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French Country, Cane Back Chairs, and Easy-Off...Oh My!

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

Who hates the stripping process for furniture? It is time consuming, messy, and did I say time consuming? I've shied away from furniture projects in the past for that very reason but a friend sent me a video from Instagram with what seemed like an easy DIY with Easy-Off oven cleaner. I thought I would try it for myself and I am absolutely smitten with the result!

I found four of these french provincial vintage chairs on Facebook Marketplace (FM) for $40! You read that right (for tips on searching FM see my blog post here). Vintage cane chairs are my weakness. Actually pretty chairs are my weakness. I want them all but sadly I don't have a home big enough to cater to my addiction so I digress. I found these fabulous chairs to match a set of four velvet upholstered cane chairs I won at an auction a few months ago. I needed extra seating for the holidays and although the cane and provincial legs didn't match exactly I knew they would be perfect with one alteration. The color.

The chairs were a very dark stain and looked even darker indoors. I was going for a french country feel so I needed to lighten them a bit for the aesthetic I was hoping for. Enter the Easy-Off oven cleaner.

After watching a video on the process of using the cleaner it seemed simple enough so I thought I would give it a whirl. Here's what I used:

  • 4 cans Easy-Off No Fumes Oven Cleaner

  • Soft Bristle Scrub Brush

  • Rubber Gloves

  • Mask (I just used a disposable)

  • Bucket with warm water

  • Pressure washer or water hose

To prep the chairs, I gave them a good dusting with a plain cloth but I honestly don't think it was needed with the Easy-Off. Next I removed the cushions, as I was going to reupholstered them...vintage cushions can sometimes equal very stinky old fabric and these were horrid! Whew.

The next four steps were super simple so here we go!

STEP ONE: Spray Easy-Off on every visible surface of your furniture piece. One can was enough for one chair so plan how many cans you will need based on the size of your item. Also, I have heard that the generic brand works just as well as the Easy-Off but I cannot confirm that. I didn't want to chance it so I used the real deal. I also like the fact that the Easy-Off bubbled so I could see where I'd sprayed.

STEP TWO: Once I sprayed the cleaner all over the chairs, it was a waiting game. I set my timer for 30 minutes to let the product do its thing and I started a load of laundry and went about my morning.

STEP THREE: When the time was up, I took my bucket with warm water and bristle brush and started brushing. The chairs were sticky/tacky to the touch and when I added the wet bristles to the cleaner (dip the brush in the water just to wet it), the magic started happening.

The brush helps the cleaner get into the nooks and crannies and continues the removal process. You will see instantly that something is working and notice stain on the bristles. Continually dip the brush in water to keep it wet and scrub a dub dub. You don't have to scrub extremely hard but do put a little elbow grease behind it to get the gunk off.

STEP FOUR: Step four may make you cringe, it did for me. You will spray your furniture piece with water. I know...I know. The video I watched stated that you needed to use a pressure washer to rinse the oven cleaner off the piece and while I can understand the reasoning behind it, getting all of that cleaner out of the wood, I opted to use the jet spray of our water hose. It may have been a quicker rinse with the pressure washer but I think the hose helped obtain the same success.

As I brushed, I could tell the chairs were a little lighter but they were still dark since they were wet and the water didn't help in that respect either. The picture below on the left is what the chairs looked like after I'd scrubbed and rinsed with the water hose. A little lighter but still not quite there for me. Now it was time to let them dry in the sun to see what the final result would be.

Again, I went about my day and after about 45-50 minutes I thought I would just take a peek to see how they were doing. I was shocked to say the least. The below right is what they looked like when I took a little looksie. What?!?!? How in the world?

It worked! I didn't think it would but it did and I was happy with the result. They lightened a bit more as they dried and I was smitten. I did go back for a second round and spot sprayed a few of the darker spots I'd missed but there were not many.

Afterwards I debated on a light stain, Danish oil, or clear wax to finish them off and I decided on a clear wax so the color wouldn't change. If these were going to be used frequently, I would have gone with something a little heartier, like the Danish oil and may use it in the future.

For now, I am so pleased with my "new to me" french country cane back chairs. Here are the finished products all dressed up for the holidays. There are color variations in the wood and I feel they add the perfect touches of character. You can see the beautiful grain that was once covered by the darker stain that adds a little extra flair. Additional seating...additional character in my home...and a little extra flair in the dining area. What more could you ask for in a DIY project?

Now...what shall I tackle with the Easy-Off next? Hmmmm.......

I'd love to know if you have tried or will try this process. It was relatively easy and such a dramatic result. Send pics if you soldier through. I'd love to see your finished project/s. Until then...happy DIYing! XO Jennifer

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