Hidden Treasures: An Easier Way to Restore Used Furniture

01 Feb Hidden Treasures: An Easier Way to Restore Used Furniture



You’ve been there.

You’ve felt the excitement.

You are at a yard sale, an auction, or yes-even stopped by the side of the road to peruse a “free” pile-and you spot that amazing piece of furniture hiding under several coats of really ugly paint.

You can see that the lines of the piece are beautiful and the construction is still solid.

It’s just that the gem is covered with so much ugly that you are not sure it is even worth bringing home to refinish:

The endless sanding that creates fine dust that settles everywhere.

The refinishing products that smell so incredibly awful that require you to work outside.

You think to yourself that you would take that diamond in the rough home in a heartbeat if there was just some kind of refinishing product that was easy to use, non-flammable, non-caustic and nearly odorless, and that worked really well.

There is.

Welcome to SoyGel Paint Remover. It’s made from soybeans and cleans up with water.

I don’t blame you if you are a bit skeptical. I admit to feeling the same way when I first read about the product.

However, since I was a yard sale junkie and was married to an equally enthusiastic treasure finder/keeper, we thought it was worth trying.

We decided to use it on a dull, gray, paint splattered table and chairs we had discovered in a barn but had not yet tackled. The layers of paint appeared pretty thick, and the decorative carving on the legs looked like they would never see the light of day, no matter what we used to clean them.

The remover brushed on like thick honey and even stayed put for the most part on the vertical surfaces. We did discover that the longer we left it on, the better job it did wrinkling up the layers of paint. Another real bonus: there was also almost no smell at all, just as the manufacturer had promised.

While the SoyGel is much more expensive than other paint strippers, I think the advantages are well worth the cost. When I rate this with my Wow Factor scale, I give it a nine. It makes the refinishing process much less labor intensive than anything else I have used, I can work on a project inside the house-especially important in the winter here in the Northeast, the end result is lovely, and the process overall is much more pleasant than any other product I have used.

From our frugal standpoint, we love the SoyGel. I think we used about a half to two thirds of a gallon to do our table and three chairs. They turned out to be simply lovely, with character and warmth. A comparable set in a furniture store would have cost considerably more, and they would have lacked the charm of these older originals. The project gave us the opportunity to work together-truly a labor of laughter and love. The bottom line is that we had seen the possibilities that shone just beneath the surface of that flat metal gray paint, and knew that while our refinishing would reveal both beauty and flaws, the end result would be something we would enjoy for a long, long time.

Never tackled a refinishing project before? The maker of SoyGel has a page of links to Restoring & Refinishing Furniture Articles.

Have you brought a piece back to life? Have some questions? We’d love to have you share with us in the comments!

And just for the record, as much as I dislike have to do this, a disclaimer. Always, always follow the manufacturer’s directions when using any products. Use care, caution, and your God given brains and common sense. If you use the products mentioned in this post or are encouraged to start a do it yourself project, realize that you are the responsible party, and I am in no way liable for your actions, especially if you get distracted and put the soygel on your toast instead of honey. . .

With that said, have fun as you bring hidden treasures back to life!

Image credit

13 Comments
  • Matt Wegner
    Posted at 06:00h, 01 February

    Great frugal tip Kim. Does that stuff work on stain too? I have a kitchen table that needs to be refinished and it’s stained, not painted. It would be nice not to have to sand it all off.

    • APrettyDoor
      Posted at 12:50h, 06 February

      Our site will help anyone wanting to refinish their own front door or stained furniture. We have a video that you may find very helpful. We have a door completely refinished and completed within three hours. We are located in the Houston, TX area and #1 in the business.
      Your information here is right on! Thanks for sharing and Happy 2012.

  • Miss Too Darn Happy
    Posted at 10:24h, 01 February

    Sorry, Matt, but I don’t think so. Paint and topcoat tend to sit on top of the wood, whereas stain goes deep into the grain. I think your only option is to sand it out. There is wood bleach, but I have never used it. Certain products will “lift” the grain of the wood, so you no longer have a smooth surface. It will feel almost fuzzy, and I have never found it to be very attractive, and it can be difficult to achieve a good finish after that.

    Also, when you sand, you must be careful to be evenhanded. Think of wood as being a little similar to a sponge, as wood is porous. Hard uneven sanding will compact the grain in different areas, making it less porous. Your stain will then be blotchy when it is applied.

    You can always go with a darker stain, regular paint, or a milk paint finish, which creates a very antique-y look. I love milk paint, as it comes in a powder, and you can mix up however much you like. We used a lovely barn red on some really ugly dark pine kitchen cabinets, and then topcoated with a Minwax product that was water soluable for cleanup. http://milkpaint.com/prod.html

    Happy refinishing!

    • Matt Wegner
      Posted at 21:55h, 01 February

      I was afraid you would say that Kim!

  • Thomas - Ways to Invest Money
    Posted at 09:18h, 02 February

    I know nothing about restoring used furniture. The most I have ever done is stain wood. I tried sanding but that ended up being a lost cause. These seems simple enough but I would wager its something I wont end up trying.

    • Matt Wegner
      Posted at 12:09h, 02 February

      It’s not all that hard to do, Thomas, but it does take some time and patience. If you don’t have an idea what you’re doing it might not turn out all that well either. I had a bad experience recently with a DIY project – I kind of knew what I was doing but you’d never guess it by the way the project went.

  • Beth
    Posted at 13:55h, 02 February

    I love to refinish furniture and bargain hunt, so this is a great tip, Kim! I’m so glad you stopped by my blog and we connected! 🙂

    • Miss Too Darn Happy
      Posted at 15:20h, 02 February

      Beth,
      If you do try this out, I’d love to hear how it goes. I was pretty surprised-and thrilled-that it lived up to the claims by the manufacturer (call me just a wee bit cynical! 🙂 ). I was so glad to find a product I could use indoors, especially since I have lived in so many old houses that have lovely wood door casings and moldings that have been painted over way too many times.

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  • FG
    Posted at 15:07h, 06 February

    Students might be more willing to pay you a decent price to take if off your hands, as well.

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