How to remove veneer from wood furniture (the easy way!)

So I bought this desk off of craigslist for a smokin’ deal. I may or may not have driven into a snowy wilderness to get it but hey, gotta do whatchya gotta do right?! It’s a gorgeous piece!
The downside… there was some lifting and cracking veneer on top but the rest of the desk is solid wood with gorgeous ornate carving and dovetail drawers. I knew it needed to come off but I have never removed so much veneer before so, honestly, I was a little nervous.
After a little research, I learned that veneer lifts and cracks from moisture. Duh!  It may have been spilled on, stored outside or in a musty basement or something to cause the veneer to lift in the first place. Well, if moisture ‘lifts” the veneer, let’s get it really moist and lift it ALL off! That’s what I did.
Get a water saturated (but not dripping wet) towel to cover your surface and drape it over top of the veneer you want to remove. The water/moisture seeps through the veneer and dissolves the water based adhesive that most veneer is originally applied with.
Then, get on pinterest, watch a movie, do some laundry or something for about 2-3 hours. If you live in a really dry area, you may want to resaturate your towel every hour or so.

When I looked under the towel to peek at the progress, I could see it was lifting so easily and I was super excited.

After a couple hours, take a firm putty knife and scrape off the veneer. If you did it correctly, it should lift off fairly easy! The entire desk took me about 40 minutes or so to scrape.

Pretty huh? haha!
**IF YOUR VENEER IS BEING STUBBORN** I had one tiny spot that was super stubborn and would not come off so I put my damp towel back over it, used my iron on the cotton setting and ironed over the stubborn spot for about 30-45 seconds. When it cooled just a bit, I scraped and it came off perfectly! The steam totally dissolved the glue. Seriously amazing people! You could also use a heat gun but I did not want to purchase any additional tools for this project.
How to remove veneer from furniture without losing you rmind! |
I have already refinished this desk and a chair to go with it so I’ll show you that really soon… as soon as I get some sunlight to take some decent photos! *winks*

Update: I posted the final photos here!

Mallory Sig

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    1. I run a hot iron over that wet towel and it cuts the wait time from hours to minutes. I’ve done it several times and the results are perfect.

  1. thank you! I just bought the most beautiful vanity for next to nothing because of the terrible state of the top veneer. You just saved me countless hours of worry and work 🙂

  2. We appreciate the great post on refurbishing a beautiful piece of furntiure and the wood. So many times a piece can be salvaged and made useful, attractive. Thanks for the post.

  3. My boyfriend and I are redoing my grandmother’s 40s era kitchen table and taking off the veneer has been a time-consuming nightmare. If this works, you just saved our lives! Inch-by-inch with the iron method on a six-person table is not fun at all. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Best advice I can give for removing veneer is to use a hot hair gun! Honestly I just did an entire chest last night using the hot air gun, the top took all of ten minutes to do. Use your gun to heat up a corner to start and use your putty knife to lift it up, then keep moving along with your putty knife and gun. worked like a charm 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for this post!. I have had 4 beautiful bedroom pieces that came from an old hotel from the 30s for many years. They all have chipped veneer on top so will be trying your method soon.

  5. This Works!!!!!! I have an old radio cabinet with burned up veneer and this really worked and I could scrape the old veneer off easily, Thanks!!!!

  6. This is so extremely helpful!! I purchased the cutest vanity for $10 but the veneer is very damaged! I’m so excited to try this!!

  7. couldn’t believe it really works!!!!! thank-you , I stripped an old hope chest leaving wet towels covering it overnight and the next morning it scraped off like butter! Only thing you need, wet towels and its FREE!

  8. This looks like it is the bottom piece of a 1930’s vanity. Not a desk! Someone made off with the mirror. It is a great repurpose. My Dad had taken an old vanity and turned it into a desk for my sister and me. She had the drawers on the one side, I had the drawers on the other.

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