How To Clean Furniture Before Painting – Step Guide (with Pro Tips)

how to clean furniture before painting

Do you need to paint your furniture? Are you looking for a smooth and professional finish? Well, the first step is properly cleaning your furniture before painting. Understand that your paint will not firmly stick on a dirty furniture surface. You will also notice cracks after a couple of months when you paint furniture without proper cleaning.

How to clean furniture before cleaning becomes a critical consideration. Note that proper cleaning will get you an elegant and long-lasting finish. According to professionals, working on a clean surface is similar to working on a blank canvas.

6 Step to clean furniture before painting 

Step 1: Preparation

Understand that you have to properly organize yourself before starting the project. start by removing drawers and hardware from your furniture. You will, therefore, get ample space and time to work on the main body.
It would help if you organized every piece of material that you will need for the cleanup process. The materials that you need include the following:

Wood cleaners
Fine-grit sandpaper
Medium-grit sandpaper
Tack cloth

Step 2: Washing the Surface

Mix little amounts of liquid detergent with a bucket of water. Use a small cloth or sponge to clean the entire surface of your furniture thoroughly. Understand that washing with liquid detergent will eliminate grime or grit from the wood surface.

Washing with water will also help you identify any cracks on your furniture. You will uncover a lot of details about your furniture, especially if it has been sitting idle for a long time. Ensure you remove all the dust and dirt from your furniture.

washing the surface

Mix equal amounts of denatured alcohol and water in a bucket. Most furniture restorers prefer using this mixture because it effectively gets rid of grime and grit from wooden surfaces. Use scotch pads that are tough enough to clean off grease but gentle on your furniture. You can get these pads from the local stores at an affordable price.

Using denatured alcohol is advisable if you are planning to work with water-based paints such as milk paint, chalk paint, acrylic paint, and latex. However, if you are working with oil-based paint, do not mix the denatured alcohol with water. Note that the water will make it difficult for oil-based paint to stick on the surface of your furniture.

Pro tip about denatured alcohol

Denatured alcohol tastes bad and is poisonous, making it unfit for human consumption. Ensure that you do not attempt tasting denatured alcohol during the cleaning process. It is an excellent cleaner that doubles up as a sanitizer and fuel for camping stoves. Understand that it is not the same as rubbing alcohol.

Step 3: Wipe Down the Surface

Use mineral spirits to wipe down the surface of your furniture. Dip a rag in mineral spirits and follow the wood grain when wiping down. You then need to let your furniture dry for a few minutes before you can move on to the next step.

Understand that mineral spirits have no additional solvents making them ideal when compared to paint thinners. Equally, mineral spirits are odorless and are more effective than ordinary paint thinners. Always work with mineral spirits when cleaning your furniture to ensure you get long-lasting services.

Step 4: Sanding

Sanding ensures that you get a professional paint finish when working with furniture. Scuffing up the furniture surface will guarantee that the new paint will firmly adhere to the surface. Lightly sand the entire surface to fill in all spots and starches.


Sanding will also guarantee that all grime and oil is removed from the wood. You can always rewash after sanding or simply wipe down with a piece of cloth. Note that sanding will take a little bit of time, and you need to exercise patience.

However, you can always skip sanding if you plan on using chalk paint. Understand that without sanding, chalk paint will get you that distressed look that you are going for. Note that sanding removes all the damages and cracks that constitute the character of your furniture.

Step 5: Fill Cracks and Holes

Although filling cracks and holes on your furniture is not part of the cleaning process, it is a vital step before painting. Use clamps and wood glue to fix any kind of damages on the wood surface. You could always use wood fillers to fill big cracks and holes.

Fill Cracks and Holes

Understand that filling in cracks and holes will guarantee that professional look that you need. Your furniture will also appear quite new once you are down with this step. Wood putty is also an excellent option when dealing with multiple holes and cracks on old pieces of furniture.

Step 6: Allow Your Furniture to Dry

Before you start painting your furniture, you need to let it dry completely. Understand that a dry surface will get you a smooth and professional finish. Never start the painting project before the wood surface is completely dry.

It will help if you let your furniture sit for a couple of hours after cleaning before you start painting. Experts advise leaving the piece of furniture overnight to ensure it is toughly dry. Understand that a smooth and long-lasting finish will get you that elegant look that you need.

Final words:

It is always an excellent idea to properly clean your furniture before painting. It would also help if you picked a painting method that you are familiar with when working on your project. Using a paint sprayers for furniture will save you a lot of time and effort, but needs a lot of practice. If you are good with a paintbrush, then stick to using it when painting furniture.

Sanding and repairing damages is also a key step in this guide. Without proper sanding or repairs, the finish will be substandard. Ensure that you fill in all the cracks and holes using any of the methods discussed above. Following this step by step guide will ensure you get a smooth and professional finish on your next project.

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