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How to remove paint

Updated on April 30, 2009

Only if the substrate is top quality

I spent a lot of years working in the paint business, so my first comment would be to consider repainting properly rather than removing the paint from the surface. Chances are the substrate (the surface under the paint) is not going to be first quality wood unless it is a very old piece. Do not dip the item (like a chair) because this will also break down the glue and you will have a lot of loose pieces.

Repainting properly means cleaning the surface thoroughly with something like trisodium phosphate (TSP) and rinsing with water. Paint will not adhere properly to grease or oil. Sand the surface to create a slightly rougher texture for the primer to bond better. Use a high quality primer. It is more important than the topcoats. That means two coats. There is no such thing as one coat paint unless you are extremely skilled at applying the product evenly.

If you insist on removing the paint, use a high quality paint remover. Do it outside in a well ventilated area. Wear thicker latex gloves. Allow the paint remover/stripper some time to work at the old paint. Repeat several times until it is almost all removed. Use coarse steel wool dipped in paint remover to get the last bits out of cracks and grooves. Once it is stripped down to bear, you can decide whether or not the surface is worth treating with other than primer and paint.

Burning off old paint is not for the unskilled. Even with heating irons, you will mostly char the surface underneath. Hire an expert to do that if you can't use paint stripper. Sometimes you are better off replacing items like molding, rather than repainting or stripping and repainting. Unfortunately, most molding today is lower quality finger-grooved paintable or MDF fake wood so it can only be painted.Make sure you prime it first before applying the topcoats. Sand between coats to reduce the effect of the swelling of the wood fibers from contact with the water in the paint.

Patience is the key with this project and will require many repetitions to finally remove the paint. If it is a family heirloom that you are trying to restore, then it will be worth the effort. If you are unsure about what is underneath the paint, chances are it is best that it be sanded, primed and repainted with today's better quality acrylic paints. Sanding between coats (lightly) will create a smoother final finish.


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    • profile image

      Paint Removal Oxfordshire 7 years ago


      Would use steam in this scenario at work. Thanks for further info.

      Paint Removal Oxfordshire

    • RKHenry profile image

      RKHenry 8 years ago from Neighborhood museum in Somewhere, USA

      Great hub!