The Best Way to Get Lacquer Off Wood

Certainly, lacquer is one of the most attractive and long-lasting finishes you will find on the market. However, as with other finishes, you will need to replace them after prolonged wear and tear. To restore the appeal of the surface, you begin by removing the lacquer from the wood, which is not always a straightforward task as lacquer adheres tenaciously to wooden surfaces.

Lacquer’s quality to stick so strongly to wood is a good thing because it guarantees the longevity of your wood. On the downside, removing the lacquer coat is not be easy. Fortunately, with the proper procedures, you can easily eliminate lacquer from wood. In this post, we provide a detailed procedure on how to do it using a lacquer remover.

Before we start, you have to be sure you are dealing with lacquer, not polyurethane, which can confuse many. Ensure you know the difference between lacquer and polyurethane before you start the work.

In addition, you need to be working in a properly ventilated room as you remove the finish from the surface. An environment with sufficient airflow is key to safeguarding your breathing system from fumes and dust from removal. If possible, carry out the removal process in the open.

Once you are done with the removal process, dispose of all the rags and waste generated from the process, and you can start planning to reapply a new lacquer coat on your wooden structures or surfaces.

Using A Sanding Technique To Remove Lacquer From The Wood Surface

Justly, sanding is the first idea on most people’s minds when removing lacquer from wood. This is because sanding effectively removes the thin layers of the finish or coating while preserving the wood beneath. Fortunately, sanding can be done manually using a rubber or wooden block to avoid putting too much pressure on the wood and damaging its surface.

When sanding, it is vital to remove the shiny top coat on your furniture, which is left by the lacquer. Therefore, use fair-grit sandpaper for sanding the wooden furniture to remove the shiny side.

If you need to provide extra support to the area, use a sanding block where you can put your sandpaper or a small sander. Remember, you do not have to forcefully sand the surface to avoid removing all the paint on the wood surface.
The goal of the sanding technique is to remove the lacquer layer and the slipperiness, leaving the wooden surface rough enough for the new paint to adhere better when applied to the furniture or the wooden surface.

When sanding, make small circular motions on the surface. Move from one spot to another, removing all the lacquer coating before sanding another area.

To increase the sanding intensity, consider using an orbital sander, which is more suited for thick-layered surfaces and the corner sections of the furniture. Manual sanding is popular because it requires less effort and time to cover larger surfaces.

When dealing with wood floor surfaces, hard surfaces, or low-traffic areas, consider using a belt sander to rub off rough surfaces, remove large layers of the coat and refine the wood’s color.

However, avoid sanding sensitive surfaces and softwood, which may damage the wood’s edges and trim or cause the formation of ripples on the wood’s surface.

Follow the steps below to get rid of lacquer from wood:

Step #1: Affix the sandpaper to the unique hooks at the sander’s base.
Step #2: Clench the appliance on its special support area while lightly moving it above the sanding area.
Step #3: Use abrasive sandpaper to remove as much of the top coat as possible. Avoid damaging the corners and edges of your wooden surface.
Step #4: Finally, polish the wooden surface using fine sandpaper, ensuring you remove any paint spots and scratches left behind from the previous step.

The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Getting Rid Of Lacquer From Wood Surfaces Using The Sanding Technique

Remember that an electric sander with course grit sandpaper or coarse grit sandpaper can get rid of lacquers with little effort. However, it is likely to make grooves in the wood that will be hard to conceal.

Using course-grit sandpaper is particularly helpful when removing numerous coats of paint with minimal effort. We only advise this if you are not willing to overwork because you intend to apply paint on it later. However, it still must be carried out with maximum care to avoid ruining the surface.

Finally, use very fine sandpaper (120, 180, or higher) to polish the surface and eliminate all the paint stains that are often hard to remove and always found on soft surfaces.

It is better to use a manual sander if you are sanding furniture with rounded edges, like tubular chair legs. I must admit that sometimes I go for a sander but always avoid sanding the rounded parts of the chair. Besides, I have gained some valuable experience working with it.

Using A Solvent To Get Rid Of A Varnish

Ideal for lacquer and shellac

Lacquer and shellac are ethanol-based finishes, making it easy to remove them from surfaces using several solvents that can be bought from your local hardware store. For instance, you can use denatured alcohol to remove shellac from wooden surfaces.

You can use lacquer thinner if the alcohol does not work. It is best to remove the coat using a thinner if your furniture was built before 1930 by a qualified carpenter. Most pieces of furniture built after this time were finished using shellac or lacquer.

To remove the coat, you only need to apply the solvent using a rag and an old plastic knife to scrape the finish from the wooden surface. The solvent loosens the shellac/lacquer finish, making it easy to come off.

Follow the steps below to get rid of lacquer or shellac from wood using a solvent:

Step #1. Prepare to use your preferred type of solvent. Luckily, you can buy a few options of marketed lacquer thinner solvents to help you remove the lacquer coat. If you cannot achieve the desired results with a lacquer thinner alone, you can combine it with denatured alcohol.

Step #2: Prepare your solvent by combining equal amounts of lacquer thinner and denatured alcohol in a bowl to form a thick solution. To make a stronger solution, raise the ratio of the lacquer thinner to the denatured alcohol.

Applying The Solvent To The Wooden Surface

Once the lacquer thinner is prepared, you can apply it to the surface. Start by dividing the surface area into smaller sections before applying the solvent.

Dividing the surface into smaller sections ensures you apply an even layer of solvent on the surface. Additionally, spread a thick coat of the lacquer solvent using a paintbrush.

You might also be interested in: Is It Right To Apply Poly Above Lacquer?

Allow the solvent to dry before proceeding.

Generally, the solvent takes only a few minutes to dry. If you applied the right amount of solvent, the coat would fully dissolve in the solvent and break away from the furniture’s surface.

If you followed the solvent’s application instructions, the lacquer coat would break away from the wooden surface in flakes or as a solution. To get a cloudy coat, you will need to apply a higher amount of solvent to help remove the lacquer completely.

Get Rid Of The Solvent And The Lacquer From Wood

Indeed, this is one of the hardest steps. However, it is an important step nonetheless. Once the solvent has had enough time to act and dissolve the lacquer coat, you must remove the lacquer coat and the solvent remaining on the wood.
You can expect the lacquer finish to come off as flakes, which makes it simple to eliminate. With a greater amount of lacquer, you can remove the extra solvent.

At this point, you may use a hard-brittle brush. Ensure you move the brush in a circular motion over the areas you have segmented during the coat application.

The remaining solvent is removed quickly, and you can clean the surface with a drop cloth afterward. To confirm if this step is fruitful, the smooth coat and the shiny appearance of the wood should disappear.

Get Rid Of The Excess Lacquer

If you cannot remove all the solvent from the wooden surface using a stripping brush or medium-fine steel wool, consider using a putty knife for the task.

When done carefully, the knife can help you remove the lacquer. Ensure you do not scratch or damage the wooden surface during this process.

If the solvent has come off completely, you have finished the process. However, you must apply the solvent again until you get the right results.

Repeating the Removal Process

Conceivably, the lacquer may be left on some sections of the surface. Consequently, you will have to apply the solvent once again. However, you will not need to sit out to allow the solvent to dry before cleaning the surface using steel wool. Once you have removed all the lacquer stains, use a cloth to remove the solvent on the wooden surface.

Getting Rid Of Lacquer Using A Chemical Stripper

Using a chemical stripper is another chemical-based technique for removing lacquer from wood surfaces. The chemical strippers strip off the lacquer coat from the furniture’s surface.

This removal process also relies on chemical solvents, albeit with a few differences based on how the strips are put into use. You do not want to buy traditional paint strippers, which require more time and effort and are not as effective as strong solvents.

To begin with, the chemical strippers may be solvent-based or use alkaline solutions. The ideal type of stripper to use depends on the kind of lacquer coat you intend to remove.

For instance, oily paints and lacquers are removed best using alkaline strippers, while solvent-based strippers are ideal for paints and lacquers.

Taking the necessary precautions when dealing with chemical strippers or solvents is vital. This is because using an excess chemical amount may stain the wood permanently.

Ensure you wear protective gloves and follow the usage instructions for each product. Follow the steps below to remove lacquer or shellac from wood using chemical strippers.

Step #1: Before stripping the lacquer, start by getting rid of all the metallic fittings from your furniture.

Step #2: Sand the lacquered sections gently with steel wool or 150-grit sandpaper.
Step #3: Once you have finished sanding, use a plastic paintbrush to apply the chemical paint stripper.
Step #4: Use 80-grit sandpaper to sand away the remaining lacquer coat.
Step #5: Use a tack cloth to wipe the wooden surface to remove any traces left behind, and the sanding process is complete.

Finally you are done. Do you want to see how to get the perfect lacquer finish? Then just click here.