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Photo: Jolie Novak, Aol.

Looking to repaint that glossy trim work or that varnished desk? You'll have to degloss it first. If you don't, there's a good chance that the new coat of paint will scratch or chip any time you bump it with the vacuum or brush against it with the laundry basket.

So how do you go about stripping a surface of its glossy finish? There are two methods: sanding or chemical deglossing. Here's the lowdown on each.

The standard advice for deglossing a surface that's covered with varnish, enamel paint, semi-gloss paint, or any other glossy finish (even low-sheen finishes like satin paint) is to rub it with 100-grit sandpaper. Unfortunately, this puts a fine dust just about everywhere. It can travel to other parts of the house on air currents or on the soles of your shoes and is difficult to clean up. Worse, it can get into your lungs if you're not wearing a respirator.

Still worse, paint applied before 1978 may contain lead, a substance that can cause serious health problems, especially for children. You can lessen the dust problem by having a vacuum going in one hand while you sand with the other.

A less strenuous approach is to use a chemical deglosser. After washing the surface and allowing it to dry, you just brush on the deglosser. It softens the finish, enabling the new coat to adhere better. With some formulations, the deglosser evaporates; with others, you have to wipe off the deglosser.

Steer clear of naptha- and toluene-based products. Not only are such formulas noxious and flammable, but they begin to dry pretty fast. That means you have to paint any area you've treated right away -- sometimes in as little as 20 minutes from initial application. Otherwise you have to reapply the deglosser.

Non-toxic, biodegradable deglossers are now available; using them allows you to wait up to one week before applying the new finish. You can do the prep work one weekend and paint the next. It's still a good idea to wear a dust mask when applying deglosser, though.

Photo: 3M

Personally, I've found that the easiest approach to deglossing is to use a sanding sponge. Sanding sponges are pliable, so they assume the contour of moldings and recesses without much effort on your part. They come in several sizes, shapes, and grits. Some have a sharp edge for sanding recesses and grooves; others are thin pads that come in handy for scuffing up even intricately carved surfaces. For most deglossing jobs, a fine-grit (120 or 150) sponge is a good choice.

To use a sanding sponge, just wet the sponge, squeeze out the excess water, and begin sanding. You don't need to sand very much -- just enough to scuff the surface. One or two strokes of the sanding sponge will leave thousands of fine grooves to which paint can adhere.

Particles removed from the old finish either stay on the sanded surface or are caught in the sanding sponge, but it's wise to wear a dust mask just in case. Every few minutes, rinse the particles from the sponge, and you're ready to scuff up a new area. Wipe all surfaces clean with a damp rag prior to painting, and save the sanding sponge for your next job.

  • chuck

    I prefer to use TSP, Tri Sodium Phosfate, a water soluble mild caustic cleaner that will clean and degloss paint providing a good bonding surface eliminating the need for sanding.
    Sanding textured walls may damage the textured surface and may expose the drywall substrate.

  • Ron

    There are new primers which preclude the need for surface prep, except in peculiar instances. They are called bonding primers. They will solve most adhesion problems. Just remember, go to a real paint store, with experienced consultants, for full information and first class products. Do not depend on the box stores for this level of help. From a retired paint consultant.

  • josephine

    Dear Reader, Both my EYES burned with Behr base 2-88 left a cripple by Behr Corp. & Home Depot.
    I worked for Home Depot paint department in Toms River, NJ 08753. I was trained by Behr Corp. Rep. Chris Arico on all aspects of handling Behr products- all-had labeled Effects;temporary & reversible. No MSDS in the store , no safety goggles are provided as THEY BOTH STATE none are required- Both Behr & Home Depot legally admitted to all damages then REFUSED TO PAY ME any monetary damages as they paid Judges- Like Judge Ed Herman, Built catholic Church's for Judge Nugent & Judge Hicky- intentionally telling their insurance company AIG whom covered both Behr Corp. & Home Depot NOT TO pay me- PLEASE DON"T BUY ANYTHING FROM HOME DEPOT- OR ANY BEHR paint or stain products both make billions ILLEGALLY manufacturing these products by intentionally ignoring the harmful effects of these as they BOTH intentionally expose their employees that don't know the dangers. NOW- Depot hires most whom wear eye glasses- hoping they wear their glasses and they protect their eyes - PLEASE DON"T SUPPORT THESE COMPANY"S whom INTENTIONALLY PUT ALL IN HARMS WAY THEN dispose of them when they cripple them. I am totally unable to function in atmosphere from this damage , require 24 hr medical treatment and a structured atmosphere , the never ending pain feels like razors in my eyes- PLEASE tell all- Josephine Lucciola new jersey workers compensation 2001-17050 they bought my lawyers, bought lawyers they made them Judges Ingrid French is now a Judge , the church they paid 20 million to build rather than pay my medical or pay my disability income is Assumption in Galloway, NJ of Camden Diocese. They bought an entire southern Jersey with this church.

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