In the early years of working on my 150-year-old home, I learned about red paint. We decided to paint the main hallway, upstairs and down, in a rich brick-red colour. The whole project was gargantuan in nature, as you can see from the photo below, but with new drywall I had a completely blank slate to work with.
In those days I used oil-based paint. I primed the walls, lightly sanded the primer, and got straight to the task. 1 coat looked exciting, 2 coats looked better. But we could see that a 3rd coat would be necessary so I grit my teeth and did it all again. Alas, after much hand-wringing and sleepless nights, we decided we had to add a 4th coat. Even then, roller strokes showed despite my efforts. Red dye just doesn’t spread as evenly as other colours. We stared at that 4th coat for a very long time before deciding that enough was enough! I’m certain that when the decorations were up, the carpets down, and activity bustling, no one but me saw those remaining marks, but I always did.
Since that time, I have painted a lot of things red – it is my favourite colour. With today’s product improvements we no longer have the same issues with brush strokes, and environmentally friendly latex is so easy to clean up. However, this blog is about old furniture… and old furniture with red paint or stain can never give you that “blank slate”. There are times when you can (and must) use red and times when you simply cannot. With old furniture, it has a great deal to do with the wood underneath and the paint that was previously used.
Removing Red Paint from Wood
This little cupboard had been newly painted red. In fact when I bought it, the seller commented that she had tidied it up by giving it a nice coat of colour. The knots are evident through the paint
With the start of stripping, it was immediately obvious that no primer had been used – instead the paint had permeated the wood.
After stripping and sanding, the cupboard reached this point.
No question what the final colour was going to be!
Removing Red Stain from Wood
Much the same goes for red stain (or any deep stain for that matter). You simply cannot get it completely out of the wood. Below is a side table showing portions where I’ve removed as much of the stain as possible. Although paler than the above example, stain will still tend to seep through many primers.
Here is an example of an ‘extreme’ stain. This wooden bowl gave me nothing but grief until it had 3 coats of shellac primer and its interior painted red!
As a final example, here is a drawer interior that had been stained red. Stripping turned it orange. You can see how the dye shows through a single coat of shellac-based primer. Can you guess what colour this drawer was painted?
Removing Red Paint from Hardware
This is easy, except of course if the hardware is made of wood. If it’s dipped in stripping solution, the paint slides off readily. Even old screws can be cleaned for use in reattaching knobs and hinges. Note these little wood knobs still have their faint pink hue. Dark colours are safe from obvious red dye bleed-through – purples, deep blues, deep greys. However, though you may get lucky with an excellent primer, think twice before painting light tones over red!