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Refinishing cabinets is a cost-effective and simple upgrade that you can do yourself to breathe new life into a tired space. Whether you’re redoing all your glossy kitchen cabinets or upcycling a thrifted piece of furniture, you might think you have hours of sanding to do before you can paint. But there’s an alternative to getting the finish ready to be repainted—and it will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

Why you should use deglosser

Deglosser, also known as liquid sander, can be a great time-saver—especially on bigger jobs or projects with lots of nooks and crannies that are difficult to sand. While it can take a day or two to complete surface prep, the advantage is that most of that time is spent waiting, during which you are free to do other things. The clean-up for liquid deglosser is simple, since it’s water-based. Though you can’t put it down the drain, you can dispose of it the same way you would dispose of latex or acrylic paint. Another advantage of using deglosser is that it’s much safer than sanding when you’re working with lead paint. If you’re covering over and encasing existing lead, a dust-free product is ideal.

What is deglosser?

As the name implies, deglosser is intended for use on glossy surfaces to prep them for paint. It’s not an alternative to paint stripper, so it won’t work if you’re trying to reveal the underlying wood, but it will remove the sheen on a glossy surface so that the paint has something to stick to. Keep in mind that deglosser won’t work on oil-based paint, but is perfect for water-based latex and acrylic finishes. Deglosser uses a chemical reaction to break up the shiny surface of a painted object, so timing is important to get the best results.

Preparation and materials

For this project, you’ll need:

Before applying the deglosser, clean the surface with soapy water and rinse to make sure that the deglosser is applied evenly over the whole surface. An uneven application could make the final paint appear uneven or not adhere evenly. You should also smooth out any bumps or imperfections with sandpaper as deglosser won’t address these kinds of defects.

Apply your deglosser

Now’s the time to put on your gloves to protect your hands. It’s also a good idea to wear safety goggles, as splash-back from pouring the liquid sandpaper could end up in your eyes.

Pour some of your deglosser into a bucket and then use your scrub sponge to apply it over your whole surface. Using something like a scrub pad for dishes will help to scuff up the surface without damaging the underlying wood, but you can also use a clean rag. Make sure to get the liquid into all the corners and hard-to-reach spots. Let the deglosser sit for five to 10 minutes, then wipe away the excess with a clean rag.

Apply your primer

After applying liquid sandpaper, you should allow your piece to sit for between five and 48 hours to allow it to work. You shouldn’t wait too much longer than that because it can affect the application of your first layer of primer. Once your surface takes on a matte finish instead of a glossy one, it’s time to apply your primer. If you’re not sure whether the deglosser has had enough time to work, you can do a test on the inside of a cabinet door, or other smaller, unnoticeable spot. You should now have a surface that the paint will adhere to properly when applied, allowing your cabinets or furniture to last for years without peeling or cracking.

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