Removing the patina from wood results in smooth, bare wood that's ready for filling, sealing and staining.

Removing Patina From Old Wood

by Shelley Marie

Patina is an aged look that occurs in wood naturally over time, usually due to the stain or finish that was used. Removing the patina usually involves the use of chemical strippers which can be purchased commercially or mixed from a combination of solvents. These break down and soften the finish so it can be removed more easily. Sandpaper removes the rough look of the wood and any remaining patina to prepare the wood for refinishing.

Move the wooden object outdoors or into a well-ventilated area, if possible. Open any doors or windows and turn on an exhaust fan if you're working indoors. Lay a drop cloth to protect the surfaces on which you will not be working.

Clean the wood thoroughly, using a cloth dampened with turpentine. This is necessary to remove any old wax or polish that was previously applied to the wood.

Apply a paint and varnish remover. Alternatively, apply a combination of equal parts denatured alcohol and paint thinner to the wood, using a paintbrush. Work on one small area at a time. Allow it to sit until it softens the finish.

Scrub the softened finish to work the stripper into the wood, using 00 steel wool for hardwood; 000 for soft wood. Alternatively, use a scraper. Wipe the wood quickly with a cloth before the finish dries. Repeat this process until all of the finish is removed.

Wipe the wood with a clean, damp cloth. Allow it to dry.

Sand the wood in the direction of the woodgrain to remove any remaining finish or rough spots in the wood, using 120-grit sandpaper. Smooth the wood with 220-grit sandpaper, working in the direction of the woodgrain.

Wipe off any dust from sanding, using a damp cloth. Allow the wood to dry completely.

Items you will need

  • Fan
  • Drop cloth
  • Solvent-resistant gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Turpentine
  • Cloths
  • Paint and varnish remover
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Paint thinner
  • Paintbrush
  • Steel wool, 00 or 000
  • Scraper
  • Sandpaper, 120- and 220-grit


  • Some commercial paint and varnish removers require the use of denatured alcohol or paint thinner to remove any residue, so check the label to be sure.


  • Wear solvent-resistant gloves and safety goggles while working.
  • Don't smoke or work in an area with open flames. Solvents are flammable.

About the Author

Shelley Marie has been writing professionally since 2008 for online marketing and informational websites. Her areas of expertise include home, garden and health. She holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration and an associate degree in medical billing and insurance coding, both from Herzing University.

Photo Credits

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