I bought an unfinished kitchen set and had previously painted it white. We decided after a year that we wanted a bit of a different look. So, we decided we wanted the contrast of a natural or stained table top while leaving the rest of the piece white. I figured I'd just sand the top down and then decide on a stain color followed by 5 or 6 coats of polyurethane.

I've put some serious effort into sanding the table-top. From a distance, it looks good. But as you get close, you can see the white specs dotted throughout the table.

I figured just more sanding would do the trick. After about another 40 minutes of sanding w/ an electric sander w/ 60 grit paper, the good majority of the dots are still there. I guess i didn't figure that the wood was so porous.

The gentleman at my local hardware store pointed me toward a paint stripper called Zip Strip and said to scrape and steel wool after I apply that.

Before I crack open the bottle of the stripper, I wanted to see if there was anything I was missing.

  • Is this stripper combined with the scraping & steel wool going to be worth it?
  • Am I better off just continuing to sand or is that a lost cause?
  • Should I just refinish the top back to white and call it a day?

I'm sorry, but I don't know the exact species of wood.

  • Can you post a picture?
    – bib
    Oct 27, 2013 at 23:30
  • Veneer and contact cement?
    – DJohnM
    Oct 28, 2013 at 1:27

2 Answers 2


The paint stripper could be helpful but there is no guarantee, especially after you have sanded it quite a bit already. The stripper may get down into the porous parts of the wood and congeal the paint so as to make it come out. I would say that it is certainly worth a try in a small area to see if it helps. You'll know in short order if it would be worth the effort to go over the whole surface with the stripper. I give it a maybe 20 to 30% chance of making some difference.

If you do take on using the stripper....

  • move the table to a very well ventilated area with no open flames or pilot lights
  • wear good quality rubber gloves that extend well up over your wrists
  • make sure to wear clothing that covers bare skin where ever the stripper could splash
  • wear eye protection
  • use care with disposal of the paper towels, rags and steel wool that you use with the stripper

Just to comment on your sanding effort. You did not specify how big the table is but 40 minutes of sanding with a small orbital sander using 60 grit paper over a large area is not really that much sanding. You have come this far so you may want to give it another go at further sanding. Do change your paper often as this can make a huge difference on how well the paper removes the wood. Also note that after sanding with 60 grit paper so much you will need to sand it with successively finer grits all the way to 220 or finer to get the surface in excellent shape for your poly finish.

  • Thanks for the reply. I decided against the paint solvent. I've double my effort with the sanding, both with the orbital sander and, in certain spots, just by hand. Progress is slow, but noticeable. One quick additional question - when sanding before finish, do i use 80 - 150 - 220 grits before poly? Also, stain just before poly or before I start sanding for the final finish?
    – SBerg413
    Nov 1, 2013 at 20:41
  • You want to sand lightly through the grit levels before doing any finishing. When you put the first coat of of finish over the stain I recommend a light sanding to smooth the finish after it has fully dried. The reason for this is that the finish will capture any dry with any stray surface wood fibers raised up. A light sanding with 220 - 320 or - 400 grit "wet/dry" style sand paper or very fine steel wool will cut all those down to a very smooth finish before the next finish layer. When you do this post finish sanding it is essential to get every bit of sanding debris removed.
    – Michael Karas
    Nov 2, 2013 at 2:14
  • To remove sanding debris, is a quick wipe down w/ a rag dipped in mineral salts OK?
    – SBerg413
    Nov 2, 2013 at 2:17
  • 1
    Sure the rag idea works. Be aware that very fine steel wool partially breaks down in use and creates a debris that takes concerted effort to get out of inside corners and cracks.
    – Michael Karas
    Nov 2, 2013 at 6:13

heat gun or torch + putty knife helps remove old paint then belt sander for where you can and orbital/hand sand the rest. Stripper tends to liquify paint and works itself into pores/grain of the wood more than heat = more sanding.

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