Everything You Need To Know About Deglosser (aka Liquid Sandpaper)

What You Need To Know About Deglosser (aka Liquid Sandpaper)

Listening to a design podcast recently about paint prep, the host said, “If you’re sanding, you’re spending way too much time prepping and working way too hard. You need to use a deglosser.”


I felt foolish. Up to this point, I’ve been sanding everything before painting. And sanding is just no fun. Is deglosser the magic solution to painless paint prep?

I’ve never used deglosser before, but I knew my next project would be a great opportunity to try it out. Here’s what happened plus answers all the most common deglosser questions.

What is Deglosser?

Deglosser, sometimes called liquid sandpaper, is a chemical solution that removes the top layer of a shiny finish. It’s specially formulated to help new paint and varnish bond to old finishes. Deglosser is used on kitchen cabinets, wood moldings, metal, and doors. It works on paint, varnish, enamel, lacquer, polyurethane, and stain. It can degrease surfaces as well.

Why Use Deglosser?

Removing the gloss first is super important to your new finish staying on without peeling or chipping. No matter how good your new paint is, it won’t stay on well without a matte surface to adhere.

How Does Deglosser Work?

Does Deglosser Work?
Yes, But Does Deglosser Work?

Pour the undiluted solution directly onto a lint-free cloth. Use the cloth to wipe over the area in a circular motion, folding over the cloth occasionally to prevent re-depositing of gunk. Let dry for 30 minutes. It’s now ready for primer and paint.

Do You Wipe Off Deglosser?

Nope. This was hard for me to wrap my head around too, but it really doesn’t need any wiping or rinsing. Deglosser evaporates fairly quickly. When it’s dry, you can start your project.

Does Deglosser Smell Bad?

It reminds me of the way hair dye smells. BUT, it’s not very strong. There was no need to vent the area.

Is Deglosser Better than Sanding?

It depends. 

In regards to time, yes, it’s an absolute time-saver. It can get into ornate nooks and crannies better than sandpaper. For weekend warriors, that’s a big deal. And some projects just need the surfaces to be “roughed up” for paint adhesion and not need the effort to get completely untreated wood.

But some projects, like ones that need stain, an old school sanding is necessary. Plus, deglossing won’t etch away previous drips or smooth over imperfections like dents. Only sanding and wood filler can make those previous sins disappear.

Does Deglosser Work?

It should, but it depends on your surface that you’re trying to degloss.

For my project, painting the stairway railing, deglosser didn’t work because the railing had a thick coat of oil-based polyurethane. The deglosser did nothing to remove the shine. 

Test it out and see. If you followed the directions and the surface is still glossy, then it’s a safe bet that sanding is your best option.

When Should I Sand and When Should I Use Deglosser?

If you can get away with quickly and lightly sand with medium-grit sandpaper (about 150 grit), then do that. An electric sander can make quick time of a large project, like roughing up the surface of your kitchen cabinets before repainting.

Keep in mind that deglosser is a corrosive chemical. If you choose the deglosser route, know that isn’t wrong. It’s just a different tool to get a similar result. 

But if you need a baby smooth bare wood finish, nothing replaces sandpaper.

Deglosser vs. TSP

Both deglosser and TSP can clean off grease and gunk. That’s a win-win in my book. But TSP is better for getting a clean surface before painting, whereas deglossing is better at removing the shiny top layer and dulling the surface.

Deglosser Recap

Deglosser is an alternative to sanding. Depending on your project’s needs, it might be the magic timesaver to compared to traditional sanding. Or it might not deliver the results you wanted. If you’re unsure, it’s incredibly affordable try it out for yourself.

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