There are many reasons you might want to remove gesso. In my case, it’s because I bought a piece of wood from Michael’s that had been pre-gessoed. (I hate when they do that. If I want it gessoed, I will do it myself. Same with restaurants and salt. There is a salt and pepper shaker on the table, stop putting it in my food for me!) It was the only piece that matched the dimensions I needed, so I bought it. My original intent was to sand the gesso, but the wood was already a little too thin…so I didn’t want to do that.
So an easier way to remove gesso without making a huge mess…rubbing alcohol!
What you’ll need:
- a old wash cloth or towel
- rubbing alcohol (I used 70%)
Step 01: Make sure the piece you’re working on is real wood. That’s difficult to do, actually. I thought mine was real wood (mostly because it was advertised as such…stay classy, Michael’s), but after I removed the gesso, I realized it was particle board. Which really makes me mad, because I was going to use wood stain on it. I couldn’t figure out if staining over gesso was OK, so I decided to remove it.
This is what I started with.
Step 02: You can either pour the rubbing alcohol directly onto the wood OR soak your wash cloth in it.
Step 03: Rub rub rub rub rub rub rub. I did about 30 minutes or rubbing to get all of the gesso off. (Except the sides, because I ran out of rubbing alcohol. This does NOT use that much alcohol, I just didn’t have much to begin with.)
You can also use this method to get gesso off of canvas, clothing, your hands after you’ve forgotten to wear gloves while stripping the gesso, etc.
If you have a large piece to work with, I would recommend just sanding it. Small pieces take long enough to strip, but if it’s a piece of furniture or something…a sander would be easier. But if you don’t own a sander or don’t want to make a mess, rubbing alcohol is perfect.
Now get creative with your stripped product!