How to strip paint from wood: to refresh the surface


There will inevitably come a time when you need to know how to strip paint from wood. You may need to do this because the original paint has chipped or faded, a whole new stain is needed, or maybe you want to expose the wood underneath.

But just like when painting a wall, performing the task as the experts do is a must to avoid damaging the wood and complete the task in the most efficient way.

To help achieve all of these goals, we’ve put together an essential guide.

How to strip paint from wood

When looking for the answer to how to strip paint from wood, there are actually three alternatives. Sanding, a heat gun, and chemical stripping are all options. Each of these methods has its pros and cons, which you will want to consider.

“Keep in mind that in the end, combining methods may be the best solution,” says Lucy Searle, global editor of Homes & Gardens.

1. Be aware of lead

Before you start stripping paint from wood, be aware of the possibility of lead in old paint. “If your home was built before 1978, it’s more likely to have lead-based paint,” according to the EPA. “In 1978, the federal government banned consumer use of lead-based paint, but some states banned it even earlier.”

The bottom line? “Lead paint is still present in millions of homes, sometimes under newer coats of paint,” the EPA says. Toxic lead dust can be created when the painted surface is disturbed, so always check before starting work.

DIY tests are available, such as Lead Check, or you can send paint chips to a lab for testing; the EPA recommends consulting a certified lead-free contractor before starting work.

2. Strip the paint from the wood by sanding

Sanding may be the best way to strip small areas of paint from wood. Use sandpaper and a sanding block. Wipe off when finished and allow to dry before preparing to paint.

Sanding with an electric sander can also be an effective way to remove paint from large, flat surfaces. If you’re using one indoors, it should be set up in such a way that it catches dust.

Wear eye protection and a dust mask when sanding and never sand lead-based paint.

3. Strip the paint from the wood with a heat gun

A heat gun can be an effective way to strip paint from wood. It softens the paint so it can be scraped off.

Be sure to wear eye protection and gloves when using a heat gun. Move the gun back and forth over the paint, being careful not to concentrate the heat in one area, which could burn the wood. It only takes a few seconds for the paint to soften, and then you can use a wide-bladed scraper to lift it off. For safe work, be sure to keep the squeegee away from you and avoid placing your hand so that the paint – which will of course be hot – falls on it.

4. Use paint strippers to remove paint from wood

Chemical strippers work by dissolving the paint and can come in the form of liquids, gels or pastes. “Use a gel or paste for a vertical surface,” recommends Lucy Searle. “They’re preferable because they won’t drip on the floor.” Always read product instructions before use and wear eye and hand protection.

Paint strippers are useful for completely removing paint, which is especially important if you are going to varnish it later. They are also good for window frames because you don’t have to worry about heat cracking the glass, as well as other delicate paint stripping tasks.

On the other hand, the use of strippers can be slow and the space in which they are used must be well ventilated. If you’re stripping paint from a piece of furniture or a door that can be pulled off the hinges and removed, work in a garage.

Apply the liquid paint stripper with an old paintbrush, as directed, then scrape the paint away with a scraper away from you.

Neutralize the stripper according to the manufacturer’s directions before painting or varnishing the wood.

What’s the fastest way to remove paint from wood?

The fastest way to remove paint from wood may be with a heat gun, but sometimes a combination of heat and chemicals is needed to get the results you need.

“For speed, and if the item is removable, you may want to send it to a professional who can put it in a soaking tub,” says Lucy Searle, global editor of Homes & Gardens. “Dipping the item in the stripper gives quick and thorough results.”

Will vinegar remove paint from wood?

Vinegar will not remove paint from wood, but it can soften it, making it easy to scrape off. We are talking here about splattering paint on a floor or splattering on furniture and it does not replace other methods.

If you’re looking for a paint stripper without strong fumes, we like Citristrip Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel – although, as the name suggests, it does have an odor.


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