Thrift Shop DIY: How to Refinish a Dresser

Do you have an old dresser that you’ve been considering getting rid of? Or perhaps you’ve picked up one at a thrift store or garage sale that looks like the perfect DIY project! Regardless, refinishing furniture is a great way to bring old or worn pieces back to life and have fun along the way. Here are some steps and tips on how to revive an old dresser.

Step 1: Choose a stain.

Staining both reduces the contrast between grains in wood and adds a beautiful tone to the wood itself. There are two types of stains: oil-based and water-based. Oil-based stains applies to the wood without raising the grain, whereas water-based stains are eco-friendlier and are easily cleaned up with soap and water.

Tip: If you would like the room the piece will be in to feel larger and more open, choose a lighter stain. If you’d like the room to feel cozier, choose a darker one.

Step 2: Clean the dresser’s surfaces and remove drawers and hardware.

Cleaning the dresser before staining it is crucial – you don’t want to seal in dirt and dust! It is recommended that you use trisodium phosphate (TSP), a heavy-duty cleaning powder. Dilute it according to manufacturer instructions.

Next, remove all drawers and hardware – this includes handles, knobs, and closures. Take this as an opportunity to consider new handles and knobs for the piece to enhance its new look. Little changes make an impact!

Step 3: Remove the old finish and apply sanding sealer.

Use a medium-low grit sandpaper to remove the dresser’s old finish and smooth out imperfections. Be sure not to sand too deeply, otherwise you could damage the wood. Another option is to use a chemical stripper. If you choose to use a chemical stripper, make sure you wear gloves to protect your skin.

After the old finish is removed, apply sanding sealer. This is similar to priming the wood – the sealer helps the wood absorb the stain evenly. Shake the container and apply two coats.

Tip: don’t let the sealer puddle or fill in any designs.

Let it fully dry before sanding in the direction of the grain.

Step 4: Stain it!

You’re finally ready to stain your dresser! Apply the stain with a paintbrush or cloth and wait a little while to allow the stain to penetrate the wood. Apply one coat at a time until you have the color you desire. If you apply more than one coat, make sure to lightly sand between each one with a fine-grit sandpaper.

When the piece has dried completely, use a paintbrush to apply a clear sealer – this will help protect the wood and add a nice shine to its appearance.

Voilà! You have successfully refinished your dresser and created a beautiful piece for your home.

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