How to Use Citristrip Stripping Gel (Detailed Steps + Tips)

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Owning wood furniture brings elegance and a timeless allure to a room. But if you’re at a loss on how to strip old paint for a fresh stain, you’re in the right place!

There’s a variety of methods to tackle this, one of which is using Citristrip. To guide you through, I will delve into the specifics of using Citristrip stripping gels for your upcoming project.

What is Citristrip?

A Citristrip stripping gel is an orange-colored paint stripping gel. A thick coat of Citristrip is not formulated to constitute methylene chloride or NMP. It is non-caustic and can be used indoors and outdoors. 

Citristrip Stripping Gel

It has a pleasant citrusy smell compared to any other type of paint stripper that emits a strong and harsh smell. Its primary ingredient is citrus acid. 

It acts as the organic solvent which dissolves paint layers or any wood stain from wooden surfaces and metal and masonry surfaces. 

This particular stripper gel stays active for approximately 24 hours. A Citristrip gel is a good product to use when removing thick layers of shriveled-up latex, chalk paint, lacquer, shellac, polyurethane, wood stain, and oil-based paint from metal and wooden furniture surfaces. 

What You Need to Know About Using Citristrip

Before using this product on your wood furniture, here are a few things you need to know about Citristrip gel. 

Citristrip Stripping Gel on wooden table
preparing Citristrip Stripping Gel

What is Paint Stripping?

Paint stripping is basically stripping paint from any surface. It involves using various methods and techniques to dissolve, soften, or mechanically scrape away the paint layer, revealing the underlying material. 

Common stripping methods includes a combination of chemicals, heat, and physical removal of any finish like a wood stain on a surface. If you would like to strip paint using chemicals, you might want to consider using a Citristrip. 

paint stripping

Using Citristrip Stripping Gels on Your Furniture and Surfaces

Learning how to use Citristrip stripping gel on your wood furniture and other surfaces can help you revitalize old painted furniture making it paint-free. 

This process will also reveal the wood underneath. However, before embarking on this process, here are a few safety reminders to consider. 

Getting Started: Safety First

Ensure you’re equipped with all the essential safety gear. While Citristrip is designed with an organic solvent, it’s still a chemical stripper at its core. Be cautious, as Citristrip can irritate the eyes and skin upon contact.

protective gears
  1. Wear proper safety glasses to protect your eyes from splashes and spills
  2. Use a pair of nitrile gloves to protect your hands from the stripper
  3. Work in an open and well-ventilated area. Make sure to wear a respirator designed with a filter cartridge. 
  4. Separate the moveable parts before starting the process. 

Essential Supplies You’ll Need for Stripping Furniture

1. Citristrip and varnish-stripping gel
2. Paper towels
3. Saran wrap
4. Mask or respirator
5. Painter’s tape 
6. Drop cloth
7. Chemical splash goggles
8. Paint brush

tools and materials for removing paint on wood

9. Wire brush
10. Odorless mineral spirits or paint stripping after wash
11. Steel wool
12. Plastic putty knife or paint scraper
13. Metal container
14. Chemical resistant gloves

Step #1: Ready Your Work Station and Project Surface

Prepare your workstation and project surface. Make sure to line or cover a carpenter’s plastic or a drop cloth on the floor. You can also place this material around the old furniture you wish to work on. This will collect the extra product that can spill over during the whole process.

project surface

Step #2: Start Applying the Citristrip Stripping Gel

Apply a liberal amount of the Citristrip stripping gel. A thick coat will allow the gel to work effectively. A thin application will dry the product out quickly. 

If you use a Citristrip spray, apply thick coats on the surface. If you are using a gel, you can apply it using a paint brush. If you are short on time, you can pour it directly on the surface.

applying Citristrip Stripping Gel
  1. Apply the stripper to the surface
  2. Apply more coats and make sure that you have enough coats to keep it wet. 
  3. Check if you can still see the varnish; if so, you will need to apply more coats of the product
  4. Check the surface every 30 minutes.
  5. With a putty knife, test a small area to see if the finish lifts off easily. If it doesn’t, allow the product to sit on the surface for a few more minutes before trying again.

Step #3: Cover the Surface with Plastic

If you will be away for a few hours, cover the surface with plastic. You can use a saran wrap to cover and keep the product wet. 

Step #4: Let it Sit and Observe

Allow Citristrip to sit for approximately a few hours. The number of coats and type of finish you are attempting to strip dictates the amount of time to dissolve the finish. It can take anywhere from 30 mins to 24 hours to accomplish this. Observe the surface after this. 

Citristrip Stripping Gel applied on wooden table

Step #5: Get Rid of the Old Finish

Once enough time has passed, and the surface is ready, you can remove the old finish, such as paint or wood stain. Use your putty knife to begin scraping off the old finish. As you go through this process, you will make quite a mess. The old finish should easily be scraped off. 

Make sure to clean your putty knife or paint scraper in between removing the old finish. Use your steel wool or bristle brush to remove any remaining finish in hard-to-reach areas. 

removing Citristrip Stripping Gel

Certain spots may require extra attention. Address these hard-to-reach areas by gently working fine steel wool [1] into the grain. This technique will help you eliminate most of the lingering paint residue.

Step #6: Tidy Up Citristrip and Remove Rough Patches

Once you have successfully removed most of the finish or the old paint, you will be left with furniture that may feel sticky. You can use a cloth dipped in mineral spirits to clean Citristrip residue from the surface. Allow the surface to dry off.  

You might be interested in: Can Vinegar Strip Paint Off Wood

cleaning table after stripping paint

Step #7: Sand and Reapply the Stain or Leave it As it is

Once the surface has been cleaned and allowed to dry off completely, use an orbital sander to smoothen and even it out. This step helps prepare the piece for a new application of paint or stain. 

Remove the sawdust using a clean and dry cloth or paper towel. For better results, use any of these top-rated orbital sandpapers discs here!

Another option after sanding is to leave the surface as it is. 

When Should You Use Citristrip?

You can use this stripper if you want to strip wood furniture of thick multiple layers of paint found on the surface of your furniture or other surfaces. Aside from transforming your dark stained wood lighter, you can use Citristrip gel if you are facing the following situations:

round table

Top Paint Stripper for Wood Doors and Furniture: Citristrip

Citristrip is one of the top paint strippers for wood doors and furniture. It has a noninvasive chemical smell once applied to surfaces, as it emits a citrus smell instead. Furthermore, due to its non-pungent formulation, Citristrip paint stripper products are great for indoor use. 

pouring Citristrip Gel

However, a drawback of using Citristrip is its slower stripping speed compared to other chemical strippers or paint stripping gels. Moreover, working with Citristrip can be quite messy.

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What happens if you leave Citristrip on too long?

Nothing detrimental will happen if you apply Citristrip and leave it on too long. You can leave the Citristrip as long as you want when stripping paint. However, make sure that the paint stripper remains wet throughout this period. 

Can you sand right after Citristrip?

You can sand right after Citristrip if the surface is clean and dry. 

When should I opt for Citristrip?

You can opt for Citristrip when you want to remove layers of paint or finish all in one application. It is very effective when stripping paint from a surface. 

Will Citristrip work on metal?

A Citristrip can work on metal. A Citristrip is an all-purpose stripping gel that is efficient in removing layers upon layers of varnish, oil-based paint, latex paint, lacquer, polyurethane, acrylics, epoxy, and enamel. 

What should I use to clean up after using Citristrip?

You can use a dip of fine wire sponge and some mineral spirits to clean up after using Citristrip. This can effectively remove traces of varnish or paint. Then wipe off the exterior with a clean and dry cloth. 

Do I need to use mineral spirits after stripping off the paint?

Using mineral spirits after stripping paint is totally up to you. On the plus side, mineral spirits can effectively clean the surface, but on the other hand, it is a bit expensive.  


Owning antiquated furniture pieces can either be considered a delight or another job. Whether you’re a professional or a DIYer, learning how to use Citristrip stripping gel is essential. 

Dealing with multiple layers of old finish on beautiful furniture might seem daunting, but the payoff is immensely satisfying once you know how to effectively strip the surface. I hope this article has provided you with valuable insights on removing old finishes using this product!

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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