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How to Re-Finish an Outdated Bathroom Vanity

Go from outdated and orange, to modern and neutral, with stain stripping gel!

I was thrilled to have a MASTER BATH when we bought our 1960s fixer upper a few years ago... and even more thrilled when I realized it would only need a facelift for me to really like the space.

If you're looking to make a change to an outdated bathroom, first look at your vanity to see if refinishing it is an option -

you'd be surprised what a a new stain job or some chalk paint and new hardware can do!

This is what the bathroom looked like BEFORE:

It was a perfectly fine working bathroom when we bought the house, and we didn't refresh it until about 9 months after moving in - but I'm so glad we ended up giving the whole space a facelift!

It was a very budget friendly project because we didn't have to reconfigure the space in any way (and I even hand painted those tiny tiles)!

But you can see that the color and hardware of the vanity dated the space:

Here's what I used to take off the old orange finish -

1. $1 Chip Brush to apply stripping gel - I keep a handful of these around the house!

2. Citristrip - an indoor stripping gel

3. Cling Wrap to lay over the gel - it helps to speed up the stripping process.

5. Odorless Mineral spirits - use to take off the last of the gel if necessary.

6. Scrub brush - use with mineral spirits to clean off any extra stripping gel.

7. Paint Scraper to scrape off the Citristrip. Then I wipe the access gel onto a rag or paper towel - a messy job!


I brushed the citristrip gel (with a cheap chip brush) on the entire piece and covered it with cling wrap and left it on for about an hour. Sometimes 20-30 minutes is enough for the gel to do it's magic and start to take the old stain off.

After I peeled the cling wrap off, I quickly went to work with a paint scraper.

Stripping paint or stain off of a piece is a MESSY job, so be prepared to go through a lot of paper towels and/or rags.

And finally, whatever of the stripping gel was leftover after two applications and scraping, I cleaned off with mineral spirits and let dry overnight.

I quickly saw that it was going to be difficult to get into all the the crevices of the vanity, and just scraped and wiped off as much as I could. I even tried a bit of sanding, but to no avail.

*Furniture with detail is much harder to strip all of the old stain off completely.

If you've done table tops or flat dressers, you know that it is much easier to take all the old finish off!

But I just went with it because sometimes done is better than perfect. haha!

The outcome was a more "roughed up look" than I had anticipated but again, sometimes done is better than perfect and I actually like the way turned out!

*If you're hoping for a cleaner look, I'd suggest using a hand held oscillating sander and tiny sander to get into all the small spots!

Next came the stain. I used the color Special Walnut by Minwax and applied with a rag and then rubbed off. *I did not not apply a wood conditioner first.

*Remember since I did this two years ago, I don't have pics of every step, so I hope it's clear!

Next I replaced the hardware to give it a rustic modern farmhouse look!

Here's what I used...

Supplies for the new vanity:

1. Gloves (for both the stripping and staining)

3. Fine to medium grit sandpaper - I ended up sanding some parts that the citristrip didn't take off and you'll also need a fine grit paper for the coats of sealer that's applied after the stain - I like this pack that comes in three different grits.

5. Neutral Stain color. I used Special Walnut but also like Provincial for non - orange toned stains.

7. Polycrylic water based finish in matte.

8. A flat tipped quality brush to apply the poly.

And there you have it, a rustic neutral updated vanity!


Tonia Krumvieda
Tonia Krumvieda
Jan 01, 2022

What about the "paper covered" ends of the vanity?? How do I get those to match?


Were these cabinets solid wood or were they like builder grade? I'm looking to do the same but trying to see if I can do it on builder cabinets.

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