The Oven Cleaner Wood Stripping Method

Happy Monday Friends!

Today I'd like to share my experiences in experimenting with The Oven Clean Wood Stripping Method. Yep, you heard me right. If you haven't heard of this technique, I'll explain what it is, what I did, and what I found worked best, along with some advice to get you stripping in no time. So to speak. 😂

WHAT IS THE OVEN CLEANER WOOD STRIPPING METHOD?

Exactly what it says. Instead of using the wood/paint/varnish/stain stripper you would buy from the hardware, you use Oven Cleaner instead. In particular, the Easy Off brand Oven Cleaner. 

Technically you can strip metal as well, and I'll explain how I did this further down.  

INSPIRATION

I'm a huge fan of Natalie from My Vintage Porch who consistently strips furniture using Easy Off Oven Cleaner and has inspired not only me, but so many other DIYers to experiment with this method.  

Thank you Natalie! Remind me to buy some shares in Easy Off! 

Definitely head over to Natalie's Insta page to follow all her thrifting and DIY adventures. She is totally awesome and so funny! I know you will love her as much as I do. 😁

PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS

I did attempt this method a while ago and got discouraged as I wasn't get the results I saw other DIYers were achieving.  

    ATTEMPT NO. 1 - VINTAGE MIRROR FRAME

My first attempt was on this roadside rescued mirror. I applied one coat of oven cleaner. Washed it off and was left with a splotchy mess. It felt like a fail so I decided to cut my losses and paint it white and then distress it. 

    ATTEMPT NO. 2 - WOODEN CHARGER PLATES

My next attempt were these wooden plate chargers from Kmart. I loved them but they were a bit dark in colour for my liking. 

After one coat of oven cleaner, I didn't see any visible colour difference. But this is not where my disappointment ended. I had dried them in the direct sunlight on the grass and they literally warped so badly. I could have cried. 

In fact, I was tossing up whether to just buy new ones when hubby said if we placed something heavy on them over night they should flatten back out. And guess what? He was right. Who would have thought. 😂 

Then I resorted to sanding them. Again, I didn't see much of a difference and so I gave up, clear coated them and left them as is. 

Would it have helped if I persevered? That is the magic of this process. You never really know what you will get. Sort of like a box of chocolates. 💝 😂 

    ATTEMPT NO. 3 - STRIPPING ENAMEL PAINT FROM METAL USING OVEN CLEANER

My third attempt was removing old enamel paint from a metal door knob backing plate. I wanted to add an old door knob onto my thrifted chippy door makeover.  

This method worked!  You can see all the details over on my door post. But in summary, it only took two coats and it lifted the paint soooo well. 😮

CONCLUSION OF STRIPPING PAINT OFF METAL

For this project it worked. However, there are a lot of variables. The type of paint for a start. This method worked on old (probably lead based) enamel paint, but would it work on current day enamel paints? You'd have to test it. Same with the metal, would it work on all metals? Again I'm not sure. But for small non flat surfaces, I'd give it a red hot go! 

STRIPPING WOOD WITH OVEN CLEANER - SUCCESS STORY NO. 1 - PICTURE FRAME


My most recent attempt was on this picture frame I thrifted last week. It was only $5 and although I was a little undecided about the print inside the frame, I loved the detail on the frame itself. 


What didn't bring me joy was the dark shiny stain and varnish on the frame. It was hiding all those gorgeous carved details.  I knew this would be the perfect piece to experiment on.


For this project I removed the glass, and then the picture so it didn't get wet and ruined. The back had that really old sticky brown paper tape on the back. 

🤢

 And little metal tacks that require a screwdriver to lift. 


Here is how it looked prior to stripping.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

1.   A TARP OR SOME SORT OF DROP SHEET

This time round I purchased a tarp. Well worth it as you are working with oven cleaning chemicals after all. I found the tarp was a great surface to work on. It was easy to wash off and dried fast. 

2.   EASY OFF OVEN CLEANER

I used the Easy Off Oven Clean in the Fume Free. I had previously used the other one and it really did stink. This one was a lot better and I would highly recommend it over the other one. Although I read they both work well.

3.   GLOVES AND A FACE MASK

I grabbed disposable gloves and a surgical face mask. (In future I would recommend a proper pair of rubber dish gloves an a proper mask for fumes. But this is all I had on hand and was better than nothing.) 

4.   FAIRY DISHWASHING LIQUID

I found the Fairy dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle design which I liked as you could spray it on directly.  But a bowl of water with detergent squirt in it would work just as well. 

5.   A SCRUBBING BRUSH

I bought a new scrubbing brush, mainly cause I loved the bamboo handle. But I ended up switching this out for one with tougher bristles as it wasn't scrubbing the lifted materials off properly. 

THE PROCESS

I did neglect to take photos, but the process is simple.

1. Prep your piece. This may involve removing glass and pictures from frames or hardware for furniture, etc.

2. Take your piece outside and position it on something protective and close to a hose.

3. Put on your gloves and face mask.

4. Grab your can of Easy Off and spray your item like you would an oven, getting a good thick coverage.

5. Wait 15-20 minutes.

6. Lightly wet down your project.

7. Scrub thoroughly with your dishwashing detergent and brush.

8. Rinse until water runs clear and all oven cleaner, gunk and detergent is removed. 

9. Allow to dry completely.

10. Repeat the process until you achieve the desired level of lightness. 

Let's Skip To The Good Part.♮

THE RESULT


Here are the results! The difference was amazing!

After the first coat I noticed some white film on the frame which I put down to not rinsing it properly at the end. I also figured the patchiness may have been from not scrubbing it with the brush and dishwashing liquid with enough grunt. You really do need to put a bit of elbow grease into it. This is when I changed brushes to a small round one with tougher bristles. 

PERSONAL PREFERENCE

I probably could have applied another coat or scrubbed more in the details to lighten them up more, but I was happy with the way it was after 2 coats. 

Remember, it is you who needs to be happy with the finished product. There is no right or wrong.

STYLING


I decided to put the picture back in the frame without the glass. I like that you don't get the glare from the glass on the print and you can see it more clearly. It might just be growing on me. 

🤔

SUCCESS STORY NO. 2 - VINTAGE MIRROR FRAME


While I was on a roll, I decided to try lightening up this thrifted mirror.  I found it on Marketplace and loved the beveled mirror and the beadwork around the frame edges. I initially thought the beading was metal, but it turned out it was wood. The colour was definitely too dark for me and so ...

Let's Skip To The Good Part.♮

THE RESULTS


I have only one word. Wow-ee!

THE PROCESS


Here it is after one coat of oven cleaner on my tarp in the back yard. You don't need to tape off the mirror, but I would try not to get the cleaner on the back of the mirror in case the coating comes off. 

I let it sit for 15 minutes. 

I noticed with both projects that the cleaner tended to dry, even in the shade. 

I had the hose handy to just drizzle some water over it and then sprayed on my dishwashing detergent. I found getting a good lather up and giving it a good scrubbing a few times over before rinsing really helped. 

THE EXPECTED

After it dried the frame was patchy, as I was now expecting. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. Lol.  

The whole "one and done" is the dream, but the reality is it will likely take a few coats.

THE UNEXPECTED

What did concern me was that I noticed a distinct grey tone in the wood.  You likely won't know initially what type of wood is under all that wood stain and varnish. Sometimes there will even be different types of wood. 

Depending on the type of wood you could end up with an array of different tones and colours. 

THE ULTIMATE GOAL 

For me, the aim is to achieve a warm light brown toned wood.  I want the wood to look raw and natural. My home is predominately whites and woods so the lighter and better.

So I repeated the process twice more. Allowing it to fully dry between each attempt. 

And as they say ...



And I was pleasantly surprised to see those grey tones warmed right up to a warm brown tone!

AN AFTERTHOUGHT 

I probably could have done more coats, but I was happy with this result.  

THAT MIGHT BE THE BEST YOU WILL GET

And in honesty, I wasn't sure applying any more coats would have lightened it any further. Sometimes you have to be happy with what you get. 

THE ALTERNATIVE - WOOD BLEACHING

Or, you could try wood bleaching to lighten the wood further. I haven't tried this method yet but when I do I'll be sure to let you know. 

I believe you can attempt this method with household bleach or you can buy "official" wood bleach. If you Google "wood bleaching" I'm sure you find lots of information. In fact, Natalie at The Vintage Porch has a few posts on her blog. Here is a good one to start you off. 

MY TIPS FOR OVEN CLEANER WOOD STRIPPING!

So, what have I learned that I didn't read about in other blog posts. 
  • You may/probably need to do the process more than once. Don't give up! 
  • Don't let the patchiness scare you. It is a work in progress!
  • Scrub and scrub and scrub! Just like with an oven, you need to put in a bit of blood sweat and tears. (Hopefully not too many tears.) The oven cleaner is good at lifting but you still need to scrub all the gunk off to reveal all the awesomeness. 
  • Make sure you have a sturdy bristle brush. Don't use anything that will damage the wood such as metal bristles, but make sure it is not too soft either. You may want to experiment with different brushes but stiff nylon bristles are a good place to start. A hard toothbrush may even do a better job of getting into small crevices.
  • Make sure you rinse the piece thoroughly to avoid and residual residue or detergent film when it dries. Your water should run clear. I found with the mirror the water was very murky and took a lot of rinsing to ensure all the gunk had been cleaned off.
  • Wait for your piece to dry thoroughly (even over night) to see exactly how your piece turns out before repeating the process. Wet wood will look darker.

MORE HELPFUL HINTS

And some tips you may or may not know that I found helpful ...
  • Use the Fume Free Oven Cleaner if possible. Those fumes aren't worth it if you are damaging your lungs. 
  • Purchase proper rubber gloves. I had a lot of splashes of oven cleaner up my arms and I went though a lot of disposable gloves. You want to be wearing them when you apply the oven cleaner and when you wash it off. (I didn't use gloves on one of my earlier attempts and the skin was peeling off my hands for a few days. Not good.)
  • Wash your hands thoroughly afterwards to be on the safe side. Also wash your legs and arms or any other part of your body that may have come into contact with the oven cleaner or washing water. It can irritate the skin on any part of your body. 
  • This method is great for detailed woodwork because it really gets down in there. It also means you are not sanding off any of that beautiful detail. 
  • Expect different results on different pieces. Different wood and different varnishes and stains will react differently and produce different results. 

THE ADVANTAGES

  • It is less messy than using actual furniture stripper. There is no wrapping or scraping involved. 
  • It's fast. On a hot day it dries fast too!
  • For small projects, it's cheap!
  • It's easier than sanding. Less mess, less noise, less time and cost of replacing sanding pads.
  • You don't lose any of the layers or detail of the wood, like you would with sanding.

THE DISADVANTAGES

  •  It can become expensive buying lots of cans of Oven Cleaner, especially if you are working on larger pieces of furniture. 
  • All those chemicals probably isn't great for you or the environment. 

  • Drying time. It can be an overnight process. 
  • You have no guarantee what you will get. Blessing or curse? 

ULTIMATELY 

Give it a try (or a few tries).  😉 I wasn't sold on this method originally but I know now I just wasn't doing it correctly. You may find it takes a few attempts to figure the process out and to achieve the desired look.  

AND

If all else fails...

PAINT IT WHITE! 😂

SAVE IT FOR LATER

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THANK YOU!

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Comments

  1. What a wonderful transformation! Thank you so much for sharing at Tuesday Turn About!

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