One of the great thing about using hardwood, whether it be for cabinetry, windows, molding or flooring, is the fact that you can refinish the surface. That is, you can remove the old stain or paint job and apply a new finish that will completely redefine the piece. There are many ways to paint stripping methods you can use on your hardwood. You can either strip the stain off with chemical agents, use power sanders, or use a combination of both. This article explains the drawbacks and advantages of each method.
Using Chemical Strippers
Chemical wood strippers are a little harsh. You need to wear gloves and protective eyewear to protect your skin and prevent the fumes from getting into your eyes. To use the stripper you need to rub it onto the wood with rags. The stripper will need to absorb into the wood for a few minutes. This breaks down the stain and makes it easier to remove. Then, you come back with a dry rag and rub it off. This creates a gunky mess, so you need to have a large sheet of plastic under the wood you are stripping. Often, the stripper will not break down the stain completely, so you will have to get out a power sander. Since you might end up having to use a power sander anyways, it might be a good idea to skip using the stripper completely.
Using a Power Sander
As mentioned, it is sometimes easier to just use a power sander. To speed up the process you need two types of sandpaper. First, you will use a medium grit paper to help strip the stain off of the wood. Then, you step up to an extra fine grit paper. This smooths out the surface so it is ready to be stained. If you try to use fine grit paper from the start, it will take much longer to get all of the stain off. You will also need a sponge sander to reach into the cracks and edges near the molding.
When all the sanding is done, you need to wipe down the wood with steel wool. This further emulsifies the wood and makes it ultra-smooth. Finally, you will need to wipe down the wood with a wet rag to remove any fine dust that settled on it during the sanding.
Your wood will not be ready for refinishing. If the power sander does not work well, you might need to resort to the chemicals. Otherwise, you can probably just use sanders.