Can I Paint Over Lacquer Without Sanding? A Comprehensive Guide

Bob Thomas


Yes, you can paint over a lacquer surface without sanding.

Painting over lacquered surfaces can be a challenging task for DIY enthusiasts, especially when trying to avoid the time-consuming sanding process. 

But worry not!

In this article, we'll explore how you can paint over lacquer without sanding and still achieve a durable, professional finish.

Quick Summary

To paint over lacquer without sanding, follow these steps: 1) Clean the surface thoroughly, 2) Apply a deglosser, 3) Prime the surface with a bonding primer, 4) Apply your chosen paint, and 5) Add a protective topcoat. By using the appropriate products and techniques, you can save time and effort while achieving a long-lasting finish.

Clean the Surface Thoroughly

Start by removing any dust, dirt, or grease from the lacquered surface using a mild detergent and warm water.

Rinse the surface with clean water and let it dry completely. 

This step is crucial for ensuring proper adhesion of the following layers.

Apply a Deglosser

A deglosser, also known as a liquid sandpaper or a sander deglosser, is a chemical solution designed to remove the glossy finish of lacquered surfaces.

Using a clean cloth or sponge, apply the deglosser following the manufacturer's instructions.

Allow the deglosser to work for the recommended time, then wipe it off with a clean cloth.

Deglossing helps create a better surface for the primer to bond with.

Important: Always wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area when using a deglosser, as it contains strong chemicals that can be harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Prime the Surface with a Bonding Primer

Using a high-quality bonding primer, like Zinsser's Bulls Eye 1-2-3, apply a thin and even coat over the entire surface.

A bonding primer is specifically designed to adhere to glossy surfaces, making it an ideal choice for painting over lacquer without sanding.

Allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

Apply Your Chosen Paint

After the primer has dried, apply your chosen paint using a high-quality paintbrush or roller.

For best results, use a paint formulated for the specific material you are painting, such as latex paint for wood surfaces.

Apply two or more coats, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next one.

Add a Protective Topcoat

To protect your newly painted surface and ensure its durability, apply a clear topcoat, such as a water-based polyurethane.

This will seal the paint and provide a protective barrier against scratches, stains, and moisture.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for application and drying times.

Deglosser Vs. Sanding Lacquer

When preparing a lacquered surface for repainting, you have two main options: using a deglosser (also known as a liquid sander) or sanding.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, which we will discuss in this section.


  1. Pros:
    • Easier and faster to use than sanding, as it requires only a clean cloth or sponge to apply the product.
    • Less labor-intensive, as it does not involve the physical effort of sanding.
    • No dust is produced, which can be beneficial for individuals with allergies or in environments where dust is a concern.
  2. Cons:
    • May not be as effective as sanding in removing the glossy finish or creating an ideal surface for paint adhesion.
    • Some deglossers contain strong chemicals that can be hazardous to the environment and require proper disposal.
    • The effectiveness of a deglosser can depend on the type and age of the lacquer, as well as the specific deglosser product used.


  1. Pros:
    • Provides a more thorough removal of the glossy finish, creating a better surface for paint adhesion.
    • Can help to remove any imperfections or irregularities in the lacquered surface, resulting in a smoother finished paint job.
    • Does not require the use of potentially hazardous chemicals.
  2. Cons:
    • More labor-intensive and time-consuming than using a deglosser.
    • Produces dust, which can be an issue for individuals with allergies or in certain environments.
    • Requires the use of proper safety equipment, such as dust masks and goggles, to protect against inhalation of dust and particles.

The choice between using a deglosser or sanding to prepare a lacquered surface for painting depends on your specific needs and priorities.

If you're looking for a faster, easier method and are willing to accept the potential limitations in terms of surface preparation, a deglosser might be the right choice for you.

On the other hand, if you want the most thorough and reliable surface preparation for optimal paint adhesion, sanding may be the better option.

Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for surface preparation and product application to ensure the best results.

Safety, Risks, and Considerations

Before starting any painting project, it's crucial to be aware of the potential risks and safety considerations involved.

In this section, we'll outline some important safety tips and potential risks to keep in mind when painting over lacquer without sanding.

Chemical Exposure:

When using deglossers, primers, and paints, you will be exposed to various chemicals, some of which can be harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Always work in a well-ventilated area, wear protective gloves, and consider using a respirator or mask to minimize exposure.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions and safety recommendations for each product.


Some painting products, especially solvent-based deglossers and primers, can be highly flammable.

Avoid working near open flames or sparks, and do not smoke while using these products.

Store flammable materials in a cool, dry place away from heat sources and direct sunlight.

Slip and Fall Hazards:

Spilled or dripped paint and other materials can create slippery surfaces.

Be cautious when walking around the work area and clean up spills promptly.

If working on a ladder, ensure it is stable and secure before climbing.

Proper Disposal:

Dispose of used rags, brushes, and other painting materials in a responsible manner, following local regulations for hazardous waste disposal.

Some products, like deglossers, may have specific disposal requirements outlined by the manufacturer.

Surface Preparation:

Proper surface preparation is crucial for achieving a long-lasting, durable finish.

Skipping any steps or cutting corners can lead to paint peeling, chipping, or an uneven finish.

Follow the steps outlined in this guide and take the time to ensure a thoroughly prepared surface before painting.

Adhesion Problems:

While using a bonding primer can significantly improve adhesion, painting over lacquer without sanding still carries some risks.

If the lacquer is in poor condition, peeling, or cracking, sanding may be necessary for optimal adhesion and durability.

Always test a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure proper adhesion before proceeding with the entire project.

By being aware of these safety, risks, and considerations, you can minimize potential hazards and achieve a successful painting project.

Always prioritize safety and follow the manufacturer's instructions for each product used.


In this section, we will discuss common issues that may arise when painting over lacquer without sanding and provide solutions to help you achieve a successful outcome.

Poor Adhesion:

  1. If the paint isn't adhering well to the lacquered surface, it may be due to improper surface preparation or an incompatible primer.  Ensure that the surface has been thoroughly cleaned and deglossed, and use a bonding primer specifically designed for challenging surfaces.

Solution: Remove the peeling or poorly adhering paint, reapply deglosser, and consider using a different bonding primer.

Always test a small, inconspicuous area for adhesion before proceeding with the entire project.

Uneven Finish:

  1. An uneven finish may occur if the paint or primer is applied too thickly or unevenly, or if the surface was not properly cleaned and deglossed.

Solution: Lightly sand the uneven areas to smooth out the surface, and then reapply the paint or primer following the manufacturer's recommendations for application thickness and technique.

Bubbles or Cracks in the Paint:

  1. Bubbles or cracks in the paint can be caused by several factors, such as applying the paint too thickly, painting over a damp surface, or using an incompatible paint product.

Solution: Allow the paint to dry completely, then sand down the affected areas and reapply paint, ensuring the surface is dry and following the manufacturer's instructions for proper application.

Drips and Runs:

  1. Drips and runs are common issues that can occur if the paint is applied too thickly or if the brush or roller is overloaded with paint.

Solution: Lightly sand down the drips and runs, and then reapply the paint using a lighter touch and a properly loaded brush or roller.

Color Inconsistency:

  1. If the color appears inconsistent across the painted surface, it could be due to inadequate mixing of the paint, uneven application, or variations in the underlying lacquer.

Solution: Ensure the paint is thoroughly mixed before application and apply the paint in a consistent manner.

If the underlying lacquer is causing color inconsistencies, consider applying an additional coat of primer before repainting.

By addressing these common troubleshooting issues, you can improve the appearance and longevity of your painting project.

Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for product application and surface preparation to ensure the best results.

Frequently Asked Questions Section (FAQs)

Q. What type of paint is best to use when painting over lacquer without sanding?

  A: When painting over lacquer without sanding, it's crucial to use a high-quality paint that offers excellent adhesion.

Acrylic-latex paint, enamel paint, or oil-based paint with a high adhesion quality are good options.

Remember, applying a bonding primer before painting can significantly improve the adhesion of the new paint to the lacquer surface.

Q. How do I determine if my lacquered surface is suitable for painting without sanding?

  A: To determine if your lacquered surface is suitable for painting without sanding, check for the following:

  • Surface condition: The lacquer should be in good condition, without peeling, chipping, or cracking.
  • Cleanliness: Ensure the surface is free of dirt, dust, and grease, as these contaminants can prevent proper paint adhesion.
  • Gloss level: High-gloss lacquers may require deglossing or liquid sandpaper to improve paint adhesion, while satin or matte lacquers might be suitable for painting without additional preparation.

Q. Will the existing lacquer color affect the new paint color?

  A: The existing lacquer color can potentially show through or affect the new paint color, especially if the new paint is lighter or less opaque than the lacquer.

To minimize this issue, apply a tinted primer or a bonding primer that matches the new paint color, and apply multiple thin coats of paint to achieve the desired coverage.

Q. How long should I wait for the paint to dry before applying a second coat or a protective topcoat?

  A: The drying time for each paint coat will vary depending on the paint type, environmental conditions, and application thickness.

Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for the recommended drying time.

In general, it's best to wait at least 24 hours before applying a second coat or a protective topcoat to ensure proper drying and adhesion.


Painting over lacquer without sanding is possible with the right preparation and products.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can achieve a professional-looking finish that will last for years to come.

Remember to work in a well-ventilated area, and always follow the manufacturer's instructions for each product to ensure the best results.

Suggested Products:

  1. KILZ Adhesion High-Bonding Interior/Exterior Latex Primer: This bonding primer is perfect for painting over lacquer without sanding. It creates a strong bond between the old surface and the new paint, ensuring excellent adhesion and durability.
  2. Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Base Primer: This shellac-based primer is a great alternative to latex primers when painting over lacquer. It dries quickly and provides excellent adhesion to the glossy surface, making it easier to apply your topcoat.
  3. Benjamin Moore Advance Interior Paint: This high-quality acrylic latex paint is an excellent choice for painting over lacquered surfaces. It offers outstanding adhesion and long-lasting durability, ensuring your painted surface will look great for years to come.
  4. Purdy Clearcut Elite Paintbrush: A high-quality paintbrush is essential for achieving a smooth and even finish when painting over lacquer. The Purdy Clearcut Elite offers excellent paint release and smooth application, making it perfect for this type of project.
  5. Wooster Pro/Doo-Z Roller Cover: This roller cover is designed for use with all paints and primers, making it an excellent choice for applying both bonding primer and acrylic latex paint when painting over lacquer. The shed-resistant fabric ensures a smooth and lint-free finish.
  6. Krud Kutter Gloss-Off Prepaint Surface Preparation: This deglosser is a perfect alternative to sanding when preparing a lacquered surface for painting. It effectively removes the glossy finish, allowing your primer and paint to adhere properly.

About the author 

Bob Thomas

A fully certified interior decorator and house painter , Bob Thomas brings immense expertise and knowledge amassed from many years of hands-on experience with residential, commercial and specialty painting and decorating projects of all sizes and scopes.

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