How to Easily Refinish Wood Furniture

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Easily refinish your wood furniture using these steps!

Updated 3/24/20

Today I’m sharing how to refinish wood furniture. It seems like it would be difficult and early on in my furniture refinishing days, I made it harder than it should have been.

But over time (thanks to my hubby browsing the aisles at the hardware store for an easier solution) we figured out that it didn’t have to be that bad. In fact, it could be fairly easy! So I’m sharing our process with you today.

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We needed some nightstands for our master bedroom but didn’t have a lot of money to spend on them. I ended up finding these cuties on Facebook Marketplace for a total of $50. Score! They were perfect for what we needed.

I knew I wanted them to be a combination of paint and stain to tie in with our stained dresser and painted headboard. I decided to refinish the tops and the drawers and paint the base with chalk paint (another tutorial that’s coming soon).

UPDATE: See Chalk Paint Tutorial Here. 

RefinishING Wood Furniture


Drop cloth or old sheet
Steel wool
Wood refinisher/stripper 
Stripper wash (we use Zinsser’s StripFast Stripper Wash)
Glass or metal bowl (NOT plastic)
Rubber gloves (you’ll definitely want these)
Stain of your choice
Quality stain brush (I like Purdy or Wooster)
Clean lint-free cloth
Mineral spirits (to clean your brush when done)

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Lay down your drop cloth with your furniture in the middle. Put on rubber gloves and pour stripper into bowl.

Soak steel wool in bowl of stripper and squeeze out excess. The stripper will burn your skin so you definitely want the gloves AND if you get it on you, you need to immediately wash it off with soap and water.

Now, apply the steel wool to the wood, working in the direction of the grain. Watch the finish begin to dissolve as you apply the stripper. You may have to scrub stubborn spots, especially if you have a piece with a rough texture.

Continue to apply the stripper, folding over the steel wool to a clean side when one part gets too much stain caked on. Continue dipping steel wool into stripper as needed.

Depending on the size of the furniture you’re refinishing you may need multiple pieces of steel wool to get the job done.

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Wood Stripper Wash

When you have gone completely and thoroughly over the piece with the stripper and are confident you have removed the stain, it’s time for the stripper wash.

The stripper wash gets any remaining stain off, plus it removes any streaks or sticky spots the stripper may have left behind to give the piece a nice smooth surface ready for the new stain.

Once dry, if the piece shows white streaks, go over it again with clean steel wool and the stripper wash.

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If your furniture has a smooth surface, it should be ready for the next step. If it’s a rough surface it may still need a light sanding to remove hard-to-reach crevices.


Make sure your furniture is completely dry before moving on to the next step. Now we’re going to brush on the pre-stain to condition the wood and help the stain go on nice and even. Let the pre-stain dry completely, but don’t leave it for too long because once you’ve applied it the stain needs to go on within two hours.

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Staining Your Furniture

Once dry, you’re ready for your stain. I chose Minwax’s Wood Finish Penetrating Stain in Provincial because the color matched our dresser and I also love the way this stain brings out the natural grain of the wood.

Apply the stain with a clean, high-quality brush made for staining. Leave the stain on for 5-15 minutes, depending on how dark you want the finish to be. After the time is up, make sure to wipe the remaining stain off with a lint-free cloth.

If you decide you want the piece to be darker, you can do a second coat after a couple of hours. For my tables, I left the stain on for a little over 5 minutes and only did one coat.

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refinish wood tables

When you’ve reached the shade you desire, clean out your brush with mineral spirits and let your piece completely dry, preferably overnight.

Now, you’re ready for your topcoat. I like Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane in Satin. Brush on at thin coat and allow 3-4 hours to dry. Sand with light sandpaper or steel wool and then add another coat. Allow to dry 24 hours before use.

Before and After

Check out the huge difference between the old stain and the new. The grain is much more visible now and looks beautiful!

Refinish wood furniture

I hope this tutorial was helpful. Please let me know in the comments and feel free to ask questions!

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