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REFINISHED VINTAGE IRONING BOARD INSPIRATION
While browsing Pinterest, I saw a beautiful vintage inspired laundry room that included a refinished vintage ironing board. I fell in love. I decided I needed to find one for myself so I searched for months for my own vintage ironing board.
Several months later while at my local goodwill, I ran into an old beat up vintage ironing board that had been shoved in a corner. It fell over on me when I moved a large chair to get to a basket I had my eye on. The ironing board was covered in about 400 layers of super gross fabric from the sixties/ seventies. It was rust ridden and water stained and had obviously been hiding out in that lonely corner of the goodwill for a while. It had accumulated about half an inch of dust. The ironing board was gross and smelly but y’all, my heart skipped a beat!
The basket that orchestrated this fateful meeting was momentarily set aside. I carefully turned the board upside down to peer under all those layers of fabric and found… wood! beautiful, old, solid wood! Needless to say, I was crazy excited as I awkwardly carried the vintage ironing board up to the register (while trying not to cuddle the stinky fabric too close).
A NASTY SURPRISE
Once I got it home and into the workshop I started in on the layers of fabric. I’m not sure if this is normal for ironing boards of this era, but there was SO MUCH FABRIC, you guys! I lost count of how many layers I ripped off, it was like a Russian stacking doll. Everything was nailed in with the coolest antique tack nails too, which was both awesome and frustrating. It was so satisfying finally getting through that last layer of fabric and finally hitting… asbestos? yeah, I’m pretty sure that coconut fiber looking stuff was asbestos.
DEALING WITH ASBESTOS
Coming across asbestos can be kinda scary. I mean, obviously these days we know it’s no good. It was used as a fire retardant for almost everything before the risks were known though. This is one of the riskier sides of refinishing vintage and antique furniture pieces. Asbestos, lead and several other substances that we have recently learned to be highly toxic are so often found in older furniture pieces. I learned late in the game how important it is to take precautions against the possibility of these things. I try to always remember to wear my respirator mask when pulling off fabric or sanding down a stained or painted surface.
A FEW QUICK TIPS
- Do as much of the removal in a well ventilated area, outside is ideal (never inside your home).
- Wear a good mask with a respirator while handling the asbestos.
- Clean up well. Sweep around and wipe down your work area.
- Once it is all removed, be sure to dispose of everything in a plastic garbage bag (I always double up). Make sure it’s tied off and sealed.
- To be super careful I make sure to wash my hands well, shower and wash the clothes I wore.
- Being exposed to asbestos for a short period of time is nothing to freak out about. The problem comes with long and constant exposure. So don’t let it scare you off of a potentially gorgeous refinish project!
REFINISHED VINTAGE IRONING BOARD
Finally, that gorgeous wood emerged! Ideally, I would have loved to keep the wood just as it was under all those icky layers. But you know, asbestos… I am not interested in extra little fibers hanging out and living in my home, so I pulled out the sander. This part I did outside and again wore my mask. I used my orbital sander and 60 grit paper and sanded all the way down to the bare bones. Next, I switched my paper out for a 150 grit and went over it again to smooth out the surface. In doing this, I took off that beautiful rusted patina from the bolts on the top of the board. I fixed it though when I did a faux rusted finish that turned out so much better than I thought it would. More about that later.
A DARK, RICH FINISH
While the raw wood on this vintage ironing board was beautiful, I wanted a darker, richer finish. I turned to my trusty Dark Walnut stain by Varathane. There is a special place in my heart for Dark Walnut wood stain. I love the richness of it. I usually start my staining projects with a coat of pre-stain wood conditioner although, for smaller projects I sometimes skip this step. For bigger projects it is a life saver because it not only conditions the wood, it preps it to take the stain evenly across the whole surface. I applied one coat of the wood conditioner with a barely damp lint free cloth. I followed that up with the Dark Walnut stain, again using a lint free cloth to apply it.
USING WHAT YOU HAVE
One coat of stain did the trick but the raw wood had a very orange/red tone that definitely came through. I’m not a huge fan of orangey wood finishes, so I wanted to try to tone that down a bit. Normally, I would reach for a limewash or bleach but again, I had my heart set on a dark, rich finish so I went hunting for some black paint. The only black paint I had on hand was a leftover can of chalkboard spray paint from another project. I didn’t want to make the 30 minute shlep to the store, so the chalkboard paint would have to do.
CHANGE THE TONE WITH PAINT
I definitely did not want to straight paint over the finish, I just wanted to add a darker tone. I sprayed the paint onto a clean lint free cloth. Then I rubbed it into the wood instead of applying it directly. I built it up layer by layer until it looked the way I wanted it. This worked really well and darkened the wood just enough to void out most of the orange/ red tones. It almost has a burnt wood look to it and I’m loving the dimension!
FAUX RUSTED METAL
Now for what was probably my very favorite part of this project! I loved the rusted metal on this vintage ironing board. With the dark finish, it just popped in a way that I wasn’t excited about. I wanted to keep the rusted look but I really wanted it to be darker. Going the route of oxidation felt way too time consuming for this one. I came up with a quicker faux method. I used the same black chalkboard spray paint, copper metallic spray paint and antiquing wax. It turned out AMAZING!
WHEN EXPERIMENTS PAY OFF
This was a total experiment that I was not at all sure was going to work. Remember earlier when I said I sanded off that beautiful rusted finish on the bolts but that I was able to fix it? This is the process I used for those too and I think it looks better than it did before I sanded! I am completely in love with how this turned out. I’ll for sure be doing this again in the future!
You can check out the full walk through for how I did this in my 3 Steps For A Faux Rusted Metal blog post.
SEALING THE DEAL
Fast drying polyurethane in a spray can is one of the best inventions for the DIYer, in my humble opinion. I am a huge fan of this stuff especially when it comes to sealing a project with so many crazy edges and surfaces. A couple of coats of this stuff and I can officially say this project is a wrap. I wanted to seal this vintage ironing board for a couple reasons, the main one being that I am planning to use this board as a folding table in my laundry room. I definitely do not want the dark stain bleeding into any of my clothes! The laundry room can often become a humid situation so the poly seal felt important.
I left this in the workshop for 24 hours before I brought it in the house. This allowed the poly to completely cure.
This thrifted vintage ironing board refinish turned out better than I had hoped. I absolutely love the nostalgic vintage vibes this beauty adds to my itty bitty laundry room. It also serves as a super functional folding table. I’d love to know what you think. Have you ever refinished a vintage ironing board? Do you have any tips? Let me know in the comment section below. 🙂
REFINISHED VINTAGE IRONING BOARD PRODUCTS LIST
Here is everything I used along with a few affiliate links. <3
- Ryobi Orbital Sander
- 60 grit & 150 grit sand paper
- Dual Cartridge OV/ P95 Respirator
- Varathane Pre-Stain wood conditioner
- Varathane Dark Walnut wood stain
- Antiquing Wax (I used Behr but Valspar is really good too).
- Rust-oleum chalkboard spray paint (any matte black spray paint will work) 😉
- Rust-oleum copper metalic spray paint
- Minwax Fast Drying Polyurethane (clear satin finish)
- Lint free cloths