A Tale of Two Strippers

March 1, 2010

So I bought this little dresser many months ago from Craigslist for twenty buckaroos.   It was the perfect fit for my mud room niche by the back door.  I needed its drawers to store all sorts of family things like those gym membership cards I rarely use, or the computer cords that belong to some contraption lost somewhere in my house. 

I also needed it to store winter scarves, hats, mittens and other seasonal items.  This dresser’s proportions were perfect and its price was right !  So I brought it home and tolerated its chippy white paint job for many moons until it dawned on me. 

This dresser was the perfect candidate for a little experiment I call ‘The Patina Project’.   I wanted to transform this little dresser into something with a little more personality and a Provencal feel.  I also wanted to find out just how two strippers would match up in the ring.  Old school chemicals vs. nouveau citrus paint peelers. 

The victim:   

craigslist dresser


There were several layers of paint all over this baby, and I had no idea what kind of paint it was.  Since my ultimate plan was to give it a rustic antique French country look, I boldly decided to strip all those layers off.   To me, painting over it would have felt like putting on dirty socks after a shower.  Or clean socks on muddy feet.  Or something sort of like that. 

Enter the two contenders.  In the left corner, weighing in at 32 fluid ounces was the old school KleanStrip, famous for its speed and paint crushing abilities.  Dangerous.  Flammable.  Unpopular with the greener public for its toxic reputation and the methylene chloride pumping through its veins. 

In the right corner, weighing in at 32 fluid ounces, was the young newcomer Citristrip.  A kinder smelling non-caustic version missing the methylene chloride, daring to challenge the old school establishment.  

 stripper v citrusstrip 

Why would I go to all this trouble if I’m just going to glaze/paint it again ?  Well, I’m not a big believer in adding layer upon layer of paint to furniture.  But don’t quote me on that.  In fact, I may have violated that guideline sometime in the past.  Or perhaps I might in the future.  Oh forget it.  In this case I wasn’t comfortable adding yet another layer of paint to this particular dresser since I wanted some parts of the wood to show through.  So I stripped.

When engaging in any form of stripping, furniture or otherwise, it’s a good idea to use protection.  I highly recommend these.

safety mask and gloves

Safety goggles too. 

To the drawers I applied the Citristrip.  It was pleasant smelling, squishy, and a strangely attractive color, unlike anything you’d expect in a paint stripper. 

apply citrus strip

Then I let it sit for several hours to do its business undisturbed. 

strip drawers

After about four hours, this started to happen. 

citrusstrip 4 hours

So I tried this. 

citrusstrip on dresser 

Then this.

peeling paint 

Lemme guess.  Latex paint.  Good sign.

For the tougher spots, I used my five-in-one tool to scrape.  Underneath was what I was looking for, a nice honey tone wood.  More on why later. 

 5 in 1 tool


To the top and sides of the dresser, I applied the old school KleanStrip.  I’ve used this product in the past with great success to remove a thin layer of paint.  But this time, I was dealing with multiple layers. 



After about 15 minutes, this started to happen.

kleanstrip on top

The five-in-one came in handy again to scrape most of the paint off the top. 

dresser top

Getting in the crevices is not so easy, nor fun.   After one application of the KleanStrip, all I accomplished was this. 

one layer kleanstrip

Then I tried this little stainless steel brush and it helped a lot, but not quite enough.

stainless steel brush

I got rather frustrated with the Kleanstrip this time around.  It dried out rather quickly in comparison, and smelled just awful.  Nauseating at times.  It also didn’t cling as well to the vertical sides of the dresser in my opinion.*   So after I had finished scraping, and the dresser had fully dried, the next day I attacked with even more Citristrip.

Awww yeah.

much better with citristrip

Many of you are thinking by now, geez louise, that looks like one big messy project.  And it was.  Those of you who have stripped paint before know this is not any fun by any definition.  It requires plenty of care for proper disposal of the paint scrapings and stripper residue.  Not only that, stripping paint is extremely labor intensive – this project took at least five hours just to scrape off all these layers of paint. 

After it was completely stripped, I took to my sander to give the dresser a smooth-as-a-baby’s bottom finish and prep it for its new paint job.  


Now before all of you wood lovers go crazy on me, note that in several spots there was damage uncovered underneath all this paint, despite my gentle bedside manner. 

damage to dresser  

So I have no regrets deciding to paint it again.  I just filled all the holes with paintable wood filler, then sanded the putty down after it was dry. 

wood filler for damage

Conclusion:  after these two strippers duked it out on the same layers of paint, I have to vote Citristrip for all my future uses, even though it takes a lot longer to work (up to 24 hours). 

Bottom line, I’m channeling Scarlett O’Hara, and raising my fist to the air . . . “If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill . . .  As God as my witness . . . I’ll never use KleanStrip again !”  

Cue Tara’s Theme and sunset backdrop. 


Perhaps I’m being a little dramatic.  In somber conclusion, no more methylene chloride for me. 

Now for Step Two of my ‘Patina Project’.  I’m out to make this dresser look like a less rustic version of this: 

distressed dresser  

Wish me luck  . . .  the saga continues.


*Necessary disclaimer to CMA: This is NOT a paid endorsement of Citristrip.  This is simply my humble but sometimes loudmouth opinion of a comparison of these two products in these circumstances.  Please don’t sue me, I have no money anyway.  Follow all manufacturer guidelines when using either of these products for your safety.  It’s also a brilliant idea to test for lead paint and follow all precautions in its removal.  Lead very bad.  And for further information, or a cure for your insomnia, please refer to my blog policies.


105 Responses to “A Tale of Two Strippers”

  1. Mommy2blinks says:

    Hi, I am in love with your site! I am currently redoing my stairs : pulling old carpet, sanding and the works. Well. The sander is not stripping away the plaster…. Do you recommend I use citrus trip for this?

  2. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Claudia, try the Citrustrip, it worked well for me!

  3. Thanks so much I was looking for a good review on citrusstrip that I could trust. Looks like I’ll be making a trip to HD today.

  4. Mommy2blinks says:

    Hi Kate,
    Thanks so much for your input.

    I’m using citrus trip now but am having a rough time removing the excess, how do you remove the cacky mess?

  5. Andrew says:

    Citrustrip is a magical liquid! It completely removed all of the thick enamel coating on my birch wood cabinets. The longer you leave it on, the more it penetrates the coat, thus making it easier to scrape off. I used a tooth brush to remove the icky stuff. I’m thoroughly impressive with that pink stuff.

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