How to lacquer furniture finishes

Updated April 17, 2017

If you need to smarten up wooden finishes on furniture, lacquering is one of the quickest and easiest solutions. Lacquer dries much more quickly than other coatings, such as varnish and shellac. Use an aerosol spray lacquer on most solid wood or wood veneer furniture to achieve an excellent result. Lacquer is available in many finishes, including clear, matt, satin and high-gloss. Before applying lacquer to any wooden furniture finish, thoroughly prepare the wood first. Use fine-grit sandpaper to remove all traces of any stain, varnish or paint.

Place a dust sheet on the floor to protect the work area from the lacquer spray. Open all windows in the work area to properly ventilate the room.

Test the lacquer aerosol by spraying it onto an old newspaper. Experiment with the can to familiarise yourself with control of the spray pattern.

Spray the lacquer across the furniture in strips, working from top to bottom on each strip. Hold the aerosol spray can about 18 inches from the surface of the furniture. Holding the can too far away will lead to a "dimpled" finish. Spray the furniture slowly and evenly.

Wait for the first coat of lacquer to dry and cure. This usually takes about 48 hours, but check the manufacturer's instructions for details.

Smooth the lacquered surface of the furniture with a fine steel wool pad. Wipe over the surface with a clean tack cloth.

Spray on a second coat of lacquer in the same way as the first coat and wait for it to cure and dry. Again, smooth the surface with fine steel wool and apply a third layer of lacquer.

Buff the lacquered surface with a high-quality furniture wax and a clean dusting cloth. Polish the surface to a high shine.


Slightly overlap the lacquer strips when spraying the furniture to achieve an even finish.


Never use lacquer on mahogany or rosewood furniture because the oils in this wood will leak through the lacquer and ruin the finish. Wear a dust mask, safety goggles and protective gloves when using lacquer spray. Lacquer is highly flammable; never use it near open flames.

Things You'll Need

  • Dust sheet
  • Aerosol lacquer spray
  • Face mask
  • Protective gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Fine steel wool (No. 000)
  • Tack cloth
  • Furniture wax
  • Lint-free cloth
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About the Author

Adrian Grahams began writing professionally in 1989 after training as a newspaper reporter. His work has been published online and in various newspapers, including "The Cornish Times" and "The Sunday Independent." Grahams specializes in technology and communications. He holds a Bachelor of Science, postgraduate diplomas in journalism and website design and is studying for an MBA.