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Desk Makeover {Paint Stripping with Citristrip & Painting with Latex Enamel}

desk makeover sitristrip latex enamel

One of the unique features of our home’s floor plan is a “tech room” with built in desks just off of our mud room.  When we first built our house I thought they would make the perfect place for our older boys to do their homework.

PicMonkey Collage

The builders painted the desks with latex paint and unfortunately it showed evey little mark and scratch almost immediately after we moved in.  Within a few months I had already given the tops of the desks a coat of black chalk paint in the hopes of giving it a more durable surface.  I was again disappointed within a couple of weeks.

chalk paint on desk

In a last ditch effort to make the space look nice I did a total overhall last summer and redecorated the entire room.


It looked fantastic at first but again, it held up horribly.  I knew I needed to come up with a solution that would make the desks both functional and durable.

At this point the desks had multiple coats of paint and my husband and I decided to strip them bare and start over.  We opted to use Citristrip to strip the paint after much research.  We have three small children and the lack of toxicity was a big plus for us.

how to use citristripMaterials:

  • Citristrip Stripping Gel
  • Paint brushes
  • Scraper/Joint knife
  • Sanding block
  • Latex Enamel Paint
  • Safety Gloves
  • Protective Eyewear


Clean your surface of dust and debris. (You can see how horribly my latex painted desk held up to three little boys!)

painted desk stained

Apply a generous coat of Citristrip to the painted surface using a paint brush, you’ll notice the Citristrip has a thick, gel-like consistency and does not have the strong odor of other paint strippers.  It is important to use a thick coat (if your Citristrip begins to dry out, it was not thick enough.)

You should wear gloves and protective eyewear when working with Citristrip. (I didn’t realize until later that my husband didn’t have his gloves on in many of these pictures.  He has been sufficiently reprimanded!)

stripping paint citristrip

Allow the Citristrip to sit on the project for 30 minutes and test a small area with your scraper.  You can leave the Citristrip on the project for up to 24 hours before scraping.

Scrape the Citristrip and paint off the surface, scraping in the direction of the wood grain. The paint should be removed easily.

scraping paint citristrip

Remove paint debris and thoroughly clean the bare surface.  Sand surface lightly to remove any residual paint if necessary.

desk after stripping citristrip

When our desk was stripped we were left with a large piece of MDF.  We originally thought it would be regular wood so I attempted to see how stain would look on the MDF but the results were not good so that plan was quickly abandoned.

stain on mdf

After much research into durability we decided to use a latex enamel paint to finish the desks.  We chose latex enamel because it is a harder, more durable finish than traditional latex paint.

latex enamel

Apply one layer of latex enamel paint with a paintbrush and allow to dry fully.  Do not place anything heavy or damp on the painted surface for 7 days to allow the paint to totally harden.

desk painted with Latex enamel

I’m happy to say it has been three months so far and the latex enamel is holding up perfectly! It’s durable enough to scrub and I love the deep, velvety appearance of the paint!


 -Learn more about Melissa-


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  1. Christina Ruby
    Christina Ruby says:

    I am addicted to your blog! Great Post! Looking forward to get more information from you. I have an older home with so many ideas in my head, but I also have 2 little ones that make doing things difficult. So for now I will decorate vicariously through you!

  2. sydney
    sydney says:

    Here’s a little tip that my mother used to do and which has saved the tops of many pieces of furniture. Get a piece of glass cut to go on the top. For something that has straight sides like your desk it should cost under $100.00 to have it cut. I’ve even had tops cut for furniture with curved ends and it only cost me about $80.00 Even cheaper is to get a piece of plexiglass cut. I understand Lowes will cut it for you. (don’t ask home depot they don’t do it. ) That way when your children decide to draw smiley faces on the top of the desk it won’t ruin the finish. Oh and they will – They always do.

  3. Emily @ Two Purple Couches
    Emily @ Two Purple Couches says:

    I love how this turned out! There’s nothing more frustrating than finishing a project and having to turn around and do it again. Glad this one is holding up for the long haul! We’ve been in our new construction home for 2 years, and the builder-grade wall paint is awful; it doesn’t hold up to anything!

  4. Jenna
    Jenna says:

    It looks great, Melissa! And I am so impressed with you and your paint stripping skills – I have tried it once and it went horribly wrong! Pinning!

  5. Candace @ Vintage News Junkie
    Candace @ Vintage News Junkie says:

    What a journey… you and your little desk have had, Melissa! I have to say the finish is stunning!! And wowza… was that a lot of paint you stripped off! I’ve gotta get my hand on some of that miracle stripper… I have quite a few pieces that I’ve painted one to many times! Oopsie! Pinning for later! 🙂

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