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! | www.classyclutter.net
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


  • Reply
    January 15, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Can’t wait to see the finished desk and the chair!!

    • Reply
      Nancy Fossum
      February 11, 2015 at 11:05 am

      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.

      • Reply
        March 9, 2018 at 10:12 pm

        i used my steamer and the hot towel. still takes a while,

  • Reply
    January 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Hey look at that! I passed up a table at the thrift store a few weeks ago for fear of the veneer on it. Thanks for the tip!

  • Reply
    Jen @ Yummy-Healthy-Easy
    January 15, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    That is really awesome!!! I can’t wait to see it all finished! Go Mal! šŸ™‚


  • Reply
    Gabbi @ Retro Ranch Reno
    January 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    That is so clever! I never would have thought to do that. I can’t wait to see the makeover!!

  • Reply
    Susan - Uniquely Yours or Mine
    January 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    What! I’m trying that next time! I use my heat gun to reheat the glue and then scrape it, but this sounds even easier.. Thanks!

  • Reply
    lg monroe
    January 16, 2013 at 3:48 am

    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 šŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Kari Lindsay
    January 16, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    You just took the scary out of removing veneer. I will be looking at old furniture with a whole new interest now!

  • Reply
    January 16, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    I am currently working on a desk just like this for my mom. Perfect timing.

  • Reply
    Suzan Sweatman
    January 18, 2013 at 7:05 am

    I can’t wait to see this finished – what a gorgeous piece of furniture!!!

  • Reply
    Leather Armchair
    March 4, 2013 at 7:34 am

    Yeah Aldis, it can be if not dried properly in the sun light.

    Leather Sofa

  • Reply
    Aldis Green
    March 4, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Isn’t such kind of water saturation process impaired the internal layer of the table..?

    Chairs For Restaurants

    • Reply
      Paul Lemong
      August 30, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Bringing the old to life! Is a hard work but when done right it can be the best investment ever made. It is expensive and hard to get this Victorian products.

  • Reply
    Foragli SEO
    March 12, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Excellent Post, I like it
    Wide variety is also available at forgali.com

  • Reply
    Samuel Joyce
    April 23, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Your site is one of my valuable finds.It is interesting to explore this website as i have learnt so much from this.

  • Reply
    Orlando Lumber
    July 31, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    August 25, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    November 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    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 šŸ™‚

  • Reply
    November 12, 2013 at 12:49 am

    I’d like to see it too. Been almost a year since she posted this, think it will happen soon?

  • Reply
    July 28, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    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!!!!

  • Reply
    how to remove a veneer from furniture - CO3Design Interior
    September 25, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    […] How to remove veneer from wood furniture (the easy way […]

  • Reply
    Rachel R.
    June 11, 2015 at 4:08 am

    Thanks a lot for the advise. Many wood furniture I’ve gone but i don’t know what to do this kind of type, but thanks anyways.

  • Reply
    julianna spor
    July 28, 2017 at 6:38 am

    What did u do after veneer was removed?

  • Reply
    October 16, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    This is so extremely helpful!! I purchased the cutest vanity for $10 but the veneer is very damaged! Iā€™m so excited to try this!!

  • Reply
    maira saddad
    January 25, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Thanks for your Great article! its Extremely helpful, I am planning to buy furniture online.

  • Reply
    July 19, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    Rhonda. Kiffel
    January 5, 2019 at 6:54 am

    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.

  • Leave a Reply