How to Remove Black Lacquer From Wood

Written by marion sipe
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Black lacquer is merely lacquer with added colour. It's a popular finish on furniture or decorative wooden items, and occasionally flooring. Lacquer is easier to strip than paint or varnish finishes. It does, however, require a specific mix of solvents known as lacquer thinner. Lacquer thinner is a mix of solvents and is comparatively easy to use, although safety gear such as gloves, eye protection and good ventilation are required. When applied to lacquer, it dissolves the finish, allowing it to be wiped or rubbed away.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Lacquer thinner
  • Stripping brush
  • Steel wool
  • Wooden paint scraper
  • Rags

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  1. 1

    Prepare your area by laying down a tarp or a layer of cardboard to catch any drips or spills. Working outside provides the best ventilation, but also means you have to protect the project from wind and weather.

  2. 2

    Work on your piece starting at the top and working toward the bottom. Apply the lacquer thinner to a small section of the wood you're stripping using a stripping brush. Brush it on in one direction only, and do not reapply to already coated sections. Confine your work to a small area ,as lacquer thinner evaporates quickly and you'll only have to reapply it if you get ahead of yourself.

  3. 3

    Leave the thinner on the surface for about 10 minutes and then use the steel wool to gently rub the thinner and the lacquer off. Be careful not to scrub too hard or you could scratch the wood underneath.

  4. 4

    Use a wooden scraper--metal scrapers can gouge and scar the wood--to remove any remaining finish. Work with the grain of the wood.

  5. 5

    Remove the finish in details or hard to reach areas by applying the lacquer thinner and using a rough rag to get into the smaller crevices. Change your rags often or you may wind up reapplying the lacquer to the wood.

Tips and warnings

  • Good ventilation is essential when working with lacquer thinner. Always wear eye and skin protection.

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