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The Right Stripper for Your Cabinet Refinishing Project

by Debbie Wilson

Even if you've given your cabinet a thorough cleaning, you'll probably need to use a cabinet stripper to complete the refinishing process. With a variety of strippers to choose from, finding the proper one for your cabinets can prove to be a challenge. Before you can buy the right stripper, you'll need to find out what kind of finish you currently have on your cabinets.

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Your Cabinet Finish

Many cabinet finishes look identical to the untrained eye. However, by testing an inconspicuous spot on the wood, you'll be able to determine what type of finish you have. If you suspect your finish is wax, try a few drops of turpentine. Turpentine will dissolve the wax on the cabinet. If you suspect shellac, try a little denatured alcohol or lacquer thinner. For water-based finishes, a few drops of Xylene will quickly liquefy the cabinet finish. For polyurethane or varnish, look for a pain or varnish stripper. Even with such a stripper, you'll probably still have to sand the cabinet down to completely remove the old finish.

Stripping Away Paint

Many a kitchen or bathroom cabinet is covered with a coat of paint. Stripping away paint will depend largely upon the type of original paint used. You'll need to determine whether the paint is oil-based or water-based. Start by rubbing a rag or cotton ball moistened with denatured alcohol on the paint surface. If the paint rubs off the cabinet or gets soft, it's latex. Alcohol will not affect oil-based paint.

The Stripping Agent

Always let the stripping agent do the work. Most stripping products are easy to use, but test an inconspicuous area of the cabinet first. And don't forget to cover countertops, appliances, and floors. If you plan to leave your cabinets up, remember that cabinet strippers can be messy. You might consider using a gel or semi-paste stripper. These types won't drip as much on vertical surfaces and can help make your refinishing project look more professional.

After you finish stripping, sand and repair any holes or cracks. Then prime and paint or stain as desired. Finally, enjoy your beautifully refinished cabinets for years to come.



About the Author

Debbie Wilson owns and operates a lakeside resort. Her previous experience includes profitability consulting for a national healthcare company. Debbie holds a B.A. in Business Management with a minor in Physical Education.

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