How to Strip a Washstand with Oven Cleaner

When it comes to painted wood furniture chemical strippers are the best choice. However, this new technique definitely has its advantages if you’re dealing with original stain and top coat. Let me tell you how to strip a washstand with oven cleaner.

Completely stripped eastlake washstand showing it's mahogany red tones in the raw wood.

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Stripping Pieces of Furniture with the Oven Cleaner Method

This Antique Eastlake washstand has its original stained old finish but it’s too dark for the bathroom it’s going in.

The first time I attempted using the oven cleaner method to strip a piece of furniture it was definitely trial and error. And it isn’t that it wasn’t successful, as much as I just did a couple of no-nos. I chose to try it on a $50 vintage dining set that was in really rough shape.

The dining set in question had a ton of wood veneer. And it paid a toll on the amount of water that you use in this method. I panicked a bit in the middle of the process when I saw how much it was damaging the wood.

Before picture of the antique Eastlake washstand with original brass ornate hardware. It is a dark mahogany color.
The original finish on the Antique Eastlake washstand. If I was not putting it into a space that demanded a different stain color, I would have kept it natural because it was so beautiful.

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What is the Easiest Way to Strip Furniture?

It really depends on several factors. All stripping projects are basically a trial and error. Some are more successful than others. But here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering stripping with an oven cleaner.

What Type of Furniture is it?

If the furniture is a family heirloom, purchased from an antique store and/or worth money, or you’re looking to refinish it and keep its value you may want to avoid using the oven cleaner method.

However, if you’re looking to give an older piece a new look or bring it to a raw wood look you may want to give it a try!

What Material is the Furniture?

The rule of thumb is if it’s solid wood you’re probably good to go.

The first piece I chose to do had veneer and I would not recommend you use this method with a piece that has any wood veneer. The sheer amount of water you have to use in the oven cleaner method would seriously damage it.

What is the Finish on the Piece of Furniture?

If you have a painted piece this method is not a good idea. Try to use a traditional chemical stripper like Citristrip. I have had great success using Citristrip to strip paint from furniture pieces. Though it is a messy process, I always get the results I’m wanting.

If you want to see the entire process of stripping a washstand using the Citristrip method head over to Antique Washstand Turned Bedside Table.

The right side of my antique Eastlake washstand with it's original mahogany finish and brass drawer pulls. The ornate carvings go across the drawers and down the sides.

Why Should I Strip a Washstand with Oven Cleaner?

When planning out this project I considered several options of furniture stripper and different tactics. I have used many techniques and methods and received similar results.

Some other options are a whole range of chemical strippers, a heat gun, and even simply sanding to get a piece down to raw wood.

One of my favorite features of using oven cleaner to strip furniture is how fast the process can be. Especially if it’s on a single smaller piece of furniture.

Tools & Supplies

These are the tools and supplies I use to strip a washstand with oven cleaner. Pay special attention to safety when using this method. Oven cleaner is made with extremely caustic chemicals.

Note: Access to a Water Hose can be invaluable in this process.

The work top of the antique Eastlake washstand with it's original mahogany finish.

Step One – The Setup to Strip a Washstand with Oven Cleaner

For this step, you’ll want to consider a Plastic Drop Cloth or Tarp and access to a water hose.

You want to choose a spot that won’t be damaged by the oven cleaner’s chemicals. A concrete driveway would be ideal.

Also, keep in mind wherever you’re setting up this project there will be a runoff of these chemicals. Try to avoid gardens of all types, the chemicals can definitely kill plants and pollinators.

I chose to use my driveway to strip a washstand with oven cleaner. And laid down this tarp for added protection and to keep the mess somewhat confined.

Step Two – The Oven Cleaner Coat

For this step, you’ll need your piece of furniture and the Easy-Off Oven Cleaner.

Because the piece I’m stripping has drawers I will choose to do those separate from the frame of the piece. Also, remember to take off any hardware on each piece so you don’t ruin it.

I only had to leave the oven cleaner to work for about 10-15 minutes total. It was a hot day and this likely had a single layer of varnish that was ready to come off.

After about 10 minutes you could definitely see the old varnish bubbling and wrinkling. A clear sign that it’s ready to be washed off.

In most ideal projects this will be a very quick process.

Step Three – Gather Your Other Supplies

For this step, you’ll need your Eye-Protection, Gloves, Scrub Brush, A Metal Scraping Tool, Cloths (both dry and damp), and a Bucket of Soapy Warm Water.

When starting any project I like to plan everything out and be prepared as much as possible. I’ve tried to create a habit of following steps. This way each project is done with maximum efficiency. This in turn saves me time, money, and energy. And as a mother of 5 who also homeschools, time, energy, and money are all in short supply!

Once I started adding the water into the mix everything was just falling off like old skin. It was pretty gross looking, but I was happy it came off so easily.

I’m going to be honest, I had no idea this was mahogany before I started this process. And now that I see how red the wood is there will definitely be a second part to this process.

Step Four – Finish Sanding

This is really just to get the piece smooth. Once it has dried it looks mostly like this, but a little bit rough to the touch. The end to this particular process is to take 120 or 220 grit sandpaper and give it a very thorough finish sanding.


While some sources may say this works I have not had success with it and wouldn’t recommend it. For best results on a painted project, I would recommend using Citristrip to remove the paint layers paired with a paint scraper.

Yes. And while it is a lot of work, it is the easiest way to get a raw wood finish on any solid wood frame piece of furniture.

Yes. But in my honest opinion, I would not recommend it. The amount of water required in the oven cleaner method can severely damage wood veneer. I have done it successfully but then had to spend a lot of time repairing the damage.

Many older pieces of furniture come with a darker stain. Oven cleaner is able to strip the old varnish and stain off of the wood which gives it a lightened wood grain that is a more natural look.

If you wish to lighten it even further you can also bleach wood.

In my years of experience stripping furniture, it is my considered opinion that Citristrip is the best chemical paint stripper option. Though using chemical strippers can be an arduous messy task, Citristrip is the most effective.

20-30 Minutes is as long as it takes for the oven cleaner to really do its work. This may change if it is particularly hot or sitting directly in the sunlight. The key is to keep it from drying out entirely before you start scrubbing the finish off.

Yes and No. I have often used Citristrip to strip the finish off of projects in my home with great success. Citristrip is low VOC and I do have a particularly well-ventilated house. However, I would not recommend using oven cleaner as a stripper within your home.

Oven Cleaner is extremely caustic and will cause serious reactions if used indoors including breathing problems and possibly skin reactions as well. You need to do projects of this type outdoors.

Beautiful Eastlake washstand sanded and stripped down to raw wood sitting in my house.

Thank you so much for stopping by! I’m so excited to show you this process and I hope I have helped answer some questions and given you a solution to a problem. This project was quick and has gotten me one step closer to that beautiful bathroom vanity I’ve been dreaming of!


Meet the Author

Hi, I’m Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→


    1. Ha! I’m not sure why I forgot to mention the last bit! Thanks for pointing it out. Basically, just a light sanding. The piece looks exactly like that once you’ve stripped it and it’s dried, but it will be slightly rough to the touch. I updated the post to reflect that! Thanks so much!

  1. Hi! I’m noticing your wood looks like a different tone than my piece, did you stain it or seal it by chance? Mine is pulling very yellow

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