Timber boarding, veneered MDF or plywood – clear finish too dark


Old varnished or shellacked wall panels have darkened with age, or wall panels have always had a dark finish


Remove shellac as follows:

  • brush a section of the shellacked ceiling denatured alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol); leave to soak in for approximately 10 seconds
  • rub over area with extra fine steel wool until shellac has been removed from the area
  • when the whole ceiling has been treated, wipe over the ceiling again with a clean rag dipped in denatured alcohol
  • sand timber and prepare for a new finish
  • wear rubber gloves and safety glasses when removing shellac.
  • working on small areas at a time, brush paint thinner over the varnished area; leave for a few minutes
  • remove by scraping with a putty knife or rubbing with fine steel wool until the varnish has been removed from the area
  • if residual varnish remains, repeat the process
  • wipe over the ceiling with a damp rag when the varnish has been fully removed
  • sand timber and prepare for a new finish
  • alternatively, use a proprietary paint stripper; apply according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • work in a well-ventilated area and wear rubber gloves, safety goggles and a respirator when removing varnish

Remove varnish as follows:

  • methylene chloride (the active ingredient in paint strippers) has wax added to thicken it and reduce evaporation. When applying to a surface, spread over section and leave until full bubbling/blistering has occurred. By continuing to brush it over the area, the wax barrier breaks down causing more rapid evaporation of the methylene chloride. If practical, cover the area with waxed paper to slow the rate of evaporation