Turning trash into treasure, one piece at a time

How to Remove Veneer from Furniture


How many times have you walked away from a piece of furniture that you loved, because the veneer was in bad shape? I’m willing to bet it’s happened at least once in your lifetime. It’s happened to me on several occasions in the past. If only i’d known then what I know now. I’m totally kicking myself for passing up such awesome pieces with good bones. I feared the unknown.

That’s all behind me now. I’ve done my research and found a very simple and effective way to remove veneer from furniture – and it can be done without chemicals! Even better, you probably have these simple items in your home at this very moment.

Let me walk you through this process. It’s incredibly easy, though it does take patience. For this tutorial, i’m using an antique buffet that I recently purchased.

Looking at this photo, you’d think it wasn’t in bad shape at all. Funny how a camera can make things appear better (or worse in some cases) than reality. That’s the case here. Trust me when I say that looks can be deceiving.

Isn’t she lovely (isn’t she won-der-ful)? You’d think that it would take nothing more than filling those few missing piece – but you’d be wrong. Once I started working on it, I uncovered a lot of lifted, flaky and bubbling veneer. After weighing my options, I concluded that stripping the veneer was the best plan of action.

Take a look at the top of the buffet. Look at all the damage. There are countless heat rings and gouges, plus sections that are missing veneer completely. It was a hot mess.


Scary, right? Stick with me. This process is very easy. It did take a few hours to completely remove the veneer on top but most of that time is spent waiting. As they say, “hurry up and wait”.

You’ll start by wetting a towel and placing it on the veneer. You want it to be soaked but not so much that water is dripping off of it. See, the thing that makes veneer lift and crack is moisture. We’re going to use that in our favor, but you want to avoid getting moisture in/on areas that you don’t want to strip.

After you’ve placed your wet towel on the veneer, place a hot iron on top of it (note: This will create steam and steam is hot. In other words, put the iron on the towel and back away). Don’t worry, you’re not going to burn the house down. The wet towel prevents that. Just don’t walk away and forget about it (or all bets are off).


See the steam? Make friends with it. That’s now your best buddy! Let the iron work it’s magic for the next few minutes (yes, I said minutes and not seconds).

Take a peek every so often and see how it’s coming along. If you see the veneer turning a white-ish color and starting to lift, you’re ready to move the iron to loosen the next section.

Note: I recommend keeping a bucket of water next to you so you can easily re-wet the towel. It has to stay wet.

As the veneer lifts, you’ll simply scrape it off using a scraper of some kind. It’s very simple and requires no elbow grease. The best part? You won’t damage the wood underneath.


See how it comes off in sheets? That’s gold right there. Imagine trying to scrap this off by hand. You’d end up wasting an unholy amount of time and you’d definitely damage the wood underneath.

Continue this process until the entire area has been removed. See? Totally easy! It just takes a while to do since the iron has to sit for a few minutes on each section (and this was a fairly large piece to do).

Here are a few pics of the buffet after all of the veneer was remove. Please excuse the crappy pic. It was night time and I was running out of light.


Look at that beautiful wood that was hiding underneath! Incredible! Unfortunately, I already have a vision for this piece so I won’t be staining it. It sure would be lovely like that though!

Well, there ya have it. An easy tutorial on how to remove veneer from furniture. Easy as pie!