Helpful Tips

How to Sand Furniture in Five Easy Steps

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Learning how to sand furniture may sound simple, but refinishing wood will require the best palm sander, and other essential woodworking tools in order to get the job done right. This can be tedious work, so be sure you set aside enough time and an appropriate amount of space for each step of the process.

Learning how to sand furniture can breathe new life into old furniture and save you hundreds of dollars that would otherwise go to replacing old worn out kitchen tables, armoires, dressers, and more.

  Fortunately, there are only five steps in this process.:

  • Removing the original finish
  • Filling in the grain depending on wood type
  • Using a sander to remove any remaining finish
  • Staining the wood
  • Applying a finish

These steps apply to any type of furniture or even your hardwood flooring. Make sure you wait at least twenty-four hours after you apply the stain before you add the clear coat.

As you can see, while the process itself is simple, this type of job can be a full day’s work if you don’t do it correctly. Read on to learn more about the right way to refinish your wood furniture and find out more in regard to the right type of sander to use.

Learning the Process

Sanding furniture involves the following steps:

  • Removing the finish
  • Filling grain
  • Using a palm sander
  • Using a stain
  • Clear coat application

How to Remove the Finish

Removing the old finish will be the first step of the process. This step is also the most time-consuming. There are a couple of ways you can go about taking off the old finish: sanding or a chemical stripping process.

Using a Chemical Stripper

This type of chemical is used to remove old varnish or paint from furniture. This process is extremely messy and unpleasant. If you decide to try this process, you’ll need to purchase the following supplies:

  • Dust mask
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paint stripper
  • Eye protection
  • Scraper tools
  • Eye protection
  • Steel wool pads

Because working with these chemicals can be dangerous, make sure you work in a well-ventilated area in order to avoid inhaling the fumes.

Because liquid paint strippers can run, I recommend using a paste or gel to cut down on mistakes and mess. You can also use an aerosol stripper for small projects.

When using these chemicals, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You’ll want to apply a thick coat and follow the included instructions in terms of dry times. Remove as much of the finish as possible using a scraper tool. Make sure you have a rag handy so you can wipe off the tool between scrapes. Use steel wool pads for stubborn spots. The wood should be allowed to dry thoroughly before you move onto the next step of the process.



Even if you’ve chosen the chemical stripper route, you’ll still need to use a sander to remove the remaining finish. Sanding will not emit harmful fumes like chemical strippers will, but you’ll still need to work in a well-ventilated area and wear a dust mask to avoid inhaling wood shavings.

For this process, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • Eye protection
  • Dust mask
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sanding block
  • Palm sander

During this step, be sure to sand in the direction of the grain, not against it. How good the final results look will depend on how much time and care you put into this step. I recommend using the Bosch ROS20VSC Palm Sander, which is a beginner-friendly model that’s easy to use and comes equipped with a powerful motor for extended use.

You’ll want to purchase sandpaper discs that are one hundred and fifty to two hundred grit. This step helps to get rid of any remaining paint or finish until the furniture’s surface is completely bare. If you come across any areas that are difficult to reach with the sander you can use the sanding block to finish up.

Filling the Grain

This step is optional and should only be used based on the type of grain in the furniture. If you’re working with a tighter grain then this step can be skipped. If the furniture is made out of wood such as mahogany or oak, which is considered an open grain, then you may need to use a filler.

For this step, you’ll need:

  • Paintbrush
  • Putty knife
  • Rags

When buying the filler, make sure you choose the right pigment. Choose a color that contrasts with the wood’s natural color in order to emphasize the grain of the wood. If you don’t want to emphasize the color of the wood, then go with a color that closely matches the wood’s natural color. To apply the filler, use a paintbrush or rag, working the product into the grain. You can use the putty knife to remove any excess filler. Once the coat has completely dried, take the palm sander and lightly sand all the surfaces until smooth.

Sealer Application

Another optional step is applying sanding sealer. This will help the wood to evenly absorb the stain. You can apply a thick coat and allow it to soak well into the wood. Make sure you wipe off any excess sealer using a rag.


There are many staining options to choose from including oil, water, and gel-based stains.

Clear Coat

For the type of finish you choose, go with a clear coat that’s as durable as you need, based on how the furniture is used. As an example, for a kitchen table, you’ll want a tougher clear coat than what you would use for a nightstand.

Related Questions

Why Should I use a Palm Sander?

These sanders are more versatile compared to belt sanders, easier to use, and more affordable. They’re a great buy for woodworking projects in general and can be relied on for most types of home improvement projects. To learn more, click here to read my article on how to use orbital sander.

How Long Should I Allow the Stain to Dry?

Every stain is different. The drying times can from product to product or brand to brand. I recommend waiting at least twenty-four to forty-eight hours in order to allow the stain to dry fully before applying another coat of the stain or applying the finish. If you want to be extra careful, go ahead and wait seventy-two hours.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to sand furniture can be a great way to dive into the world of woodworking. You can also use this handy skill to refurbish antiques or breathe new life into your old furniture. By following the tips I’ve listed here, you’ll be able to get the job done in a matter of hours, with professional looking results.