Cleaning Wood with Vinegar Before Painting: A Brief Guide

To properly prep a piece of furniture before painting, the furniture needs to be thoroughly cleaned.

White vinegar is an excellent solution for cleaning wood furniture before painting for a few reasons. For one, white vinegar is made from acetic acid, and it can dissolve dirt and grease, making it a powerful household cleaner.

Because it doesn’t contain a coloring agent, you don’t need to worry about the solution staining your furniture.

Possibly the best part about vinegar is it’s a natural cleaning solution. Although vinegar has the same acidic qualities as many household multipurpose cleaners, it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals that can be damaging to wood surfaces.

The question is, how exactly do you clean furniture before painting with vinegar? Here you can learn how step by step.


To clean wood with vinegar, first mix a cup of water and 3-4 tablespoons of vinegar. Dip a lint-free cloth into the solution, wring out the cloth so that it’s not dripping, and wipe down the furniture competely.

Materials needed

You will need the following materials to clean your furniture with vinegar:

Step 1: Create your solution

In a small bowl or pale, mix three or four tablespoons of white vinegar for every cup of warm water. If your furniture is particularly dirty, you can add a few additional tablespoons of vinegar to make the solution even stronger. 

You may need more or less of the solution depending on the size of your furniture. If you are painting a massive dresser, you may need three or four cups of solution. If you are painting a single chair, you may only need about a cup of the solution.

Stir the solution a bit with a spoon to ensure that the vinegar and water are mixed equally.

Keep in mind that after the furniture is cleaned, the vinegar will leave a slight smell on the wood. However, you don’t need to worry about your furniture perpetually smelling like vinegar since you will be painting it anyway.

Step 2: Wipe down the furniture

Submerge a cloth in the solution, and wring it out slightly so that it doesn’t contain an excessive amount of liquid. The goal is not to soak the wood in solution, as this can potentially be damaging to the wood. Rather, you just want to wipe off any contaminants. The cloth should be quite damp, but not so wet that it’s dripping all over the ground.

Wipe down the furniture with the cloth. Pass over the furniture until the solution has been dispersed. Bring it over to the kitchen sink and wring it out under the water to get rid of any grime that has been collected in the cloth.

Dip the cloth back into the vinegar solution, and repeat this process until the entire piece of furniture has been thoroughly wiped down.

Step 3: Allow the furniture to dry

Once you have cleaned the furniture with the vinegar solution, you don’t need to rinse the vinegar off. You can simply allow the solution to evaporate.

However, if there is a layer of vinegar grime residue on certain parts of the furniture, you will need to wipe it off with a dry towel.

Depending on the humidity and temperature, it could take more or less time for the solution to evaporate from the furniture. However, it’s likely ok to start painting about half an hour after the solution has been applied.

Pro Tip: Are you painting a piece of furniture with drawers that smell bad? To get rid of the musty smell inside a chest of drawers, dressers, desks, or another type of furniture, pull the drawers out and wipe the vinegar and water solution-soaked rag along the inside of the drawers. Doing so will disinfect the inside and kill any bacteria that may be causing the bad odor.

Final words

Keep in mind that vinegar isn’t the only solution you can use before painting. You can use a stronger solution such as mineral spirits before painting your furniture if you have noticed a significant amount of grime built up. There are other less abrasive, natural solutions for cleaning furniture before painting as well that you can look into if you don’t happen to have vinegar.



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