How to Remove Laminate From Wood

Laminate is a very important part of woodworking when it comes to larger projects. It can help avoid the wood surface from getting directly damaged. But if your laminate is already damaged and peeling off then it is wise to replace it. So if you’re wondering how to remove laminate from wood then in this article, we’ll share a few simple steps to do it.

Depending on the type of laminate, you have two options to remove laminate from wood. If it’s normal laminate then use a heat gun to weaken the glue that joins it with the wood and scrape it off using a scraper or 5-in-1 painter tool. For the veneer, you need to use a chisel to pry it off the wooden surface. If the laminate is just a layer of melamine film, then just using a hairdryer will do the job for you. 

The reason why you adhere a layer of laminate on any piece at all is so that your furniture seems like one uniform piece of wood. It will hide the areas where the woods have been stuck together using fasteners and glue. Laminate is often used on tabletops, cabinets, cupboards, and beds. Furniture made of MDF and plywood also uses laminate and veneer to give it a better look.

Removing Laminate from Wood (Method 1)

This method is ideal for removing laminate from wood using a heat gun and a scraper.

Step 1 – Loosening the Glue

Laminate is installed over MDF or plywood using glue, so our first task is to loosen it up. To do so, we will apply heat to the edge of the furniture using a heat gun. If your heat gun comes with level settings, set it on the first one and start heating the piece on the edge. This will loosen the glue and you will see the piece starting to lift up a bit.

Step 2 – Using Paint Thinner

As soon as the glue starts to loosen up from the edges, pour some paint thinner from the opening under the laminate sheet. The thinner will dilute the glue and lower its adhering quality which will be helpful when you pry it off in the next step.

Step 3 – Pry or Scrape the Laminate Sheet

After you are done loosening the glue with the heat gun, you can start to slide in a putty knife or a scraper underneath the laminate. Now, the key is to heat the area evenly and keep moving the heat gun, once you do you will start to smell the glue as it gets heated up and activates. Once that happens, start to lift the laminate sheet by sliding the scraper of your choice underneath it from the edge and prying it, lifting it up.

Tip: Don’t rush this process as if you don’t heat the glue enough it might tear the substrate up with it. If you heat it too much it might blister the laminate and damage the substrate, especially if it is MDF.

Step 4 – Cleaning Up

Once you are done with removing the lamination, which will take a lot of time since it is a timely process, it is time to clean up the glue on the substrate. For that, you need to lightly sand it with fine sandpaper. Fine-grit sandpaper will remove any glue on the surface and also give the new glue texture that it can adhere to.

Once you have cleaned up, you can now apply another layer of plywood on the surface of the substrate by glueing it on top.

Removing Laminate from Wood (Method 2)

If you use the term veneer synonymously with laminate then this one’s for you. Though different, they are mostly interchangeable by woodworkers as well as others. We will be referring to it as veneer though so you can understand this is for that specifically.

Step 1 – Preparation

For this method, you need a water bottle, a rag, a scraper/ putty knife or chisel, a steam iron, and patience. It is best to do this in small sections as it will be a cleaner job.

Step 2 – Dampening the Rag

Just dampen the rag with your spray bottle, spray the veneer where you will be placing the damp rag. Place the rag over the veneer and spread it out properly as you will be ironing it now.

Step 3 – Ironing the Rag

Take your steam iron and crank up the heat setting on it. Start to iron out the damp rag and keep moving the iron, making sure it does not stay in one place for too long. Do this for a while until you feel the rag is not damp enough, after that check on the state of the veneer. It will have to soften up a bit, if not then repeat the process once more till the veneer is soft enough.

Step 4 – Removing the Veneer

Once the veneer has softened up at one spot, take your tool of choice. Use it to pry away the layer of veneer and you will be able to clean that area easily. Now don’t be hasty and try to peel off areas that haven’t softened up. The glue on that side might pull away or chip away material underneath the veneer. Just repeat the process everywhere until you can remove the whole layer completely.

Note: When using a sharp tool like a chisel for removing the veneer, make sure don’t scratch the surface underneath. Though a few scratches are imminent, you can just sand it off, and apply a layer of pore filler on the area that might get damaged.

For removing melamine film, you just have to heat it slightly from the edges using either a heat gun or hair dryer. The hair dryer is much more recommended since the heat isn’t as bad and it will not cause the film to burn off. Just peel it once it starts to come off from the edge while applying heat from the dryer.

Removing Laminate from a Particle Board

Particle board is a much low-end material made from gluing small chips and sawdust of wood together. It is very brittle and usually covered with a laminate sheet to give it durability. It is so brittle that you can actually remove material from it by just using your nails or fingers. But that is not recommended since you might end up with a splinter or two in your skin.

Usually, when the laminate from a particle board is ruined, you just throw it away and buy a new one. But in case you want to refurbish the piece yourself and save money on buying a new one, you can remove the laminate. Though you might need to retouch some areas of the board where the glue might lift some material off it. This is because a particle board is very brittle.

Most boards of low-end quality are covered with veneer, so you can use the second method which we described to remove it off the board. If it is lamination instead then you can use the first method. Once the lamination is off, you might have to fill in some areas where the board might have been damaged. To do that, just use sawdust and mix it with plenty of glue, apply it on the board and let it dry. Once done, lightly sand it, don’t overdo the sanding.

Tips on Removing Laminate from Plywood and MDF

Plywood is many layers of sheet wood joined together using glue adhesive. They are then pressed together to give the appearance of one single thick piece of wood. Meanwhile, MDF is another form of particle board, but much denser and slightly better quality. Both of these are cheaper and much more affordable options than wood, but slightly more durable and stable than a cheap particle board.

Plywood is basically sheets of wood glued together, so it is real wood. Though it is usually covered with veneer to hide the fact that it is not one whole solid piece of wood. The same goes for MDF which is a medium density fiberboard, it is covered with veneer or laminate. So when they get damaged on the surface, it might be time to replace the veneer or laminate by yourself.

When it comes to plywood, it is pretty tough and can take pretty much a lot of abuse compared to particle boards. So if it is veneer just slowly remove it using an iron and damp rag and pry it off with a chisel. If there is any damage a pore filler will do a good job of hiding it. For lamination, just heat the glue and pull it off using a scraper or putty knife.

If the lamination is not coming off easily, use acetone on the edge that you have pried open for loosening the glue.  Once you are done, just sand the surface lightly, yes you can sand MDF, just make sure you wear protective glasses and a mask so that the dust does not fly into your eyes or nose.

Tips on Removing Laminate from Cabinets

Usually, cabinets have melamine film lamination but can also have normal laminate on them. In the case of melamine film lamination, you just need to heat it up using a hairdryer from one edge. This will cause the glue adhering to the film to come off loose. You can just keep heating the piece with one hand while pulling the film with the other and it will come right off. 

Just clamp the piece to your workbench from the end that you have already removed so that it becomes easier to pull on it. For lamination just use a heat gun instead of the hairdryer and use a scraper to pry it up and pull it off. Make sure to sand the cabinets once you pull off the melamine if you plan on painting it.

Tips on Removing Laminate from IKEA Furniture

IKEA furniture is usually made from MDF boards and melamine coats. But it can also have a laminate sheet, so the first method is easily applicable to it. If it has already started to chip away from the corners then you might be able to pry it up and use acetone under it to remove the glue, loosen the laminate a bit and pull it off by hand.

Once the laminate is off, just sand off the glue from the MDF. If the board is damaged you can fill it with sawdust and glue mixture. This will hide the damage and you can sand it off to make it uniform once the glue has dried.

If it is melamine, then just use a hair dryer to heat the edge of the furniture. From there you can just pry it off once it is loose and just sand the piece so that you can apply a new layer of laminate on it or just paint it instead.

Can You Sand Laminate Off?

Like most materials in the world, you can sand laminate as well. It is easily sandable, and mostly people sand it when they are planning to paint over it. As sanding helps primers to adhere to the laminate surface more easily. Laminate is usually made very glossy, so painting over a glossy surface is not a very good idea. Scuffing it a little will give it better-adhering qualities.

But people don’t sand laminate to remove it, since using acetone, heat gun, and putty knife usually gets the job done. It is possible but then again it is just a huge waste of time as sanding is a tough job. Sanding on top of lamination for long enough will remove it sooner or later.

Though as we said it is just a huge waste of time and sandpaper. Unless you have no option we will not recommend you do that and waste time and resources. And if you are planning on sanding it off, use an orbital sander as it will save a lot of your time.


Are veneer and laminate the same thing?

No, laminate is a man-made plastic material that has a wood design painted on it usually. But veneer is a real thin sheet of wood that is glued to low-quality wood or MDF and plywood. But it is often used interchangeably by people so do make sure to ask which one it is.

Can you sand MDF and particle board?

Yes, you can sand particle board and MDF using fine-grit sandpaper. Don’t use low grit sandpaper as it might pull off material instead of sanding it.

Can you sand over laminate?

Yes, you can sand over laminate and you should do so when you are planning on painting it.

Will acetone damage wood or particle board?

Laminate can be removed by applying a little acetone between the area that you have heated up and pried away from the substrate. It might damage the wood or particle board but it is pretty volatile so it does not get absorbed and evaporates pretty fast. Just sanding the surface lightly will help in that regard as well.

How to repair damage on particle board, MDF, and plywood?

If the glue has pulled up material from the MDF, particle board, and plywood, just use sawdust and glue to fill that damaged part. When the glue dries off just sand it lightly to give it a uniform texture.

Final Thoughts

Once you understand the difference between the various kinds of laminations, it becomes very easy to remove them. Identifying the type of material, whether it is melamine, plastic laminate, or veneer, is very important in that aspect. 

After you learn to identify the subtle differences, use any of the above-mentioned methods to remove the laminate without any trouble. 

Just remember, sand off the glue from the substrate once the lamination has been removed. This way you can reapply fresh glue to it and attach a new lamination of your choice over it.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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