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Ikea Hemnes Dresser Makeover: Removing Dark Wood Stain

Ikea Hemnes Dresser Makeover: How To Remove Factory Applied Stain from Wood Furniture

Do you have a sturdy piece of furniture that’s showing its age? I know the feeling. Our daughter’s dresser is over ten years old and while it’s still holding up strong, the wear and tear of four moves + life with a toddler and two cats was making it look like a piece of junk. So today, I’m showing you how to remove factory stain finishes from wood furniture to breathe new life into your old stuff. Here’s how I turned a 10 year-old Ikea Hemnes dresser into a cute statement piece for a kid’s bedroom …

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Ikea Dresser Makeover - She turned an old Hemnes dresser into an adorable kid's bedroom staple with paint and new stain! Here's how - #ikeahacks #kidstuff

We’ve now owned our historic California Bungalow for eight months and we’ve barely even begun renovations. Since our daughter has had a hard time adjusting to the new house, we decided to make her bedroom a priority for 2020.

you can read all about how and why we downsized here:

We Are Downsizing: Why My Family Is Choosing Life In A Smaller Home

Our 1924 California Bungalow: Full Home Tour

We’ve already made great progress in her room so far. At the beginning of February, I showed you how we upgraded the 1980s can lights for a more modern look (How To Replace An Outdated Can Ceiling Light Without Rewiring). Then we painted her wood floors with fun stripes to give a cottage appeal (Painting Hardwood Floors). Now, we’ve moved on to furnishing the space and I’ve shown you how we created a fake wood stain on laminate furniture (How To Stain Laminate Furniture – A Paint Trick For Changing Fake Wood Colors).

Here’s her bedroom on move-in day:

historic bungalow bedroom before

After a new coat of paint on everything, here’s how the room looks now:

girls bedroom with pink walls and painted floors

The pink paint on the walls is a playful touch against the red window trim and blue and white striped floor. Overall, the vibe for this room is going to be colorful and modern. I want a whimsical look for my rainbow-loving child but I also need to make sure this space works with the overall style of our home.

Her old dresser, with its dark wood stain, isn’t just looking a little frazzled. It also doesn’t really fit the style of our current house.

ikea Hemnes dresser - it's held up over time but the ten years have left a lot of marks on its finish.

My daughter’s Ikea Hemnes dresser: it’s held up over time but the past decade of use has left a lot of marks on its finish.


this isn’t sponsored by Ikea but the following contains affiliate links

I can’t praise this Ikea furniture line enough. If you’re looking for sturdy and classic furniture on a budget, the Ikea Hemnes line is my go-to choice. The lines are simple, making it blend easily into modern and traditional rooms alike. Unlike a lot of the cheap MDF and laminate pieces you may imagine when you think of ready-to-assemble furniture stores, the Hemnes line is built of solid wood.

I’ve used different furniture pieces throughout my own home for years! You can see how I customized the Ikea Hemnes TV storage unit in my last home’s bonus room here: Don’t Replace Your Furniture. Update It Instead!

Ikea Hemnes Media Center Makeover

I’m also a massive fan of the Ikea Hemnes shoe cabinets! I’ve owned these shoe storage pieces for seven years and four moves. They’re such workhorse pieces that I’ve managed to find a spot for them in every home I’ve owned over the past decade. Here they are this past winter in our California Bungalow:

Ikea Hemnes shoe cabinets in a modern home with vintage touches

Because the Hemnes dresser is so sturdy and reliable, I really didn’t want to get rid of it. It doesn’t make sense to trash a solid piece of furniture just because the finish or style isn’t exactly coherent with the rest of the room.

Instead, I opted to refinish the dresser by removing the existing stain on the drawers, replacing the hardware with wooden number pulls, and painting the frame and top.

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Here’s the finished look:

Ikea furniture makeover - updating inexpensive furniture with some paint and a sanding for a rustic farmhouse look in a kid's room. #ikeahacks #modernfarmhouse

The trickiest part of this dresser makeover was removing the original dark wood stain from the drawers to reveal the beautiful pine wood grain underneath. It took a lot of trial and error but I finally figured out how to easily remove the thick laters of mocha stain without using chemical stripping tools.

Here’s the process that worked best for me:



palm or orbital sander
sandpaper: 60, 120, and 360 grit

Before you start, you want to thoroughly clean the wood finish to remove any oils or sticky residue. I used vinegar and water to wipe down the entire surface after a complete vacuuming and dusting.

sandpiper types for removing wood stain and finish

STEP ONE: choose the right sandpaper grit

For complete removal of the existing wood stain, you’re going to use three different grits of sandpaper. The sandpaper grit refers to the gauge of the paper. In other words, the lower the number, the rougher the paper will be on surfaces. You can buy each grit of sandpaper separately or you can purchase a multipack that includes a variety of different grit sizes for your project.

My palm sander allows for full sheets of sandpaper to be cut down to fit. However, some orbital and palm sanders require specific types of paper that are pre-cut to the exact dimensions of your sander. Be sure to refer to your sander’s guide to determine the specific type of paper you’ll need.

You can refer to the image above to act as a guide throughout this project. This will assist you in determining which sandpaper gauge to use for each step.

For removal of the finish, you’ll use a rough 60 grit sandpaper. To remove the wood stain, your preferred sandpaper will be a medium 120 grit. For fine sanding and finishing, you’ll need to have a fine 360 grit paper on-hand.

sanding factory finish from furniture

STEP TWO: remove the finish lacquer

Furniture that is stained is often covered with a clear finish layer that seals in the stain. The first step to removing the stain is to remove this finish layer.

For removal of the finish, you’ll use a rough 60 grit sandpaper. Run your palm or orbital sander in even strokes across the wood. The end result will be a cloudy look. That’s what you want. This assures you that you’re properly cutting through the finish lacquer.

ikea Hemnes dresser makeover

STEP THREE: sand out the stain

Now that the lacquer has been removed, you can sand the wood down to its original color.

For removal of the stain, you’ll use a medium 120 grit sandpaper. Run your palm or orbital sander in even strokes across the wood until you’ve removed the wood stain and the natural color of the wood and grain shows.

easy wood stain removal

STEP FOUR: smooth the wood

The final step to removing the stain is to smooth the surface of the wood. Having used rough and medium grit papers, you’ll find the surface is rough to the touch. This could result in splinters and will certainly inhibit your ability to re-stain the wood in an even coat.

To smooth the wood, you’ll use a fine 360 grit sandpaper. Run your palm or orbital sander in even strokes across the wood. Use caution to go slowly and even out the surface. Check the wood as you sand with your hand. By running your hand over the surface, you’ll be able to determine when you’ve sanded the surface enough to get a smooth finish.

removing dark wood stain

STEP FIVE: clean the wood surface

Once you’ve determined the wood is smooth and even to the touch, you’ll need to clean the surface to remove the dust. This will ensure your new stain or finish coat will apply evenly.

I used a dry dust cloth to wipe the surface.

natural finish on wood furniture

STEP SIX: apply new finish

Since the wood is now back to its natural state, you’ll want to apply some sort of sealer or finish product in order to protect the wood surface from moisture.

You can use a clear polyurethane, a stain with a built-in poly, or any wood finishing product.

I opted to finish the wood with a wood conditioner and sealer. Typically, Howard Feed N Wax is used for butcher block countertops and cutting boards. I like this finish because it seals the wood with a natural beeswax product. Since this is going into a child’s room, I wanted the finish to be as safe as possible.

installing wood block drawer pulls on kid's dresser

STEP SEVEN: install new hardware

Once your new finish has dried, you can install the drawer hardware. The original knobs from this Ikea Hemnes dresser are timeless and classic. You can absolutely reinstall those. Or you can choose new knobs that better match your personal style. Here are a few budget-friendly hardware options that I really like;

I opted to create my own dresser knobs for my kid’s dresser. I used wooden blocks left over from my daughter’s wooden number puzzle to fashion pulls for the dresser. First, I glued them on. Once the glue was dry, I drilled into the back to create a pilot hole for a screw to permanently secure them.

Kid's Dresser Makeover: I used wooden number blocks to create custom dresser knobs for a fun look for kids.

Here are some number puzzles and other wooden items you could use to create the same look;

You can use this glue and screw method to attach any type of wooden object to the dresser for use as a knob. Just make sure the depth of the item allows for easy grabbing with small hands.

Kid's Dresser Makeover: Fun Ikea Hemnes Furniture Hack

In the end, this Ikea Hemnes dresser looks vintage and fun for a kid’s room.

Ikea Dresser Makeover: How to easily customize a Hemnes dresser for a child's bedroom

Now, this 10 year-old dresser looks brand new and ready for a whole new life!

Ikea Hemnes Dresser Makeover: Removing Dark Wood Stain For A Kid's Room Makeover

The Ikea Hemnes line is my favorite basic line of furniture. It’s versatile and sturdy. Just make sure you’re strapping those dressers to the wall for safety. Read more about avoiding tip-over accidents here: Ikea’s Safer Homes Campaign.

The line comes in tons of finish options. Here are my favorite pieces from the Ikea Hemnes line:


Now, a confession: This post is going live in November of 2020. However, it was actually written in February of 2020 and was slated to go live as part of my daughter’s bedroom makeover for the 555 Room Challenge. After I captured the photos for this project and finalized the post on February 28th, our family left for a little week-long getaway in Florida.

tornado rebuild

On March 3, our home was hit by a tornado while we were away. I never got to photograph the final room for the 555 Room Challenge so you’ll never see a reveal of that makeover. You can read more about the tornado here: How We Are Rebuilding After The Tornado

Our Tornado Rebuild

I’ve struggled with the decision of whether or not to post these projects that never really got completed. On the one hand, there will never be a final reveal of this room. So there’s no way to show you how everything worked so well together. I’ll never be able to show off the work I put in.

Having endured the loss of her home and stability during a pandemic, our daughter has matured a lot over the past nine months. She’s no longer the four year old who wanted cotton candy pink walls and vibrant primary color accents.

Her new bedroom is a reflection of that maturity. The blush pink has been replaced by dark fuchsia and vibrant orange. After months of living without most of her belongings. she’s opted to get rid of the large dollhouse she once so treasured. It’s been replaced by a vanity table where she stores her great aunt’s vintage mirror and brush. Family heirlooms are important to her now.

One day soon, her new bedroom will be finished and I’ll show you those photos. But for now, here’s a glimpse into the bedroom she and I designed together last Winter:

These photos aren’t styled. They were taken as a trial run to see how the light worked in this room. But I think you’ll see a true glimpse into how her life was in this space for the short time she had it.

In the end, I decided to publish this post as a final homage to the brief life we had in this home before we had to gut it.

I know there’s a lot of useful information for people in this project. I know it can be helpful.

If nothing else, it can also stand as a testament to my daughter. One day, maybe she’ll look back at this space she’ll never remember and smile at how much our love for her shone through.

I’ll be back soon with more updates on our home’s rebuild. Until then, stay safe and sane. xoxo


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Site operating fees are expensive but my commission costs you nothing. thanks for your support!



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