Upcycling – It’s a Movement

Topics surrounding over consumption and its impact on the environment have long been a subject of conversation.  The spotlight on 2nd hand goods from thrifting in clothing to rare finds of furniture in charity shops, are all having their moment thanks to the increased awareness on sustainable living and circular economy.

What’s Upcycling ? 

Upcycling involves taking an item that would otherwise be discarded and improving it to make it useful again.

Discovering an old piece of furniture, cleaning and restoring it brings its own rewards. Like knowing that the item in question is a unique piece and not a mass produced item that you can find anywhere. The piece will add character to your home, a statement piece that will be the start of many a conversation with guests.  If it is an heirloom piece that has been in your family for generations, the item will continue to be a source of nostalgia and sentimentality for further generations to come.

We all can’t be Greta Thunberg, but we can in our own way contribute to the well-being of the planet. Upcycling is a simple and rewarding way for most people to make their contribution.

Here are some tips on how you can start your upcycling projects.  Firstly, before considering changing the look of furniture or other products you would like to upcycle, have a look on good old Google and try to establish a value to the product you would like to upcycle.  The last thing you would want is to paint over a precious server or armchair that could hold significant value.

For this example let’s consider a piece of furniture.  Once you have considered the value of the item, examine the piece.  Would it be a better fit in your space if it is painted, or will restoring the item be a better option for the aesthetic of your home?

Be sure to consider your skill level as some upcycling projects look amazing but a medium to high level of skill is needed to execute them. 

An old sewing machine can be repurposed into an industrial look desk that will easily fit into the aesthetic of a modern home.  Fitting for the “Work from Home” stage that we are currently in. 

Let’s go through the process step by step.

Things you will need:

A few clean dry rags or Mutton Cloth

Paint Stripper if the item is painted

Mineral Turpentine and fine steel wool to remove wax build up on the product

Sandpaper in 2 grits – 80grit for initial work & 120grit for finer detail


Woodoc Gel Stain in Color of your choice

Woodoc 5 for a Matt Finish  or Woodoc 10 for a Velvet Finish

Step 1

Remove all hardware like handles etc.

Step 2 

Wipe down the product to remove all dust or superficial dirt

Step 3

Apply Mineral Turpentine with a cloth and use steel wool to remove any wax build up. 

Step 4

Use 80 grit sandpaper to smooth down the surface.  Once done, wipe down the surface to remove any dust.

Step 5 

Use 120 grit sandpaper to finely smooth down the surface.  Once done, wipe down the surface to remove any dust.

Step 6

Apply the Gel Stain liberally or omit this step if you are happy with the colour of the piece after sanding.  If stain is used, allow to dry for 4-5 hours.  Reapply if needed following the same process.

Step 7

Once dry, apply Woodoc 5 or Woodoc 10 as per instructions on the packaging.

Should your item be painted apply the paint stripper as per the instructions on the packaging taking the appropriate precautions then proceed from step 3.

Should you prefer to paint the item, consider a good quality chalk paint.  Ensure that you follow all instructions through to sealing the item once painted as chalk paint is very porous and must be sealed to prevent staining.

So before you banish something to the rubbish pile, look at it again and imagine a different use for the product to prolong its life lifespan.  All it takes is a bit of thinking out of the box and some elbow grease.  This small contribution by each one would end up having a huge impact on the planet and just maybe we won’t need to book that ticket to Mars just yet.

All products listed above are available at

Not confident at DIY just yet?  Leroy Merlin offers Make it Workshops where novices can learn easy DIY projects under the guidance of expert Workshop facilitators. Join the Leroy Merlin Workshop Group on Facebook or book via

Leroy Merlin also holds a 2nd hand market called “Thrift your Home” where you can buy and sell your unwanted goods.  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more details.