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How To Clean A Porcelain Enamel Table Top

Did you know you can clean a porcelain enamel table top using a battery-powered sander? I didn’t know it either until I gave it a try. I love these vintage tables and just wanted to find a way to make them shine again. And I did.

 

I thought I found a new technique but after Googling it I found out I’m not the first to use this wet sanding method but I might be the first to use it on a porcelain table!

vintage porcelain enamel table top

After I finished cleaning and freshening the table top I painted the base with a chalk finish paint and I’m going to take you through the whole process. I filmed a short video showing how to wet sand the porcelain tabletop.

The photo I took of the whole table was so blurry I couldn’t use it. This is the top of the table. See how scratched up and dirty it is? I bought the table at my favorite junk shop  for $10. Can’t beat that. My plan was to just sand off the loose paint, apply wax, and leave it like that.

Then I decided I would rather keep the table if the table top shined up well and paint the base and legs of the table a pretty turquoise. I plan to use it as my video table and small project table.

porcelain table makeover

As you can see the whole table was a mess. The inside of the drawer was really dirty and discolored and the white paint was chipped and peeled off in places. I had my work cut out for me.

How To Clean And Paint A Vintage Porcelain Enamel Table

The first thing to do was sand off all that loose paint on the wood base.

a lot of loose paint being sanded off

Cleaning The Wood Base

You can see in this photo how badly the paint was chipping and peeling away. I sanded the whole table with a battery-powered sander getting rid of the loose paint pieces. You really need to be careful when dealing with older painted pieces because the paint may contain lead. Be sure and wear the proper type of mask when sanding.

Cleaning The Porcelain Enamel Table Top

how to clean the bottom of a porcelain table top

I worked on the underneath part of the table first. On any furniture makeover, you want to clean the whole piece from top to bottom, inside and out. How do you think the underside of the table got into such a mess? I grabbed my bottle of Simple Green and scrubbed and scrubbed.

vintage porcelain enamel table being cleaned

The porcelain on the underside cleaned up pretty well. I didn’t remove the legs for cleaning because I didn’t know what other issues I might have. I didn’t want one of the legs to split for sure.

how to wet sand a vintage porcelain table top

After I finished with the base of the table I got to thinking about the sander and the tabletop. What the heck, let’s just spray a bit of Simple Green on a small area of the table and see what the Ryobi sander does.

dirty and stained vintage porcelain table top

You can see from the close-up photo all of the brown discoloration and you might be able to see the many light scratches all over the surface. Boy was I surprised when the sandpaper didn’t scratch up the top……it cleaned the top, either buffing the scratches away or at least making them less noticeable.

So then I did the whole top. I went over the porcelain top three different times with the Simple Green and the sander. I used 120 grit sandpaper because that’s what I had in the cabinet. Later, when reading about others using this method they say to use a very very fine grit sandpaper.

clean porcelain by wet sanding

The top looks so much better after the wet sanding. There were still a few imperfections but not many. Watch the video to see watch the sanding process using the power sander.

The video of me refurbishing the tabletop with the sander is below….

How To Refurbish A Porcelain Enamel Table Top

 

If you want to try this on a project I would suggest doing what I did and trying a small area with sandpaper (whatever grit)  and go from there.FolkArt Home Decor Texture Chalk Paint

Painting The Table

Time to paint now that the cleanup is done. I wanted something that would look good with the black band around the enamel top. I thought about pink but spotted this beautiful color first on the paint shelf. The paint is FolkArt Home Décor Texture Chalk, color Island Indigo. I love this Home Decor Chalk, both the regular chalk and the texture chalk.

painting furniture with Home Decor Chalk

As you can see I’m just painting right over the messed-up original paint finish. I applied two coats of paint. One coat covered really well but there are always bits and pieces I miss painting the first go around.

tighten table leg screws

Tighten Nuts and Bolts And Replace Hardware

Once I finished the cleaning and painting I tightened the bolts on the legs. I also tightened the screws holding the top to the table base.

vintage drawer pull for porcelain table

I planned all along to use the original drawer handle but I really didn’t like it. I looked through my box of new hardware and pulled out several silver cup handles. I put one on and it didn’t look right so I headed to my junk stash of hardware and look what I found. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

how to clean a vintage porcelain enamel table top

I cleaned the handle but it still had some pitted places. It really is perfect for the table. I often like to put new modern knobs on my painted pieces but this one called for a vintage piece similar to what would have been original to the table.

paint the inside of a stained drawer (1)
paint the inside of a stained drawer

The drawer was so dirty inside. I cleaned it with Simple Green but it was such a mess I decided to paint it. As you can see I didn’t do a bang-up job but it looks so much better painted.

scrapbook paper drawer liner

Even though the inside of the drawer looked nice I lined it with pretty scrapbook paper. Easy touches like this can really elevate a piece.

what to do with a porcelain table

 

Putting It All Together

I love the turquoise porcelain top table and I have it all set up with my new phone and tablet stand for taking videos. I can do Facebook lives with my phone and be able to see comments from you guys on my iPad at the same time. The mount will also hold my small point and shoot camera that I use to film videos.

vintage porcelain enamel table makeover with before and after photos

I decided to paint the chair and metal stool to use with the table. I’ve had the chair forever and Sofi uses it at her work table. The metal stool is a recent thrift store purchase for $8.

chair and metal stool for a spray paint project
chair and metal stool for a spray paint project

I used Walmart brand black gloss spray paint on the stool and chair because that’s what I had on hand. I choose gloss because of the shiny black porcelain band around the tabletop.

porcelain enamel table makeover base painted turquoise

What do you think of the cute shoes? I found them at Goodwill and have a project in mind for them.

how to refresh a vintage porcelain enamel table top

How To Clean A Vintage Porcelain Enamel Table

I love the table and chairs but I would have loved to stripe that old paint off of the legs and let the natural wood shine. I have never restored the original wood finish on furniture. It sounds difficult. There are so many steps and it is time-consuming. I found an article that recommends using wax and polish remover after stripping the finish to neutralize the wood. Who knew?

how to fake a painted plank table top

Take a look at the painted plank table above. Just want you to know that is a solid piece of wood that I painted using skinny detail tape to make it look like planks. Really. You can see it here….How To Fake An Antique Painted Plank Tabletop

If you love vintage and antique furniture and want to know how to clean and prep for painting I have this guide post for you…..How To Prep Furniture For Painting

As always, thanks for being here and have a great day, Kathy

Author: Kathy Owen
Kathy Owen is the founder of the home decor blog Petticoat Junktion where she shares tutorials on painting furniture and upcycling thrifty finds into unique home décor. Her DIY projects have been featured on the Home Depot Blog, Plaid Crafts, Behr Designer Series, and in numerous magazines. Kathy’s newest website is HappyHomeDIY.com

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26 Comments

  1. My dad got me an old vintage porcelain table at an auction years ago that used to have a folding leaf on it. There’s some kind of hinges on the edge of the table. My grandpa made a wooden drawer for it because it was missing. This drwawer is a small one on the end of the table. The table was painted and it had a big area on the table that was porcelain. I was young and dumb when we first were married so I repainted the table! I should have never done that. Hope I can fix this.
    You’ve done such a great job on your table and I love turquoise! I like the stool and chair you did also! Cute shoes!
    Is there something I can do to bring my table back to life? I don’t know how I can make it look like new again. I’d appreciate any ideas. Thank you!

  2. I just inherited a enamel table but mine has a design on top. So I wonder if wet sanding would be a mistake. This table was bought new by my parents in early 1950’s.

  3. I m have 2 porcelain top me l purchased and one l inherited. The white one is not in perfect shape but it’s definitely worth a refurbish. It’s so different from others lve seen it has rod iron legs. I’m so greatful for your video. I’m going to give it a try.

  4. Kathy, I love your work! Have been following you for several months and learning the art of bringing new life to old things.
    I am so sorry about the loss of your Mother. Bless you aa you take care of your Dad.
    Will always look forward to your next post.

  5. I can’t seem to find the link to your video for this table top sanding! I have one that has some paint on it and have been procrastinating just because I don’t want to ruin it! Am I missing the link somehow? I just don’t see where to access it…. The table and chairs are too sweet! Love the blue with the black and white…really nice job!

  6. You did a great job on the table! What kind of tablet stand do you have? My grandchildren could use this for their zoom classes!

  7. Hi Kathy
    I have the exact same table. When I got it it had some very strange damage it really looked as if someone had left a bunch of bananas on the top to rot !! also had marks from the bottom of an old glass bottle that had marked it where it’s contents had set on the table top. I too wet sanded my table top and was able to remove most of the damage but as I use my table in my kitchen I finished it with three coats of Rustoleum clear coat in a spray can. That was three years ago and it is still great. It is the best thing for pastry making as it is a cold surface.
    Love your posts.

  8. Kathy you did such an amazing job saving this piece! No way would I have bought it in that condition. You are a miracle worker. Oh and I love the turquoise you added on the bottom. xo

  9. I have two enamel table tops, I will definitely try this on both, thanks for the inspiration…I will take pictures before and after…keep you posted. Jody

  10. I give you so much credit Kathy, I confess I never would’ve even taken on such a project. You made it look so effortless and the result is so much better! Nice save!

  11. Kathy, the table turned out really well. I am a fan of turquoise so I love the color you chose. And the black stool and chair compliment it nicely. I have the bottom half of an old hoosier cupboard in my garage that has a porcelain top. The whole thing is a mess and I don’t know if the wooden base is salvageable or not but I’m glad to know of the method you used to clean the top of your table. Your post inspires me to look my piece over again and see what might be salvaged. If the wooden bottom is beyond repair maybe I could remove the top and use it on something else. At least there’s hope that I won’t have to junk the top along with the bottom.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. I have same table. Love what you did. One very important suggestion however……

    DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH THOSE SHOES!!!
    They are darling.

  13. I love, love, love what you did with this table Kathy! I am really very fond of these old porcelain tables, in fact, I have one that will be going into my she shed this spring as I finish redecorating her interior. It is in excellent original condition, so I will leave her as is, but I would love to find one that I could update like this!!!

  14. Wow, you did a fabulous job breathing new life into this desk! Love the color and the pretty paper lined drawer. I’m going to remember your trick for cleaning enamel, thanks 🙂

  15. WOW! Gorgeous!!! I never would have guessed you could sand those table tops. That came out a night and day difference! I’m going to pin this one so I remember where to find these tips. You never know, there might be a $10 steal out there waiting for me too! ?

  16. Awesome job as always, Kathy! I love the turquoise with the white top and black band. And the black stool is perfect with the table. I am in awe of your creativity. Every time I see one of your transformations I think you can’t get better, but the next one shows that you do!

  17. I don’t know. I love spray paint. You need to do several light coats. I love Rustoleum spray paints the best.

  18. You are very good with spray paint, it looks so professional. How come whenever I use it it’s a messy disaster?

  19. I have a table just like yours in my basement. I want to bring it upstairs to use in my “Mom Room” for sewing. I used the table to hold items I painted and now the top is full of paint swipes and it’s scratched and dirty. I’m going to have to try your idea! Thanks for the info!

  20. I love this table!! I have one that reveals 30’s green under a light yellow that’s chipping off. I love the way it looks on the bottom but I was wondering if I should seal it. And the top is a little scratched so I’m going to try your sanding method. Of course the drawer doesn’t look much better than yours so I’ll take my cue from you there too. Thanks for this makeover!! (Seal or not worry about it?)

  21. Sweet save! The new look is fantastic and your tips are awesome too. Great job, Kathy!