How to Remove old-fashioned Milk Paint (the simple way)

Posted in Home Improvement on June 24, 2018

If you have an old painted chair and want to refinish it, perhaps you will find the paint resisting to every kind of stripper. You may try pastes and liquids, old-fashioned lye and new-fangled water-base strippers — nothing will work. You might not even be able to scrape the paint off.

Don’t despair! There’s an almost magical solution: ordinary household ammonia. It should take that old paint right off.

The paint you’re having trouble with is almost certainly an old-fashioned milk paint. Rural folks, especially in the Northeast, made it using milk, linseed oil and a natural pigment like lime or rust-colored soil. You can find it on furniture and house trim dating from the 1700s to mid-1800s. Though crude, milk paint is actually quite durable, though it could produce only soft colors (because of the milky base) and didn’t have any gloss. As you discovered, it’s also impervious to normal shippers.

(PS: If the original milk paint is in good condition, a piece of furniture is probably worth quite a bit more with the original paint on than it would be stripped.)

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