11 Best Varnish Removers

Restoring old furniture can be hard work since it involves removing all the layers of varnish that have been layered on after years and years of use. Varnish removers are an invaluable tool that has made this work considerably easier by allowing us to strip the furniture of its old layers and letting its original beauty shine through. There are many varnish removers out there but for your prized antiques, only the best should be used.

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Our Top 3 picks at a Quick Glance

This Citric smelling Varnish Stripping Gel can remain active for up to 24 hours and is a versatile product that can be used on many surfaces to effectively remove years worth of varnishes in a short amount of time.

Formby’s 30010 is an excellent option as it is easy to use, strong enough to remove multiple layers while also being gentle enough to protect the original wood underneath.

The STRP Max Liquid Paint stripper makes your job of removing varnishes so much easier by being fast-acting and less toxic. It is also very versatile as it can be used on several surfaces.

1. Dumond Chemicals, Inc. 3332 Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover

The Smart Strip Advanced paint remover, made of a biodegradable formula, is a formula that promises to get rid of the toughest of layers. It help strip layers off up to 15 coats of virtually any coating like oil-based, water-based, acrylics, varnishes, urethanes even old lead paints from the interior or exterior surface of wood, brick, stone, concrete, plaster, metal, plastic, glass, fiberglass, etc. With its pH neutral, biodegradable, and user-friendly nature, it can take 3 to 24 hours to completely strip a surface of all its layers. This Smart strip Varnish Remover is non-toxic, non-carcinogenic as it is formulated without methylene chloride.  It is a water-based remover and is efficient and completely safe for the environment as well as for you.

Pros

  • Biodegradable formula
  • Safe for user
  • Removes multiple layers
  • Non- carcinogenic
  • No messy cleanup
  • Can remove up to 15 layers of coating

Cons

  • Have to use a lot
  • Requires multiple applications

2. Sunnyside 63532 Advanced Paint & Varnish Remover

Sunnyside has now made your restoring work so much easier by creating the Sunnyside 63532 2 minute Remover. With its formula free of methyl chloride, it is safe to use and is also extremely fast and efficient at what it does. It is designed to remove multiple layers of varnish and finishes in just one application without damaging the wood underneath neither will it corrode metal. It can be used on most surfaces such as wood, metal, masonry, marine, and automotive finishes removing latex and oil-based paint, lacquer, shellac, varnish, epoxy, and polyurethane finishes. This fast working varnish remover works to lighten wood stain and provide you with a fresh base.

Pros

  • Fast working
  • Safe to use
  • Will not harm or corrode the surface

Cons

  • Requires a lot of product 
  • Hard to remove oil based paint with it

3. Minwax 67300000 Antique Furniture Refinisher

Miniwax 63700000 is an antique furniture restorer’s best friend. Containing natural wood oils that penetrate the wood and conditions it, it is the perfect product to help restore your antique furniture and breath a new life into them. It gently dissolves years of varnishes, shellac, lacquer, and other finishes all the while protecting the original wood and its color and grain. The Miniwax is also hassle-free to use as it does not require scraping, sanding, and does not make any sort of mess. This is the best product to use for restoring antiques while still retaining their original glow.

Pros

  • Mess-free
  • Dissolves years of built-up varnish
  • Protects the wood underneath.

Cons

  • Works in small amounts or else it dries up

4. Sunnyside 70532 Pure Odorless Paint Thinner

This varnish remover promises ease when it comes to removing varnishes from your antique furniture and make your process of restoration as easy as it could be. The sunnyside 70532 is an odorless solvent for thinning oil-based paints, primers, varnishes, and stains. It is extremely powerful as it can also be used to dissolve grease, grime, and oil. This excellent product is perfect to be used inside where odorless thinner is required as it doesn’t have a strong scent and is thus safe to use in closed quarters. Being oil-based, it is capable of removing hard to remove varnishes with ease.

Pros

  • Odorless
  • Can dissolve varnishes, paints, primers, and stains
  • Can remove grease, grime, and oil
  • Can be used indoors

Cons

  • Hard to open
  • Requires several coats

5. Formbys 30010 Furniture Refinisher

Formby’s 300100 is an excellent option when considering varnish removers to help breathe new life into an old piece of furniture. It can easily dissolve old varnishes, lacquer, and shellac from antiques to reveal their warm glow hidden by these layers. This varnish remover is easy to use and is mess-free and it does not require any sort of sanding or scraping. Just apply an ample amount of this refinisher and use a ball of fine steel wool and the layers will meltdown while still keeping the original color of the wood intact. The Formby’s 30010 makes a difficult job easy and makes restoring furniture enjoyable.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Protects original wood
  • No sanding or scraping required

Cons

  • Evaporates quickly so you have to work fast

6. STRP Max Liquid Paint Stripper

The STRP Max Liquid Paint Stripper is a fast-acting product with a lot of functionality. It is effective in removing paint, enamel, lacquer, varnish, polyurethane, and epoxy from wood, metal in less than 5 minutes. Along with being fast-acting, it is also less toxic as it is free from Methylene and NMP. This makes it less flammable and less toxic when compared to its competitors. Its professional-grade rating means that it is excellent for detailed surfaces as it grips perfectly onto vertical surfaces. This is a perfect device to be used in a variety of ways from home improvements to fun DIY projects. It is strong enough to rid an antique of its many layers of varnish and help the wood to shine through. STRP promises and delivers strength in its Max Liquid Paint Stripper.

Pros

  • Fast-acting
  • Less Toxic
  • Versatile
  • Professional grade

Cons

  • Evaporates quickly

7. MAX Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper

The MAX varnish stripper was made to tackle the toughest of stripping tasks with ease. It is capable of safely removing paint and varnishes form various surfaces. Made without the use of toxic chemicals such as Methylene Chloride and NMP, this product is not corrosive and is a safer alternative as compared to its competitors. It is also skin safe and easy to use at home and professionally. While being strong enough to remove multiple layers of paint and varnish off, it is gentle enough to not harm the substrates underneath such as antique woods. The MAX Varnish stripper is free from any harsh fumes rather, it has a pleasant fragrant smell meaning it can be used indoors and does not require any special kind of ventilation. It is a versatile product as it can strip paint and varnish coatings safely from glass, laminate, fiberglass, metal, wood, porcelain, plastic (may etch some plastics always test a small area first), furniture, windows, brick, ceramic, flooring, granite, marble, concrete, stone, tile, carpet, rugs, upholstery, clothing and more! 

Pros

  • Non-toxic
  • Pleasant Fragrance
  • Gentle on substrates
  • Skin-safe formula

Cons

  • Needs a lot of time to work
  • Dries fast

8. Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel

This Citrus smelling Citristrip QCSG801 Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel is made to allow restorers to restore antique furniture’s original wood without much hassle. It is non-toxic and non-caustic as it does not contain any methylene chloride. Thus, it is perfect to be used inside with its sweet-smelling citric smell. Formulated to be a gel-like consistency, it stays active for up to 24 hours, allowing stripping of multiple layers on one go. This is a versatile product and can be used on multiple surfaces such as wood, metal, and masonry surfaces. It is very efficient at helping the original surface to shine through without damaging it.

Pros

  • Citric smell
  • Active for up to 24 hours
  • Versatile and can be used on wood, metal, and masonry

Cons

  • Dries out after 24 hours and is then hard to remove

9. Sunnyside Corporation 65664 Hi-Speed Ready-Strip Citrus Paint & Varnish Remover

This powerful substance is highly capable and can remove multiple varnishes from an antique piece of furniture and promises to do so quickly. The Sunny Side Corporation 65664 is effective at removing up to 3 layers of oil or water-based coating and providing the user with a clean base to work on. It can protect the wood underneath while still being able to remove all the layers of varnish piled on top of each other after years of use. Made of a no-drip formula, it makes removing varnishes convenient and easy. All you have to do is apply it to a surface and wait for only thirty minutes and it starts working its magic and removing all the layers underneath it while still protecting the original surface. It can also cling to vertical surfaces and stay wet longer so that it can remove as many layers as it can in a single application. Refreshing old furniture has never been easy.

Pros

  • Can remove up to 3 layers of oil or water-based coating
  • Can cling to vertical surfaces
  • Stays wet for long
  • Starts working in 30 minutes.

Cons

  • Is difficult to work with
  • A large quantity may damage the original surface

10. Sunnyside Corporation 63432 Paint & Varnish Remover Advanced Gel

Removing varnish layers from surfaces has always been a difficult task, one that has to be done with extreme caution pertaining to all the chemicals that are needed to complete such a task. Now, with the Sunnyside Corporation 63432, all those difficulties have been laid to rest. It has a safe formula that is methylene chloride-free yet it can remove multiple layers of varnish in one application. This stripping gel is safe to use on vertical and horizontal surfaces and does not damage wood, metal, and masonry meaning your antiques will be safe in the hands of this product as it works fast to remove the varnishes in under 2 to 10 minutes while also covering a large surface.

Pros

  • Safe formula
  • Protects wood, metal, and masonry surfaces
  • Fast-acting
  • Covers a large surface

Cons

  • Takes more time to work on metal
  • A large quantity required for multiple layers of varnish

11. Sunnyside Back to Nature Multi-Strip Professional Paint & Varnish Remover

Sunnyside promises quality in all of its products and the Sunnyside Back to Nature Multi-Strip Professional Paint and Varnish Remover is no exception. This environmentally safe varnish remover is strong enough to be able to remove up to 15 layers of paint and varnish while still being gentle enough to not damage the wood underneath. It is an essential for all those who are working to restore antique furniture with years and years worth of varnish, dust, and grime on them. A single layer of this biodegradable varnish remover will allow the original surface to shine through with all its glory.

Pros

  • Environmentally safe
  • Can remove up to 15 layers
  • Biodegradable

Cons

  • Difficult to clean

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