DIY: Salvaged Dresser

By Kate Riley March 9, 2009

I was at the Goodwill store with my sister-in-law the other day and she spotted a very abused dresser. She very much wanted a dresser for my nephews who share a room, and she was particularly fond of the “piratey” hardware. Unfortunately, it looked like a hunk of junk.

Centsational Aunty to the rescue! I promised I could bring it back to life. Daring me, she plunked down the $15 listed on the price tag.  Accepting her dare, I bought the following supplies: MinWax tinted stain in Antique Red ($8), some medium grade sandpaper ($3), and one new pull in chrome for $3 (which I later spray painted ‘antique bronze’ with Rustoleum to match the existing hardware).

First step: Get rid of hideous water marks and stains all over top of dresser. Did you know that mayonnaise takes out water marks on wood? No kidding. I’ve used this trick before when “oops” you leave your water glass on wood and it leaves a stain.  Mayonnaise usually gets it out in just a few hours.  Below, you can see Mini CG helping me in the mayonnaise application.

Second step: Get rid of disgusting burn mark on top of dresser. I gently sanded it out using medium grade sand paper, working with the wood grain, not against it. The picture shows what it looked like before I sanded it. After getting rid of the burn mark, I then gently sanded the rest of the dresser before applying the stain.

Third step: Apply tinted stain to sanded wood top and drawers. Amazing how one coat of Minwax tinted stain completely changed the piece, it was so easy ! I used a sponge, and followed the directions on the can. You can see in the first photo how the stain dramatically changes the raw unhealthy wood into an even smooth surface. The stain transformed the dresser to give it a rustic red stain, perfect for my nephews!

Final step: Apply one coat of polyurethane to top (for protection).  Reattach “piratey” hardware!


It’s done!

You can imagine what a dresser like this costs retail!  My 9 year old and 7 year old pirate loving nephews are going to love it ! I can already picture their pirate ship and treasure chest sitting on top. Aarrgggh.

Dresser $15
Tinted stain $8
Sandpaper $3
New pull hardware $3

Total cost: $29  – sweet! 

[4/29/09 Author’s Update: This project won the Minwax company’s Showcase Project – see this post.]




  1. THAT is amazing. What a find! And the $30 price tag is perfect for a boy’s room! I need to get hunting for some bargains….

  2. That is wonderful. Nice work. I wish I were in my new house so I could buy all the pieces at goodwill that need some TLC!

  3. One of the best re-do’s I’ve ever seen! That is a beautiful piece and I bet you could find one like it in a catalog for upwards of $1000!

  4. Mayonnaise takes out water marks on wood?? That little gem of information was such a surprise I had to “tweet” it on my blog–wow! And this dresser reno is absolutely unbelievable!! I am seriously so in love with it. Great job! And you can’t beat that price!

  5. Absolutely fantastic! I’m so glad to hear that mayo (one of my favorite condiments) has yet another household use. As if artery clogging wasn’t enough!

  6. My jaw hurts. Because it just hit the floor. Hard.

    This piece is stunning! The new color accentuates the metal work divinely. You certainly have an eye for potential. Teach me! =)

  7. Over from Kimba's. That dresser is gorgeous. Great work! I have my husband's childhood dresser as an upcoming project, and this has provided all the inspiration I need!
    Love the blog!

  8. This is a beautiful piece. I am jealous!! What town has this kind of 'junk' at Goodwill for $15!!??

  9. Very cool! My boyfriend and I just made a ton of extra room in our bedroom and realized that my current clothing organization system (jam everything wherever it will fit or leave it in a basket) is not working. He was concerned about dropping a lot of money on a new dresser, when I had the brainy idea of “OMG! GOODWILL THAT SHIT!”

    The finished project looks great; you should really be proud of yourself! :)

  10. Hi, it’s a huge transformation! Very nice indeed. Now, I wonder, after you’ve applied the mayo did you wash it off with soap and water or only water? Please do tell, I have water-stained mark on my dining table.

  11. Love the mayonnaise hint and will be trying it out this week-end at our cabin. We have some ghost marks on our wood counter from using appliances on top of it. :( Thanks for the tip.
    btw The dresser is incredible with the end results. Thank goodness for that dare from your sister.

  12. I loved what you said about the dresser, however I got no pictures??????? Where the picture was supposed to be I got a black square with a triangle inside and the triangle had a white exclamation mark inside. whats up with the pics, anyway I am sure that the dresser turned out great as your other projects do..

  13. I wish I could see these photos. Is it possible to fix them somehow? I love theidea of a piratey dresser! Thank you!

  14. Ah-mazing CG!!!!
    Now I will have to show my Mister. I really want rescue his old and sentimental oak dresser (either that or get rid of it’s dark and scary self). We use it in our 3 & 4 year old boys gorgeous bedroom, but it’s just dreadful. He says he’d rather give it away than have me paint it red, but maybe with this Red Stain, he’ll change his tune. Stay tuned :)
    And thank you for fixing the pictures!

  15. The dresser looks awesome. You are one talented woman!!

    We have a very old antique desk that would be perfect for such a project. I have always been afraid, but honestly, you make it look so easy. I’m feeling inspired. I’ll send a photo if I get brave enough to tackle the project. :-D

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