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Old Paint Refuses to Sand Off Dresser



I have an old dresser I have been trying to sand and the 2 layers of white paint just refuse to come off. I began using an orbital sander with 40 grit sandpaper and it took about an hour to get an 8" diameter area down to the bare wood.

I was given a Skil belt sander by a friend to use, but after it's 40 grit sandpaper kept sliding off, and seeing that it tore up the paint in chunks unevenly, I did some research online and found it is probably one of the worst belt sanders out there (horrible reviews on Amazon). However, it did make it a little easier for the orbital sander to take off the rest of the paint, with applied pressure (which of course slowed down the spinning) and I was finally able to finish the entire top of the dresser yesterday.


Why is this paint so stubborn? Is there something I can do to speed this process along? I don't want to give up on this project but it's not looking well.



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Posted 2012-09-17T18:43:06+0000  by Hello_Evelina Hello_Evelina




Any finish to be painted which is shiny needs to be dulled first, either by sanding or with a chemical deglosser. This normally only needs to be a light scuff sanding. The RustOleum Universal line  is self-priming. The regular Rustoleum sprays are not.You will always get a better result when priming first. Primer seals porous surfaces, adheres to slick surfaces and helps grap the new paint to resist running and sagging. The regular RustOleum spray primers are very good.


The new generation of RustOleum sprays are now self-priming on plastic.The older version was not. The new cans are clearly marked that they can go directly to plastic or laminates.


Another product, which I highly recommend, is Zinnser´s Spray Shellac. It both seals and adheres well. It is also an excellent bonding agent in that it will stick to almost any surface and almost any paint, varnish or urethane varnish will stick to it. It is superior at adhering to glass,mirrors, glazed tile, plastics and laminates. Shellac is also unsurpassed at stain and odor killing. A bonus is that it is environmentally friendly, so much so that medical pills are coated with shellac.


Hope this has helped.

Best Answer

Posted 2012-09-28T18:46:12+0000  by ordjen

Hi Evelina,


With that heavy of a paint coating I might suggest using a paint stripper to move the majority of the paint then finishing up with a sander to remove any remaining paint.


One product we sell is called CitriStrip, it’s a citrus based stripper which is very effective biodegradable and has a pleasant citrus scent.


Just apply the stripper, allow it to work loosening the paint for 15-30 minutes and then scrape away the old paint with a putty knife.


 Any remaining stripper can be wiped off with a clean rug and then you can sand the wood with 150 grit paper to smooth the surface and remove any remaining paint.


Once you have sanded the surface smooth, you’re ready to paint.


I might recommend applying a primer prior to painting or using an all-in-one paint such as Behr Premium Plus Ultra which has the primer built in the paint.


You can buy both in a quart size to save money.


Good Luck with your project.






Posted 2012-09-17T20:00:07+0000  by Mike_HD_OC
I'll pick it up! Thank you!
Posted 2012-09-17T20:06:57+0000  by Hello_Evelina




I will hazard a guess and say that the dresser you were trying to sand and been painted with a latex paint. Latex paint is very difficult to sand because it rapidly clogs up the the grit of the sandpaper. It is the soft, gummy nature of acrylic/latex paints, which makes it so hard to sand, that make it less than ideal as a finish coat on furniture at all. The gummy nature of acrylics make it unsuitable for shelving or surfaces upon which heavy items , such as dishes, might be placed. They partially adhere to the surface.


I am a definite advocate of oil or lacquer paints on fine furniture. They dry hard, non-sticky and tend to level out better. Oil paint applied with a good brush can rival the finish of paint which has been sprayed.


One option for the painting of furniture is the use of oil paint in spray cans. The RustOleum line of spray paint can deliver a smooth, hard, flawless finish. The use of a primer is always advisable on new or refinished bare wood. It seals the porous wood and provides "tooth" for the sprayed paint to adhere to. Paint over primer is far less likely to sag or run. Its sheen will be more even and the color more even.


When spraying, use long, straght , even, overlapping strokes. The strokes must overlap enough to avoid striping. If the paint looks stripey when wet, it will look more so when dry. The piece to be painted can also be done in sections horizontally.while laying the piece flat. Obviously, a flat surface cannot run, so the paint  may be sprayed on more liberally. RustOleum is fast drying, so doing the piece in sections does not take inordinate amounts of time.


Do the top last. Spraying causes a certain amount of overspray. If the top is done first, the "dry fog" of overspray settles on the top and causes a rough surface.


One last trick is to warm the spray can. Let the can float in hot water straight from the water tap for several minutes. This increases the pressure in the can so that it sprays better. Also, warm paint flows and levels itself better.


Hope this is helpful



Posted 2012-09-18T07:05:34+0000  by ordjen
Your description of the paint sounds right on the ball! If it loosens up, I can pull it off and it's like gum.

I have been using RustOleum for other projects (chairs and shelves) and I love their spray paint. Lots of colors and inexpensive. I had been planning to paint this dresser with RustOleum. I use their primer, then the color coat and a clear coat. It's fast and easy. I always had thought spray paint was a way of cheating but it does look very nice.

I've never heard of warming the cans first, but I'll do that.

I'll post pictures of the dresser when I'm done with it in my albums on here.

Posted 2012-09-19T19:08:02+0000  by Hello_Evelina

Hi Evelina,


The RustOleum sounds great, spray paint always gives an excellent finish, however it's usually a very thin coat. Using a finish coat is a good idea.


I would stay away from heating cans of spray paint. This can be a dangerous idea, I once heated some save cream in hot water and the can exploded! Fortunately I was not in the room at the time.


We will look forward to seeing your pictures of the finished project.



Posted 2012-09-20T17:10:23+0000  by Mike_HD_OC

I have heated literally hundreds of spray cans over many years without a mishap. I suppose it is not impossible that a can could have a manufacturing defect and rupture, but the temperature of HOT tap water is between 120 and 130 degrees. Hotter than that would cause an almost instant scald. Failure would indeed be messy, but it would be in the nature of a rupture followed by spraying leakage, rather than an actual explosion. I have on occasion had to deal with spray cans which have been dropped, pinched, or punctured and ruptured. NOT pretty, but not dangerous..


Heating of spray paint is quite beneficial. There are actually inline heaters for professional spray equipment to warm it shortly before it exits the spray gun. Heating makes the oil paint flow like warm butter, leveling itself out. Heating was also an old painter's trick to thin the regular brushed oil paint without thinning it. It was also used when you found yourself without any paint thinner or Penetrol on the job to thin the paint. Heating is actually better because it does not thin the paint, but conditions it to flow.

Posted 2012-09-21T20:56:51+0000  by ordjen

The Citristrip worked PERFECTLY!! :womanlol: All the paint on the drawer faces came off with a plastic putty knife in one gloppy piece that looked like skin! Citristrip also smells really good, I wish all paint products smelled that good. I have to pick up some Odorless Mineral Spirits to clean up the drawers and then sand them a little.

I didn't get the paint-on gel, I got the spray-on gel which made it really, really easy and everything was done in 30 minutes. The can did get clogged and no more spray will come out. How do I fix that? Take the spray tip off and soak it in some Mineral Spirits? Should I pick at the hole with a needle after and before putting it back on the can?

Thanks again!

Posted 2012-09-24T01:27:27+0000  by Hello_Evelina



Iam happy your project has turned out so well!


Mineral spirits will work as well as the needle. An easy way to keep spray tip clear after use, is to invert the can and spray until the tip clears.


It takes just a few seconds to clear the tip. Then the next time you use the paint it will be ready to go.



Posted 2012-09-27T16:54:38+0000  by Mike_HD_OC

When I was at my local Home Depot looking for the Mineral Spirits and picking up some more Rustoleum primer, I needed help from an employee. He asked what my project was and I explained. He told me that spray paint sticks to anything and I didn't need to sand furniture unless I was going to stain it. I have another dresser that may have the same vinyl paint on it (its white and shiny) and that was going to be my next project after this one. I've never heard that before, I thought all items needed to be sanded before they were primed and painted. While not needing to sand the next dresser would save a ton of time, I was prepared to do it, but is he correct? Can I really just spray the primer on, paint, and top coat? Or should I lightly sand it first to get the shine away?

Posted 2012-09-28T17:49:28+0000  by Hello_Evelina
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