks for the inspiration!
Hi Emilee! If the barstools are painted I would try sanding first. As for the wax, it won’t wipe off on clothes after it dries, but you might want to seal it with their other wax. This is what Briwax says on their site: “The Liming Wax should be overcoated with BRIWAX for a more durable finish.”
Can you lime on unstripped wood?
Hi Kate, can I apply clear varnish on top of waxed dinning table for a more durable finish or is better to apply BRIWAX?
Love love love your work, great tips to see me through something different.