How to Remove Varnish From Hardwood Floors

Updated February 21, 2017

Varnish is commonly used to seal hardwood floors as the final step to finishing. Varnish creates a hard, shiny surface like plastic or resin over the wood to protect it from moisture, stains and damage. If you ever want to refinish your hardwood floors, you will need to strip the old varnish and finish from the wood before you can make any changes. Turpentine and other commercial paint thinners will strip varnish from your floors within minutes.

Remove all furniture and rugs from the room, and sweep and mop the floor. Open all of the windows in the room to create a well-ventilated workspace.

Pour turpentine or other paint stripper into a bucket. Put on a surgical mask, goggles and rubber gloves to protect your skin and eyes.

Dip a clean cloth into the turpentine and wring it out slightly. Wipe the wood floors along the grain until the entire floor is coated with turpentine. Let the turpentine sit on the floor for 20 to 30 minutes. You will notice the varnish start to bubble and peel.

Use a damp cloth to wipe up the varnish peelings. Use a paint scraper to scrape up any stubborn patches of varnish. Be careful not to scratch the floor when you scrape the varnish. If any of the varnish won't come up, spot treat the area with a rag and turpentine, and buff it away.

Fill a bucket with white spirit and use a mop to spread the white spirit over the floor once you have removed all of the varnish. The white spirit will neutralise the turpentine and quickly evaporate to leave your floor dry. Place fans in doorways and windows to speed up the drying process.

Sweep the floor to remove any small particles of the stripped varnish. Walk around the room and check for any remaining varnish. If any remains, spot treat with a small amount of turpentine and a cloth. Rinse the area with white spirit.

Things You'll Need

  • Broom
  • Mop
  • Bucket
  • Face mask
  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles
  • Turpentine
  • Paint stripper
  • Cloths
  • Paint scraper
  • White spirit
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About the Author

Jarrett Melendez is a journalist, playwright and novelist who has been writing for more than seven years. His first published work was a play titled, "Oh, Grow Up!" which he wrote and performed with a group of his classmates in 2002.