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.
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.