Refinish dressers: How to Refinish a Dresser

How to Refinish a Dresser

  • Interior Design

Do you have a dresser in good condition but with a dingy, worse-for-wear finish? With only a little elbow grease, you can transform it into a stunning signature piece.


Hold on a second! Don’t get rid of that old wooden dresser just yet. Give it a second look, and this time try to see past its paint job or cracked coat of stain. Do you like its design? Do the drawers hold enough? If you admire everything about the piece except for its current condition, you can—with less effort than you might expect—transform it from a dingy eyesore into a captivating keeper.

Anybody can learn how to refinish a dresser; there are no special tools or advanced skills required. All you need to be successful in the task are two things: a free afternoon and the willingness to get your hands a little sawdusty. Are you ready? OK, let’s go.


Removing the existing finish is the first, hardest, and most important step of refinishing a dresser. In fact, that’s mostly what furniture refinishing is all about. Adding the new finish is a snap, comparatively.

How you go about removing the existing finish depends on whether the dresser is now sporting paint or stain. Not sure? If you see any wood grain, that means there’s a stain. If not, then you’re very likely dealing with paint.

Bring the dresser to an area where you can make a mess, and to facilitate cleanup, position the dresser over a tarp. Don your goggles and dust mask, then proceed.


  • To remove paint from a dresser, use sandpaper—or to make quicker work of things, a power sander. In hard-to-reach crannies, swap the sandpaper for a scraper or steel wool. It’s not necessary to take off every single speck of paint, but the closer you can get to bare wood, the better. After sanding, wipe the piece down with a tack cloth to pick up sawdust.If you’ve tried sanding and the paint will not budge, there’s another option: chemical paint stripper. Working with such a product absolutely requires good ventilation and proper protective gear. Instructions vary from product to product, but the process generally starts with a thorough cleaning. Next, the gel-like stripping agent goes on with a brush and is left alone for a period of time. Slowly but surely, the paint bubbles into an easily removable layer, which you can then peel off using a putty knife in combination with your gloved hands. Finish by washing down the dresser and letting it dry out.
  • To remove stain from the dresser, use sandpaper or a power sander, just as you would with paint. Start the sanding process with coarse sandpaper and as the bare wood starts to show through, switch to medium-grit sandpaper. To complete the process, use fine-grade sandpaper. The sandpaper actually does double duty: It removes the old stain while also preparing the bare wood to accept a new finish.Just note that there are also chemical strippers designed specifically for use with stains. If you go this route, your best bet is to use a product that contains methylene chloride, which cuts through anything. As stipulated above, working with such toxic chemicals demands the observance of various safety measures. For specific details, make sure to read and follow the instructions printed on the container of the product you end up using.

Allow the bare wood to dry thoroughly before proceeding.



At this point, the dresser is down to bare wood and ready for just about anything—the traditional paint or stain, or even something creative, such as decoupage or a faux finish. Yes, this is the fun part!

What new finish should you give to your old dresser? There is no right or wrong here, and the answer, of course, is entirely up to you. Heed your personal style preferences, and consider the decor already in the room where you plan to put the piece once it’s refinished.

  • Stain. As the name suggests, stains are coloring agents that change the color or shade of the wood. Stains can highlight the grain, lighten or darken natural tones, or change them altogether. For detailed step-by-step directions on how to stain wood furniture, click here.
  • Paint. Paint differs from other finishes in that it’s opaque. Remember that traditional paints are sold in a va­riety of lusters—flat, satin, and so on. If you wish to apply a traditional paint with a brush, click here for a tutorial. Interested in spray-painting? Right this way.


No matter your chosen finish, you can be certain that the dresser will look quite different from the one you were ready to say goodbye to. And instead of purchasing a new piece of furniture for hundreds of dollars, you were able to customize one for less than $50. Not bad!

Refinishing an Old Dresser

Do you want to give your bedroom a facelift, but don’t have the budget for new furniture? A DIY dresser makeover is a great way to go. Refinishing an old dresser is both cost-effective and time-efficient.

With the right supplies, techniques and preparation, you can transform an outdated dresser into something entirely different–without putting a huge dent in your wallet. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the steps and provide some helpful tips for making your project a success.

Here’s what the old wooden dresser looked like before. The natural wood finish is such a popular style of furniture these days!

We love to paint old vintage or antique furniture that is worn out. It’s a cheap way to furnish your home on a budget and can do wonders for your decor.

But this dresser got the natural wood dresser look instead, and I couldn’t be more happy with how it turned out.

Table of Contents

Supplies Used For Refinishing a Dresser

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  • Power Sander and Sandpaper OR Citristrip Stripper (choose your method of Sanding or Stripping)
  • Respirator
  • Shop Vac
  • Tack Cloth
  • Gloves
  • Cheap Paint Brush
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Plastic Scraper
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Fine Steel Wool
  • Country Chic Paint in Sunday Tea
  • Country Chic Paint Painting Sponge
  • General Finishes High Performance Top Coat in Flat
  • Waterbased Polyurethane

Now that you know what supplies to use, let’s dive into how to refinish your old dresser.

Refinishing an Old Dresser

First, remove the hardware. So, remove knobs, drawer pulls, and hinges (hinges can be a pain to put back on, so sometimes I leave them.

Then protect the floor where you are working with some cardboard. It’s gonna get messy in here.

And then you can start removing the stain from your dresser.

Removing Wood Stain From Dresser

There are a couple of different ways you can remove old wood stain. You can sand it off, use a chemical stripper, or use a carbide scraper to scrape it off.

I started by sanding, and then I decided that it was too much work to sand, and I used stripper for the rest of it.

If you watch the video at the bottom of this post, you can see how the two methods made the wood look different in the end.

If you can, stick to one method.


Because you’re going to want your wood to look cohesive on the whole entire piece. Otherwise, when you go to stain or color wash the wood, the finish is going to look different in each of those places.

So choose to either sand off or strip off the old finish, and stick to that method the whole way through.

How to Remove Wood Stain by Sanding

You’ll want a power sander to do most of the work for you, but these sanders have a really hard time getting into detail.

So keep in mind that you’ll most likely have to do some hand sanding in the detailed areas.

Choose one of these sanders from this list of the best sanders to remove paint or old finish here.

Be sure to wear a respirator so you’re not breathing in all of the dust and old finish and some eye protection.

Steps to Easily Sand Wood

  1. Start with 80 grit sandpaper on your power sander. This is course sandpaper that will eat through a thicker finish fast. Remove most of the finish with this step.
  2. Then move up to 120 grit sandpaper, and even 150 grit sandpaper after that.
  3. Sand by hand with 220 grit to smooth out the wood and help remove any sanding marks. This will get rid of some of the old finish, but it takes a lot longer for it to eat through a solid finish.
  4. Vacuum off the dust with a brush attachment, and then wipe it all down. Tack cloths were made for this, and do a great job at getting all of the dust particles off of the wood.
  5. Now you’re ready to stain or seal your wood dresser.

Note: You really want to slowly work your way through sandpaper grits to get down to bare wood without any swirly sanding marks in the wood.

Learn more about sandpaper for furniture here.

How to Remove Wood Stain With Chemical Stripper

This method is messier, but it’s definitely my preferred method for removing stain from wood when there are details to contend with.

Learn how to How to Remove Wood Stain with a chemical stripper here. And here are some more details about How to Remove Stain from Wood.

Make sure your floor is covered with drop cloths, broken-down cardboard boxes, or something to protect the floor from the stripper.

Also be sure to wear chemical resistant gloves, a respirator if you don’t have any ventilation, and some eye protection.

You may notice that your wood isn’t completely back to a natural wood look. There may be some light stain left, which is exactly what I was going for!

I wanted to start with a little bit of color and not a completely sanded-down piece of wood.

Natural Wood Finish Dresser

Now the dresser is ready for a stain or whatever you want!

I wanted a natural wood dresser, so I went with a color wash in a natural wood color. Since I sanded the top and stripped the rest, the top looked a lot lighter than the rest.

So for the top of the dresser, I mixed up a little bit of very thinned-out brown latex paint. Then I washed it on the top like I did the color washing step.

I did it before I sealed the paint so it would soak into the wood like a stain. But I thinned it out a lot so the color would be very light.

This is completely optional! But in my case, I wanted to make the color of the wood on the top match the color of the wood on the bottom.

Sealing Stripped Wood

At this point I gave my freshly stripped wood a couple of coats of water-based poly. I sprayed the polyurethane on, but you can definitely use a painting sponge to apply it.

Learn ALL of my tips and tricks on How to Spray Polyurethane here!

Why did I seal the wood before doing the natural wood color wash??

The layer of poly keeps the wash (or watered-down paint) from soaking into the wood super fast, making it easier for me to work with it and get a lighter coat of a wash.

After I gave it a couple of coats of poly, I sanded the poly with 400 grit sandpaper to make it super silky smooth.

How to Color Wash Wood

Now for the really fun part!

Color washing is a version of white washing. But instead of using white paint, you can use whatever color your heart desires!

Check out how to whitewash wood here and get more whitewashed furniture ideas here.

I used some Country Chic Paint in Sunday Tea that I had leftover (because you don’t need much for a project like this). Sunday Tea creates the perfect grey weathered wood finish!

Just mix some water with the paint, stir it up until it’s completely combined, and then you’re good to go!

I’m going to guess that my ratio of water to paint was a 60/40 mix. So a little bit more water than paint. Then I put the color wash onto the wood. Simply wipe on, then wipe off.

  1. Working in small sections, I wiped on a whole lot of the wash, making sure to get it into every bit of detail and corner.
  2. Before it sat on the wood for more than 30 seconds, I wiped off the wash with a clean rag, always wiping in the direction of the grain.
  3. If the paint was too thick, I used a wet rag to wipe off even more paint. Once again, wiping in the direction of the grain.
  4. Then I painted another very thin coat of wash on top of that until I was happy with it.

I used paper towels for this since the color I was using was pretty close to white.

If I were to do a dark color, I would use heavy duty lint free rags or old t-shirts. You could also use a cheap brush to brush on your first coat.

I kept all of my drawers in the dresser until I was happy with the overall finish of the front, and then I took them out to apply the wash to the side and top of the drawer fronts as well as the inside of the dresser where the drawers sit.

Sealing Color Washed Wood

Once the wood was to my liking, I let it dry overnight.

I typically spray my top coat on, but my spray booth was being used, and it’s not necessary for a weathered wood look.

So I busted out my favorite brush, the Country Chic Paint Painting Sponge. This sponge is perfect for topcoats without the hassle of a brush!

I used General Finishes High Performance Top Coat in Flat because that’s what I had on hand for a matte finish.

Learn about Topcoats for Furniture for more information on the best topcoats.

The final coats of poly are really important for creating a durable paint finish and protecting your finish from easily scratching.

Here is a quick video of the process from our Instagram stories.


  • Sandpaper
  • Citristrip Stripper
  • Tack Cloth
  • Gloves
  • Cheap Paint Brush
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Plastic Scraper
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Fine Steel Wool
  • Country Chic Paint in Sunday Tea
  • Country Chic Paint Painting Sponge
  • General Finishes High Performance Top Coat in Flat
  • Waterbased Polyurethane


  • Power Sander
  • Respirator
  • Shop Vac


  1. Start by removing dresser hardwaree. Then protect the floor where you are working with some cardboard.
  2. Strip off the dresser’s old finish. You can start by sanding, then use the stripper for the rest of it. For sanding, start with 80 grit sandpaper on your power sander, then move up to 120 grit sandpaper, and even 150 grit sandpaper after that. Sand by hand with 220 grit to smooth out the wood and help remove any sanding marks. Vacuum and wipe all the dust from sanding.
  3. Seal the stripped dresser wood with a couple of coats of polyurethane. Sand the poly with 400 grit sandpaper to make it super silky smooth.
  4. Mix up a color wash with your desired paint color and water. The ratio of water to paint is a 60/40 mix. Color wash the wood by wiping it on the dresser, letting it sit for 30 seconds then wiping it off. Always wipe in the direction of the grain. Let the color washed dresser dry overnight.
  5. Seal the final coats of poly on the dresser to create a durable paint finish and protect your finish from easily scratching.
  6. Add hardware to dresser.

    Recommended Products

    As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

    • Chalk Paint

    • General Finishes High Performance Water Based Topcoat, 1 Quart, Flat

    • Varathane Waterbased Polyurethane

    More Before And After Makeovers

    Click any of these “before” photos below to view the “after” of that makeover.

    More Refinishing Furniture Ideas

    • How to Remove Paint from Wood Furniture
    • DIY Whitewash Dresser
    • How to Refinish a Dresser
    • Buffet Turned Into Bathroom Vanity
    • How To Stain Wood With Paint

    Follow us on YouTube to get more tips for painting furniture.

    Or share your project with us on our Facebook Group and be part of our community. See you there!

    Chest of drawers in the interior (45 photos)

    Author DW Read 4 min Views 10.4k.

    A chest of drawers cannot be called an indispensable attribute of furniture and interior, however, its popularity due to its versatility and practicality is difficult to dispute. There are suggestions that the chest of drawers was created many centuries ago and was previously a special kind of chest, designed to store various things in cells with drawers.

    The prototype of a modern chest of drawers

    The word “commode” in translation from French means “comfortable”. This explains the high demand for this piece of furniture to this day. Modern dressers fit perfectly into the interiors of any room in the house, whether it is a living room, bedroom, kitchen, dining room, hallway or even a balcony.


    1. How to choose a chest of drawers
    2. Choosing a chest of drawers depending on the style of the interior
    3. How to decorate a chest of drawers

    How to choose a chest of drawers

    The choice of chest of drawers should, first of all, be based on the quality characteristics of the product. Modern chests of drawers can be made from both expensive natural wood and more economical materials. Finishing can be represented by decorative elements made of natural stone, leather, as well as simpler materials – plastic, laminate. In any case, the chest of drawers should be of high quality, with a solid frame and drawer mounts, as well as reliable fittings and finishes.

    White chest of drawers in the interior photo

    Chests of drawers today are represented by a rich choice in shape, size, color and texture. When buying a chest of drawers, it is important to consider which room it will be located in. So, for example, a chest of drawers made of natural wood or an antique antique chest of drawers with a rich carved finish will look great in a living room or office, a product with plastic or laminate finish is well suited for a child’s room. Since such a surface is easy to care for and wash. A chest of drawers with a mirror will be very convenient in the bedroom instead of a dressing table, or in the hallway.

    Choosing a chest of drawers depending on the style of the interior

    It’s no secret that any type of furniture in the interior should be in harmony with the surrounding space, making up the overall ideological composition and supporting the interior design features of the room. If you have an old antique chest of drawers, then it should be in the living room. As a rule, such products are made of natural wood, decorated with handmade carvings and are of high value. There is a misconception that antiques and objects create an old fashioned environment. Antique antique paraphernalia is more relevant today than ever, and such a chest of drawers can become a highlight in the interior. A chest of drawers made of valuable wood will emphasize the respectability of its owners.

    Chest of drawers made of natural wood

    Shabby chic style is also a fashion trend these days. All interior items made in this style seem to be specially aged and create an atmosphere of bygone times.

    Chest of drawers in shabby chic style

    If the interior of the room is made in the newfangled hi-tech style, then the chest of drawers can be made of more modern materials with glossy surfaces and decorative elements made of metal, glass, stone with chrome details. Such a chest of drawers will perfectly emphasize this stylistic decision.

    A simple wooden chest of drawers would be appropriate for a room with an interior in an eco-style or in a rustic country style.

    Rustic chest of drawers

    Chests of drawers with whimsical shapes or bright colors will be in harmony with the pop art style, and also well suited for a child’s room.

    Chest of drawers in bright colors

    The classic remains relevant at all times. That is why a chest of drawers in a classic style will be appropriate in almost any room in the house.

    Universal chest of drawers in classic style

    How to decorate a chest of drawers

    A chest of drawers is not only a functional piece of furniture, but also its aesthetic component. Since the chest of drawers is not as tall as a traditional chest of drawers, the space above the chest of drawers is filled with a variety of items for decoration purposes. To correctly design a chest of drawers, you should take into account some details and features.

    Very often a mirror or a picture is placed above the chest of drawers. If they are located in the center of the chest of drawers, then on the sides there can be tall figurines, lamps or candlesticks on both sides.

    Ways to decorate the space above the chest of drawers

    In the case when a mirror or a picture is located to the left or right of the center of the chest of drawers, then the adjacent space can be supplemented with shelves with various accessories. It is important to bear in mind that in this situation, decor items such as photo frames, vases, boxes should be placed not under the picture, but on the other side of the chest of drawers.

    Chest of drawer decorating ideas

    As a general rule, items above the chest of drawers should be smaller than the chest of drawers. This should be taken into account in particular if you plan to put a TV on the chest of drawers, or place a large picture above it.

    Chest of drawers can be used as a TV cabinet

    Do not oversaturate the space above the chest of drawers with an abundance of various items. Especially if the dresser itself, or the wallpaper in the room, is too bright and contrasting. If the walls and chest of drawers are of pale solid colors, then the accessories, on the contrary, should be bright in order to become an accent in the interior. In any case, it is desirable that all items located on the chest of drawers are combined with each other, consistent with the general style and in harmony with the surrounding space.

    How do you like the article?

    What to put on the chest of drawers and how to decorate the wall above it?

    Low solid furniture – tables, cabinets, chests of drawers – requires clearance. Properly selected decor transforms the entire adjacent area. You can decorate not only the top of the furniture, but also the wall above it. However, the design of the wall is not mandatory.

    We talked about how to create a composition on a coffee table in one of the previous articles. Today we will talk about the design of chests of drawers.

    What to put on a chest of drawers to fill the void and create beauty?

    Common formula

    Let’s make a reservation right away: it is not necessary to adhere to it at all. However, working on a formula is always easier. For doubting beginners, a well-established scheme is the way out. Taking a common algorithm as a basis, it is easier to overcome the fear of a “blank slate”.

    So, the formula:
    lamp + fine art + decorative item

    Keep in mind: each of the components of this formula can be represented as a single item or a group.

    Lamp. Most often it is a table lamp. But instead of an electric lamp, you can use a candle lantern, a chandelier, a group of decorative candles, etc. This is meant to be a painting or reproduction. However, variations are appropriate: these can be posters, photographs (including family ones), panels, collages, etc. You can replace the image with a mirror.

    Decor item. Usually it is something simply beautiful or something spectacular, interesting, original. For example, a vase with flowers, a group of vases, a figurine, a box, a table clock, a globe, etc. To make this part of the design taller, the item is placed on top of a stack of books. This is another common practice.

    Some elements of this decorative scheme – a picture, a poster, a mirror, a clock, etc. – can be located not on the chest of drawers, but above it (that is, on the wall). A low-hanging item is part of the overall composition.

    Remember that this is a base formula. And the base can always be supplemented – for example, with a stack of books, a couple of souvenirs, etc.

    Rule of three

    Now let’s talk about the number of decorative elements. Here, too, there are no strict canons. But many honor the rule of three (or the rule of odd numbers) .

    It says: compositions with an odd number of objects are more attractive and effective, they are better remembered.

    This is equally true for groups of three, as well as of five, seven, nine components. But for the design of small surfaces (and the top of the chest of drawers is just from this category), it is better to stop at three or five. Moreover, the fewer items, the easier it is. This is important for beginners. In general, it is better to start with three – later the composition can be expanded if desired.


    1. It is not necessary to use exactly three items. There may be many more. The main thing is that there are three prints. Or you can call it smears, spots, strokes.

    Three “prints” on the chest of drawers: 1. group of vases; 2. box; 3. decor tray

    In a word, the decor can be placed individually or in groups. Both will be one print. So, if a chest of drawers is decorated with a figurine standing on a stack of five books – in fact, these are six items, but the group is one. So, we consider that this is one print. Let’s add two more.

    The second can be a tray with a few decorative trinkets. There are many gizmos, but the visual element is one. A large lamp will be the third stroke.

    Tray with objects – one “imprint”

    Three by two

    2. Decor according to the rule of three is most aesthetic and expressive if it consists of components of different heights. Match pieces of different sizes to create a more interesting composition.

    3. One of the three components of the decorative display can be placed on the wall. But in such a way that everything looks like a single ensemble.

    To do this, the wall decor must be positioned low enough (lower point no higher than the tallest desk item).

    The mirror is too high here. In addition, it is complemented by lamps, together with which it is folded into an independent composition, not tied to a chest of drawers. There are only two objects on the chest of drawers, and this is clearly not enough: there remains a hint of understatement. Here comes the third item.

    But there is another approach to design: wall decor is taken out of the brackets, not considered part of the “commode installation”. You can argue this way and that way. The main thing is that everything looks harmonious and pleasing to the eye.


    Here the emphasis is on pairing. Although there can also be three prints (or five, seven, nine), that is, in an odd expression.

    The peculiarity is that the composition seems to be taken into brackets or, in other words, framed by identical objects located at the edges. As a rule, this is something high: table lamps, vases, figurines.

    According to the classic formula: lamp, art object, decor.