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There are a few situations in which you may need to strip the paint off your cabinets.
Cabinets with tannin stains in the existing paint, but without signs of paint failure, don't necessarily need to be stripped. Tannin staining happens when oils inside the wood bleed into paint and become visible. This is called tannin bleed-through.
Bleed-through usually happens when wood isn't primed, or when the wrong primer was used. In this situation, stripping paint from the cabinets isn't needed as long as the old paint is intact. You could simply wash them, prime with a good stain blocking sealer, and paint.
A good sanding, using coarse enough sandpaper grit, will remove some of the paint, but this process will take a lot longer than using a chemical stripper, and aggressive sanding can also damage the profile of cabinet doors.
A light sanding at the end is good, though, to remove the last bits of the old paint from the surface after most of the paint layers have been removed with chemicals.
Heavy duty rubber gloves and safety goggles need to be worn when working with paint stripper. Most contain caustic chemicals, including methylene chloride, a chemical that can burn your skin with direct contact.
Fortunately, there are alternative paint strippers with less nasty chemical components, one of which is CitriStrip, a stripping gel I've used several times to take paint off cabinet doors. This product does not contain methylene chloride, and the orange scent is much more tolerable than other products I've worked with in the past. You need to reapply this product more than once in layers, but it works great. The stripper is thick, like a pasty gel, for easier application on vertical surfaces, and you can apply a thick layer to break down the paint faster.
Products like Zip Strip are very effective too, but this one does contain methylene chloride. The brands Jasco and Klean-Strip have available options too, but I've never used them.
Question: Can you strip white primer?
Question: Would it be better to sand my cabinets if I have 2 layers of paint and just needs to be refreshed?
Answer: If the paint is coming off easy with your sander then try sanding them instead of using chemicals. You have to be careful though not to damage the wood from using too coarse of sandpaper, or sanding too aggressively.
Question: How would I remove primer from cabinets?
Answer: Using a chemical stripper, or sanding with an electric sander, but you have to be careful not to damage the wood. There are gel stripping products you apply and allow to break down the coating. It's a time-consuming process of reapplying the stripper and scraping. I would try sanding first.
© 2018 Matt G.