The Junk Parlor

Oven Cleaner & Ice Cream Buckets

I have recently picked up 3 nice wooden ice cream buckets! But the color on them is just not for me! Will oven cleaner strip these ice cream buckets? Let’s find out!

I’ve used oven cleaner as a stripper a few times. I mean by now almost everyone has tried this technique to remove old varnish. The first time I tried was on this dresser that we bought when we got married. While the technique worked, I was not a fan of the process.

Having stripped and refinished A LOT of furniture for 4-H projects growing up, I didn’t understand this new obsession.

Traditional stripper works just fine. Oven cleaner as stripper is a little riskier in my opinion. Why? You use water on your wood. Water can do a lot of damage. Because you use water, you want to make sure that you are working with a solid piece of wood that doesn’t have veneer or embellishment. The water is going to make those items bubble and possibly come off all together. And then you are done. The piece will be beyond repair for the typical DIY’er.

the three ice cream buckets I will be testing

I have used the oven stripper for other projects like this one.

I did like using it on smaller items like wooden bowls. But again, stripper would have worked just as well.

The other thing you want to remember about using oven cleaner is that it will NOT strip paint. So, if your piece has paint on it, you are going to need to use stripper or a heat gun. HERE is a dresser I stripped the old fashioned way.

My memory of using traditional stripper on all of my 4-H projects was the stripper burned like a b****! Now either the chemicals are less harsh 35 years later or I am a lot tougher because I rarely get stripper on me that makes me want to run to the kitchen sink to rinse it off. HOWEVER, oven cleaner REALLY burns! And it REALLY smells. So if you use oven cleaner please dress accordingly. Wear gloves and do it outside so you have a lot of ventilation.

Ice Cream Buckets

When I grabbed these ice cream buckets I knew that I would do something to them! I was thinking paint or stripper. The longer they sat in my “to do” pile the more I had the feeling that I wanted to do stripper, but with the oven cleaner.

I’m really loving the raw wood look as you can see in my built-ins and kitchen table. Really I have a house full of every wood tone, but raw wood is a current favorite.

Hello Iowa

I have been lucky enough to share projects and decorating tips on Hello Iowa since we moved to Ankeny. In anticipation of my next presentation, I decided to share all about using oven cleaner.

You will notice in the photos that I am only stripping half, or one side of each bucket. The reason for this is so that I can share the “before” and “after” on the show. In the studio is not the place to actually be spraying oven cleaner! However, I wanted to make sure that viewers really got to see the transformation.

After the presentation I will finish stripping the ice cream buckets and video tape that process so you can watch it all happen! Be sure to come back to watch or even better yet, SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel.

The Process of Stripping with Oven Cleaner

Pick a Spot

I know I mentioned this but you really need to be outside for this. The fumes are pretty powerful and the process can be pretty messy. This project reminds me of bleaching flannels. This was a project where I learned the hard way to do it outside!

supplies, gloves, scrub brush, scouring pad, Great Value oven cleaner

Gather Your Supplies

  • oven cleaner
  • brush
  • gloves
  • water source
  • items you want to strip

I’m a big believer in multi-tasking or batch work. Read more about that HERE. As a result you will see that I did three ice cream buckets and a stool. This system might mean I’m holding things a little longer until I can make a pile. But in the long run it saves time to do all of the pieces at once.

Steps to Using Oven Cleaner as Stripper

  • Shake
  • Spray
  • Sit
  • Scrub
  • Rinse
  • Dry
  • Repeat if needed

I have heard many oven cleaner users say that brand does matter! I do not have enough experience to say whether this is true or not. In the past I have always used name brand oven cleaner, but the last time I purchased oven cleaner I bought two cans. One was name brand and the other wasn’t.

When I grabbed my supplies for this project I grabbed the off brand oven cleaner. Let’s see how it does!

No matter what brand of oven cleaner you grab, you will need to shake it. You might need to shake it again after you spray the item a bit.

oven cleaner has been sprayed on and is expanding like shaving cream

Spray the cleaner onto the item. The oven cleaner will foam up like shaving cream. Then you let it set. I’m never very good with this part of the project. It works best to let it set 10 minutes. You will notice the oven cleaner soaks into the wood in some places. In other places it can make little bubbles.

Take some kind of scrub brush or scouring pad to the item and scrub. Doing 4-H projects my mom taught me to always go with the grain. Of course I have always listened to my mom! 😂 I do really try to go with the grain as much as possible. The ice cream buckets have wire rings that hold the boards together, so to get under and around those I did go against the grain a bit. But, use caution on your own project.

After scrubbing a bit, then you are going to turn the hose on. Continue scrubbing while you run water on the piece. When you don’t feel like anything else is coming off of the item, stop scrubbing and rinse.

After rinsing you are going to set your piece in the sun to dry. Not only does the sun dry the piece, but it often helps lighten the wood. This entire process definitely dries out the wood. Depending on the look you are going for you might just leave the piece as is. If you want to rehydrate the wood, then know that it will change the color of the wood. You can use hemp oil, linseed oil, even orange glow will help.

All three ice cream buckets before they get rinsed with water

Adding oil is a personal preference. I typically don’t add oil because I want the wood to have a light bleached look.

My First Attempt

After the piece dries, you will know if you have achieved the look you want. If you haven’t, you will need to repeat these steps.

Pictured above are the buckets after one coat of generic oven cleaner. They had dried but are now a little damp with dew.

Remember the air bubbles I said that can happen when you spray the oven cleaner? Sometimes those “bubbles” are visible once the piece dries. If you repeat the process you will get rid of that look. Below is a picture of the bubbles and then the look of bubbles after one coat of oven cleaner. This is a bench I worked on while doing the ice cream buckets.

Second Attempt

Below is a side shot of oven cleaner vs. no oven cleaner. These will stay that way until after Hello Iowa. Then, I will use the oven cleaner to strip the other side. If you want even more of a raw wood look then you can always coat these buckets in bleach and let them sit in the sun.

side view of ice cream buckets, attempting to show the untouched side vs. the oven cleaner stripped side


Remember how I said I didn’t really like using oven cleaner to strip furniture? I don’t mind stripping smaller things, but the unpredictability about it just makes me nervous. For example, if you look at what I have done to this bench you will see how oven cleaner can possibly be more work than traditional stripper.

This stool is a solid piece of wood, yet when it got wet and had the oven cleaner on it, it has started to damage the wood. Now I will need to use the sander or sand it by hand to make a smooth surface. It will still look beautiful finished because it is solid wood, but it does add an extra step.

Finished Look

Once your piece has dried you are done! You have successfully stripped wood with oven cleaner!

Stripped ice cream bucket with a plant in it
Stripped ice cream bucket with a plant in it
oven cleaner stripped ice cream bucket displayed with white enamel pitchers

This post may contain affiliate links for the products I use and recommend. I am not paid to promote these products. If you purchase using my affiliate links, I could make a small commission at no charge to you.

2 thoughts on “Oven Cleaner & Ice Cream Buckets”

    1. It definitely kills the grass, but so does stripper. And I agree, the fumes are worse than stripper, so I only do it outside!!

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