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How can I remove wax from furniture to paint it?

Updated November 21, 2016

Restoration of worn wood furniture with paint is a moderately easy task and if done right, it will breathe new life into those old pieces, rendering them both beautiful and useful for many years to come. Before painting, however, it is usually necessary to remove old furniture wax. Any wax on the surface will limit your paint's ability to adhere to the wood, making for far more chipping and rubbing off than one might hope for with a freshly renovated piece of furniture. The task is relatively simple, and yet crucial to the process.

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Clean the Surface

Trisodium phosphate, also known as TSP, is a favourite cleaning agent for professional painters. It serves to cut the oil and dust that sit on top of wax surfaces. TSP will remove the excess so that you can get to the wax that you seek to remove before painting.

Furniture Stripper and Paint Thinner

If you seek only to remove the wax, but want to use the previous paint colour as a priming agent, then use paint thinner to cut the wax and then rinse with water or more of your TSP solution. To cut through both wax and underlying paint, use a furniture stripper. By stripping to the wood, the new paint will adhere better

Steel Wool

In crevices and other tough-to-reach places, there is no substitute for steel wool and a bit of elbow grease when removing wax from furniture in order to refurbish it with paint.

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