December 5, 2022

You can use oven cleaner to strip wood furniture

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Photo: skyliz (Shutterstock)

TikTok and Instagram are full of accounts offering instructional DIY and furniture flipping videos that make finishing easier thrift store finds in expensive-looking rooms seem quick and easy. (Of course, when you reduce four hours of stripping and sanding to two seconds, you can make any project quick and easy.)

Meach of these videos shows time-saving “hacks” that are supposed to have completed the project in record time. A recent example of this is the use of oven cleaner to strip wood. Although this viral trick can get the job done, it is not suitable for all projects and can sometimes do more harm than good to your furniture. Here’s what you need to know.

Can you use oven cleaner to strip wood?

oven cleaner can effectively remove some stains and polish certain types of solid wood furniture (i.e. not wood veneers or laminates). It works because most oven cleaners and dedicated stripping products contain sodium hydroxide (also called lye or caustic soda). Although some people have had success using oven cleaner on painted furniture, the method tends not to work as well as with stains and varnishes.

If you’re really stuck and have no other options, using an oven cleaner as a wood stripper might be worth a shot (as long as you’re using it safely, more on that in one minute). But if you go to the store and buy a new product, you might as well opt for one that has been specially formulated to strip stains, varnishes or paint.

Does oven cleaner damage wood?

Using oven cleaner to strip wood dry its fibers, leaving the wood brittle and increasing the chances of it splitting. This will also gradually whiten the wood, although this may be something you want depending on the look you are going for.

How to strip wood with oven cleaner

Whether you use an oven cleaner to strip wood or clean an oven, remember that it contains harsh chemicals and you must take absolutely right safety precautions when using with that. This means working in a (very) well-ventilated space (ideally outdoors, but a garage or shed with the doors open can also work), wearing gloves, goggles and a face shield, even if the product is labeled as “smoke-free”.

Although oven cleaner comes in many forms (powders, gels, liquids), it’s usually easier to use a spray version. Here is What to do:

  • Start by thoroughly cleaning the furniture to remove dust, dirt, sticky stains or other debris.
  • Then, in your well-ventilated space, cover the room with a coat of oven cleaner.
  • Wait 30 minutes.
  • Scrub it using a brush and dish soap.
  • Rinse it off with a hose.

Several cycles of this process may be required to remove the stain or varnish from the item.