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Stripping Stain with Oven Cleaner

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It’s no secret that I love stripping and bleaching furniture. Ok, maybe I don’t love the process of stripping furniture, but I do love the beautiful natural wood that is often hidden underneath. There are many different methods to stripping furniture, but one of the easiest is using oven cleaner to remove the finish. Yes, you read that correct, oven cleaner will remove the stain from furniture!

This unexpected method actually works really well. Have you been wanting to refinish a solid piece of wooden furniture, but not sure where to start or worried it will be too difficult? I’m here to help! In this post I’m going to share my experiences using oven cleaner to strip furniture, explain the correct projects to use this method on, discuss which types of stains it will actually remove, and walk you through the simple process.

This post contains affiliate links, please read more about my disclosures.

Vintage children's rocking chair stripped with oven cleaner.

Using Oven Cleaner to Strip Furniture

Have you ever come across a piece of furniture that you adore, but with a finish you don’t love? Maybe it has red or orange undertones and doesn’t match your home’s aesthetic. The oven cleaner method does an excellent job at transforming these types of solid wood items to bring out a beautiful and natural finish. In the process, you will use water to rinse the chemicals away. This water rinse causes the wood grain to rise and appear rough or cracked in places. The final product will be slightly discolored with lighter wood tone variations, making it a truly one of a kind piece.

Removing Stain with Easy-Off Oven Cleaner

Over the years I’ve completed many stripping and bleaching furniture projects. I’ve found the Easy-Off oven cleaner method to be one of the quickest and easiest ways to provide a natural, bleached look. Some of my favorite projects using this method include Celia’s antique bed makeover, a vintage highchair reformation, and most recently stripping the stain on a $14 rocking chair. I am so happy with the end results of all of these Easy-Off furniture makeovers and I’m excited to share some tips and tricks I learned along the way!

Before running to the store and buying all of the oven cleaner, there are a few questions to consider to determine if this method is the right choice for your piece of furniture. Is your furniture veneer? Is it a solid piece of wood furniture? Are you wanting to restore the piece or are you hoping for a natural and weathered look? These are all very important factors to take into account when considering using oven cleaner to strip furniture. Let’s discuss them further!

What is Easy-Off Oven Cleaner?

Easy-Off oven cleaner is a heavy duty cleaning agent that is used to remove grease and food spots from the oven. It has been used for years for hard to clean areas in the oven, where food is caked on. Due to it’s stain removing nature, it’s great for removing the stain from solid wood.

Easy-Off oven cleaner in the blue can, labeled Fume Free.

What Furniture Can You Strip with Oven Cleaner?

Even though the oven cleaner method is one of the easiest for stripping furniture, it is not always the best choice. It is very important that you determine the best method for your specific project before you get started. I’ve created a full guide on different methods for stripping furniture to help lead you through these types of projects. 

First, with the oven cleaner method, you need to determine if the piece you’re working with is veneer. I do not recommend using this technique on veneer furniture, as it will damage this thin layer of wood. Instead, if you’re refinishing a veneer piece of furniture, I recommend following one of the other popular methods of stripping furniture.

The next question to consider is whether or not your piece is an antique that you’re hoping to preserve. I do not recommend stripping furniture with oven cleaner on any items you’re hoping to restore or preserve. Do not use oven cleaner on your grandmother’s antiques that you hope to pass down generation after generation! Lastly, there are some other methods that are easier on wood. Keep in mind that oven cleaner is a very powerful and strong technique to strip stains, so it will not be gentle. The end result is a beautifully dried out and natural looking wood.

Applying oven cleaner to small crevices and detailed areas to remove stain.

Does your piece of furniture have paint on it? I’ve found that oven cleaner does not work well when removing paint from furniture. There are better ways to remove paint from furniture, like using citristrip to strip paint. Recently, I tried to remove black lacquer from a stool and failed miserably with oven cleaner. I’ve seen it used to remove small areas of thin paint, but again, I find it easier to use a paint remover instead.

When you’re browsing the thrift shops for the perfect piece of furniture to use this Easy-Off method, look for pieces that are solid wood with a stain or varnish. For example, a lot of these pieces will look like solid dressers without a shiny thin veneer top, solid chairs with a stain only, and etc.

Supplies Needed for Stripping Stain with Oven Cleaner

Once you’ve determined that using oven cleaner is the correct method for your stain stripping project, there are a few supplies you will need to gather. 

Scrubbing furniture to remove stain, using a soft brush and oven cleaner.
  • Easy-Off Fume Free Oven Cleaner. There are a variety of oven cleaners on the market, but I highly recommend the Easy-Off Fume Free. I’ve tried a variety of generic oven cleaners along with the Extra Strength Easy-Off and had mediocre results with each. Stick to the blue can to get the best results.
  • Safety Materials and Protective Gear. Follow all guidelines on the back of the can for safety. I recommend an appropriate mask, chemical gloves, and wearing clothing that protects all exposed skin.
  • Drop Cloth or Tarp. Any time you’re stripping stain, there’s bound to be a huge mess. I highly recommend using a drop cloth or tarp to catch the excess waste and run-off. This will help prevent stains on your concrete and clothing (trust me, I learned this the hard way!). As the stain is removed, it will settle into the surface beneath the furniture, causing a mess.
  • Soft Bristle Brush. You will need a brush to scrub before rinsing the finish away. This helps you get in the tiny crevices and detailed areas. Wire brushes and steel pads can be used for difficult detailed areas, with caution because they can scratch the surface.
  • Dawn Dish Soap mixed with Water. Using a small bowl with a dawn dish-soap mixture will help remove any excess oven cleaner and stain from the furniture.
  • Water Hose. Spraying the furniture will rinse the cleaner and finish away.

How to Strip Stain with Oven Cleaner

  1. Spray a thick layer of oven cleaner on your furniture. It will bubble and foam up as you spray.
  2. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes in the shade. The shade will help prevent it from drying out too quickly.
  3. Using a bowl with water and dish soap, scrub the item with a soft brush. Be sure to use a soft brush if it’s an item that you’re nervous about possibly scratching.
  4. Spray the item with a hose until the water runs clear. If it isn’t fully rinsed, it will leave a white residue on the furniture. 
  5. Place the item in the sun to fully dry. Do not worry if it still looks dark. This is the step where it will lighten as it dries.
  6. Once dry, lightly sand with 120-grit sand paper to remove any rough spots if needed.
  7. Optional: Apply a top coat. My favorite is General Finishes Flat Out Flat Top Coat because it does an amazing job at preventing any color change.
Spraying on oven cleaner and letting it bubble to remove stain and varnish.
Applying a thick layer of oven cleaner to the piece of furniture.
Removing stain from furniture using easy-off oven cleaner.
Letting the oven cleaner sit for 15-20 minutes before scrubbing it.

Tips for Removing Finish with Oven Cleaner

  • You can use a hard brush, wire brush, etc., but be aware that it might cause scratching.
  • Don’t be alarmed if you don’t initially notice a difference. The item needs to be fully dry before the final look is achieved. If necessary, you can reapply and repeat the steps until you get the exact look you’re wanting.
  • Be sure to spray the furniture until the water runs clear. Any remaining residue on the item will leave a white film.
  • If your furniture is rough to touch or has a remaining film afterward, you can lightly sand it to smooth the surface. I say lightly sand because if you sand too much, you’ll have spots of discoloration.
  • Keep in mind, this is a very messy project. It will cause run off, which can stain your concrete, clothing, etc. Be prepared with a drop cloth, old clothing, or an apron.
  • Be sure to wear all of the protective gear recommended on the oven cleaner can and follow all of the recommended safety precautions.
Natural wood bed that has been stripped and refinished.
If you do not wash the oven cleaner off until the water is clear, you might have a residue left behind like above. I repeated the Easy-Off methods and then lightly sanded in the end.
Natural wood bed with light wood and bleached design.

FAQ

  • Can you remove paint with oven cleaner? While some articles recommend using oven cleaner to remove paint, I do not. Using a stripping product like Citrstrip will give you better results for removing paint rather than oven cleaner. In fact, I’ve tried to use oven cleaner on two projects to remove paint and it did not work.
  • Does oven cleaner strip varnish? Yes. This oven cleaner method is perfect for removing finish from a solid wood piece of a furniture.
  • Do extra strength or off brands of oven cleaner work? Not great, the Easy-Off Fume Free is the best in my opinion.
  • What if the natural wood is too red or yellow? If you strip the finish and you’re not happy with the natural wood color, you can bleach the wood using one of these methods.
  • Do I need sunlight to lighten wood? No, I’ve stripped finishes from furniture and bleached them frequently without using sunlight. However, the heat and sunlight will give you the best results, if you can postpone your project for a sunny day!
  • Can I strip furniture in my house? It can be done, but I do not recommend stripping furniture indoors, especially inside your living areas. First, it’s a mess and you’ll need to protect everything around the piece of furniture. Second, you’re likely using chemicals for these projects, so you will need proper ventilation. Also, it takes time to complete these projects, so I wouldn’t set up shop in a living room, or you might be living with a mess for a while!

Have you tried stripping stain using oven cleaner? If so, what furniture have you stripped? Did you like the end result? If you haven’t tried this method, is there something holding you back? I’d love to answer any questions you have and help you turn a hidden gem into something beautiful for your home!

Stripping Stain with Oven Cleaner

Rocking chair refinished to natural wood using easy-off oven cleaner.

How to strip stain and finishes from furniture using Easy-Off oven cleaner.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $20

Materials

  • Easy-Off Fume Free Oven Cleaner
  • Dawn Dish Soap
  • General Finishes Flat Out Flat Topcoat (optional)

Tools

  • Dropcloth or Tarp
  • Soft Brush
  • Water Hose

Instructions

  1. Spray a thick layer of oven cleaner on your furniture. It will bubble and foam up as you spray.
  1. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes in the shade. The shade will help prevent it from drying out too quickly.
  2. Using a bowl with water and dish soap, scrub the item with a soft brush. Be sure to use a soft brush if it’s an item that you’re nervous about possibly scratching.
  3. Spray the item with a hose until the water runs clear. If it isn’t fully rinsed, it will leave a white residue on the furniture. 
  4. Place the item in the sun to fully dry. Do not worry if it still looks dark. This is the step where it will lighten as it dries.
  5. Once dry, lightly sand with 120-grit sand paper to remove any rough spots if needed.
  6. Optional: Apply a top coat. My favorite is General Finishes Flat Out Flat Top Coat because it does an amazing job at preventing any color change.

Notes

You can use a hard brush, wire brush, etc., but be aware that it might cause scratching. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t initially notice a difference. The item needs to be fully dry before the final look is achieved. If necessary, you can reapply and repeat the steps until you get the exact look you’re wanting. Be sure to spray the furniture until the water runs clear. Any remaining residue on the item will leave a white film. Lightly sanding will help to remove any rough and raised spots from the water rinse. Adding a topcoat is optional, depending on level of use for item.

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4 Comments

  1. Amy, thanks for the in-depth tutorial for refinishing with the oven cleaner. Need posting on You Tube too. Very helpful. Will send you picture of refinish when it’s finished.

  2. Thank you for this tutorial! Have you used this method then decided to paint the furniture? Just curious to see if this would be a possibility if I don’t achieve the look I want with the oven cleaner.

    1. Hey, I haven’t yet. I will say, the end result will need to be sanded and prepped before adding anything like paint. If you think you’re going to paint, I would suggest skipping oven cleaner and just going straight to paint. But if it’s paint to cover up a finish that you didn’t love, I would certainly prime and prep for paint after this! Let me know if I can help with anything else!

      Thanks,
      Amy

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