Painting old tired wood is one of the best ways to improve its aesthetics and durability. But you may need to remove (stripping) the old layer before you can begin.

Here are the 3 best ways to strip paint from timber.

Chemical paint strippers

Chemical paint strippers refer to liquids, pastes or gels, that dissolve in old paint, making it easier to remove. Here’s how to use this method;
What you need:

  • Solvent-based Paint Stripper
  • Paintbrush
  • Protective gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Sandpaper
  • Rags
  • 5-gallon Bucket
  • Water or mineral spirits
  • Paint scraper
  • Wire brush
  • Metal Putty knife

Precaution: Avoid any paint strippers that contain Methylene Chloride (NMP) as they’re poisonous and could cause cancer. Using caustic strippers could also stain and damage the wood surface.

Most experts recommend using solvent-based strippers instead. Additionally, be keen to test for lead presence if the wooden surface is old.

Step 1: Wear protective gear

Some paints are corrosive and can be dangerous to inhale during the paint stripping. So, put on your overall, gloves, protective eyewear, and respirator, then start your preparations.

Step 2: Prepare the surface

Remove all the hardware including screws, doorknobs, nails, and other movable objects on the surface. If the surface has a fixed part, cover it with a painter’s tape before starting.

Next, follow the manufacturer’s requirements and mix the paint stripper in a bucket.

Step 3: Apply the paint stripper

Using the Paintbrush, apply the stripper across the surface, focusing on small sections at a time. Be sure to spread very thick coats in a uniform direction for the stripper to be more effective.

Once every part is covered, leave the paint for around 30 minutes and wait for it to bubble or start peeling. The time could be longer depending on the number of layers you’re removing.

However, don’t let the stripper stay too long on the wood. If it dries on the surface, removing the paint will be even harder.

Step 4: Scrape off the peeling layers

From the areas that are peeling or bubble, use your metal putty knife or paint scraper to scrape off the paint layers. Always use a circular motion when scraping and be gentle to avoid gorging the wood surface.

If you’re still unsatisfied with the results, reapply the stripper and repeat this process until you achieve the desired output. You might have to reapply nearly four stripper coats before all the paint is out.

How to remove paint from wood

Step 5: Lightly sand the surfaces

In the carved surfaces, use your sandpaper to sand it by hand until the surface is almost evened out. You can also use a power sander to level any small bumps on the flat surfaces.

Sand paint off wood

Step 1: Power and Grit

Make sure you use a power sander. It’s pretty heavy work by hand. Start with a rough grit sandpaper like 50 or 100. Then once the bulk of the paint is off, drop down to a dinner grit like 200 or 300 to bring it up to a nice smooth wood surface.

Step 2: tight spots

Depending on the complexity of the wood surface, you might need to get in tight spots by hand or using a paint stripper. Flat floors and walls are no problem, but doors and tables can be a little more tricky.

Heat Gun Paint Removal

Step 1: Heat and scrape

This is a great option for thick paint if you don’t want dust or harsh chemicals. Apply heat to the area, then simply scrape it off. Be sure you are not working with lead paint. THis will send toxic chemicals into the air which can be inhaled.
Be sure to wear a face musk just in case.

DIY Paint Removal vs. Calling a Professional Heat Guns

How to remove paint from wood naturally?

If you don’t want to deal with chemicals, there are several natural alternatives that may also work the magic. Some of the most effective methods include:

  • Using Vinegar

Making your homemade paint remover using vinegar is cheap, easy, and very effective. It’s also environmentally friendly and doesn’t emit any toxic fumes.

While vinegar doesn’t necessarily remove the paint, it softens it enough, making the scrapping process very simple.

To use it, boil small amounts of white distilled vinegar, then soak your paintbrush in it. Next, spread the vinegar on the wooden surface and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes until the paint softens.

Repeat this step until it does, then use a paint scraper to remove the paint. Finally, wipe off the vinegar and paint traces using a clean cloth.

  • Citrus-based removers

Citrus-based removers work just like chemical strippers but with less toxic chemicals and overwhelming odor. They are eco-friendly and biodegradable, making them safer for the environment.

However, these removers may work slower when removing paint than chemical removers.

  • Using soy-based gel paint removers

Soy gel paint removers are popular because they are non-toxic but still very effective. They work slower than most paint strippers but have a longer lift time and can be left on the paint for a long time allowing it to penetrate.

They have a low evaporation rate and can be easily painted using a paintbrush. Most experts believe that these gels work better in removing paint than most other traditional methods.

  • Use a pressure washer

If you’re dealing with an extensive surface like your fence or deck, using a pressure washer is the best method. The pressure washer will need to be set at around 2500psi, and you should spray in the direction of the wood grain.
Tip: Ensure that your windows and doors are sealed to prevent water from getting into the house.

Other natural methods to remove paint from wood include manual solutions e.g., using a heat gun, wire brush, steam strippers, Infrared devices, sanding, and scraping.

How to remove old paint for hardwood floors?

The best way to remove old paint from hardwood floors will greatly depend on the type of paint used. Nonetheless, some of the most popular methods include:

  • Scraping off the hard paint – Mainly used for water-based paints that haven’t completely cured. All you’ll need is a plastic putty knife that doesn’t damage the floor surface. You can also break up any hardened paint by using a hammer.
  • Using a mild cleaning detergent – Your home detergent can come in handy in such a case. Apply it on a damp cloth or paper, then rub the floor back and forth for a couple minutes to soften the paint making it easier to lift.
  • Use heat from a hairdryer – Instead of using a knife or other sharp object that could damage the floor, you can warm the paint using your hairdryer for about 20 seconds. After this, it becomes easier to scrape off.
  • Try a commercial remover – The market today is flooded with numerous paint removers for different surfaces. Apply the remover on the dry paint then soak it for at least 15 minutes and let it loosen the paint. Finally, wipe it out using a rag.

Other solutions you can try include using denatured alcohol, cleansing pads, or paint thinners.

Note: Avoid using vinegar or heat guns to remove paint on such a surface as it has been known to damage it.

How to remove old paint for hardwood floors work in progress

How to remove acrylic paint from wood?

Removing acrylic paints is usually very simple when it’s still wet. But once it dries, the removal becomes much harder. The best way to remove it once it has hardened is using denatured alcohol.

You’ll first have to scrape the paint using a putty or kitchen knife, then apply some alcohol to a cloth and rub it over the surface. Keep applying alcohol to the cloth until all the paint is gone, then wipe away the alcohol using a dry cloth.

Other alternatives include using olive oil, a heat gun, soap and water, and using commercial paint strippers.

How to remove oil-based paint from wood?

The most effective way to remove oil-based paint from wood is by using chemical paint strippers. You’ll, however, have to find a paint stripper that works with the type of paint you intend to remove.

Alternatives to this method include using infrared heaters, or heat guns. Sanding is discouraged as oil-based paints may emit poisonous fumes.

How to remove paint from varnished wood?

If the paint is still wet, you can easily remove it using a damp rag or paper towel. If the paint has dried, you’ll have to be extra careful to avoid damaging the wood. Your best option is to apply alcohol on the surface with paint.

Ensure the paint is covered with a plastic cling wrap since alcohol evaporates quickly. Let it sit in for around 30 minutes to loosen the paint, then use a towel to remove it.

You can also use a scraper to gently peel the harder paint from the surface.

DIY Paint Removal vs. Calling a Professional

Regardless of your experience as a DIYer, paint removal is one thing you shouldn’t take lightly. Before completely ruling out hiring a pro, consider the job size, complexity, safety, and costs of the entire project.

Compare the pros and cons of each option, then make your decision.

Do it Yourself


  • It’s cheaper than hiring a professional
  • Opportunity to improve your DIY skills


Calling a professional


  • Guarantee of high-quality job
  • Safer since pros know how to handle different paints
  • Don’t damage your wood
  • Warranties that guarantee their work


  • Can be quite expensive
  • No complete control over your project
Timothy Munene
Author: Timothy Munene - Timothy is a freelance writer and an online entrepreneur.