I recently bought a second-hand coffee table and I'd would like to clean and smooth the existing finish. It's exactly same table as this, so I guess it's a copy of a common model. Table

Below you see details of the blemishes and also poor execution of the previous finish. My table, details Unfortunately I can't tell what kind of finishing it is. Is it safe to use mineral spirits to clean it? What about wet sanding, does it require a specific type of finishing ?

1 Answer 1


Those questions are all interrelated ;) Whether mineral spirits are safe to use depends on the finish. Any sense of age? Since there's more than one, I'll assume it's factory made and guess a polyurethane finish, and as another guess not oil based since it doesn't appear to have any yellowing... put a drop of water on it. If it turns white it's waterborne. I'd suggest you try mineral spirits on an inconspicuous spot first, although that won't help much with refinishing and will often leave a greasy film that may interfere later... you may be better off with naptha.

If you're trying to remove scratches etc, use a fine sandpaper, maybe start with 320 grit before applying a new top coat. If you're trying for a high gloss, as it appears it has, it's much more difficult by hand... usually sprayed in a factory. If this is a piece you're very fond of, I'd suggest doing some reading on refinishing and practice on a less important piece first.

Hope this helps!

Ooops, I see on rereading that you're trying to salvage the finish? Start with 320 if there are significant scratches, work your way up to 800 or higher, depending on the gloss you're looking for you may want to go as high as 1200. Stop frequently to clean the slurry from the surface and check your work. Be especially careful at edges as it's easy to sand through the finish there.

  • Thank you so much! We do like the table so I will proceed with caution as you recommended. I don't know about age, but I suspect it's not very old. I added one picture with the details about the blemishes. I will also do the test with water.
    – H.Scheidl
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 14:25
  • Yeah, the white rings make me more confident it's a water based finish... but again, the rule is test first ;) The scratches look very superficial so go slow with the sanding, stop frequently to check so you don't sand off anymore than necessary. If you wind up recoating it, you might consider (believe it or not) getting an ultrafine (looks like velvet) mini (hot dog) roller. It's very good for putting down ultra smooth finishes with a minimum of brush marks. Spraying is the best, but requires lots of experience and tends to be messy. Good luck, let me know if you need more help.
    – PaulBinCT2
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 14:53

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