Interior Paints & Finishes

This Is the Best Way to Get Paint Off of Hardwood Floors

Learn how to remove water- or oil-based paint without damaging your wood floors.
Deirdre Mundorf Avatar
A person painting a wall with paint drips on the hardwood floors underneath.


We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Whether you decided to paint the walls in your home yourself or chose to hire a professional, no one wants to find paint on wooden floors after the job is complete. Fortunately, removing a few splatters of paint is easier than you might think. While it isn’t likely that a paint stripper will be needed, it is still important to choose the right method to avoid damaging the hardwood floors.

Karina Toner, operations manager at Spekless, a company providing cleaning and maid services in the Washington, D.C. area, also recommends cleaning up any splatters before the paint cures. She says, “Act quickly to prevent the paint from drying and becoming more difficult to remove. As soon as you notice the paint splatter, gather your cleaning supplies and begin the removal process.” The next few sections explain how to get paint off hardwood floors, including options for removing both water-based and oil-based paints.

Before You Begin

Dried white paint on wooden floors.

The ideal method for getting paint splatters or drips off of wood floors will vary depending on the type of paint used. If not sure whether the paint is water- or oil-based, a simple test with a cotton ball and some acetone can do the trick. Dip the cotton ball in the acetone and wipe it across one of the paint splatters a few times. If there is paint on the cotton ball, then it is water-based (or latex-based). If the cotton ball looks clean, then the paint on the floors is oil-based.

Before attempting any of the methods below for removing paint from wood floors, Toner suggests, “Test any cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area of the floor before using it on the entire floor. This will help you determine if the solution is safe to use and will prevent any potential damage.” It is also important to ensure that the room is well ventilated before getting to work. Open the windows and/or run a fan to ensure adequate air circulation to protect everyone from paint fumes and any cleaners.

How to Get Water-Based Paint Off of Hardwood Floors

Woman using microfiber towel and bucket to clean floor.

It may come as no surprise that water-based paints are easier to remove. While removing these paints will be less complex than trying to remove oil-based varieties, it is still advisable to start the cleanup process as quickly as possible.

Dish soap
– Water
Large bowl or small bucket
Microfiber cloths
Plastic scraper
Isopropyl alcohol
Hardwood floor cleaner

STEP 1: Mix warm water and dish soap to make a cleaning solution.

A little bit of dish soap and warm water is often all that is needed to remove water-based paint from hardwood floors. Start by filling a large bowl or bucket with warm water. Add about 5 drops of dish soap for each quart of water and gently mix the solution.

STEP 2: Rub the paint splatter with the cleaning solution.

Dampen a microfiber cloth with the cleaning solution, taking care to wring it out and remove excess water. Then, use it to clean paint off the wood floor. Following the direction of the grain, rub the paint with the cloth. Use a dry microfiber towel or cleaning rag to wipe away the paint that comes up.

STEP 3: Try a plastic scraper to remove any remaining paint.

While soap and water will get most of the water-based paint off the floor, there may be a few spots or splatters that remain. “For [these] stubborn spots, use a plastic scraper to carefully scrape away the paint, taking care not to damage the floor,” Toner advises. This will help prevent damaging the surface and then needing to learn how to repair scratches in the wood floors.

STEP 4: If necessary, use some isopropyl alcohol to finish the job.

Isopropyl alcohol can also help remove water-based paint from wood floors. However, because it has the potential to damage the floors, it shouldn’t be used unless the soap and water and plastic scraper weren’t able to get the job done. Toner explains, “Dampen a cloth with isopropyl alcohol and gently rub the paint splatter.” She also cautions, “Test the alcohol in an inconspicuous area first to ensure that it doesn’t damage the finish of the floor.” Finally, use a microfiber cloth dampened with plain water or an approved hardwood floor cleaner to wipe down the area and remove any residue left behind by the alcohol.

How to Get Oil-Based Paint Off of Hardwood Floors

Mop used to clean wooden floor with soapy cleaner.

Oil-based paints are more difficult to remove than their water-based counterparts. Fortunately, odorless mineral spirits can be very useful when getting paint off hardwood floors. Just remember to take precautions when working with mineral spirits, including covering all exposed skin and wearing a face mask. According to The A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia from the National Library of Medicine, improper use of mineral spirits can cause breathing difficulties; burning or pain in the nose, throat, ears, eyes, or tongue; and burns or irritation to the skin, amongst other potential problems.

Protective gloves
Face mask
Odorless mineral spirits
Microfiber cloths
Plastic scraper or plastic putty knife
Hardwood floor cleaner

STEP 1: Prepare the room before using odorless mineral spirits to remove the paint.

Because mineral spirits have the potential to cause breathing problems, don’t start working until the room is properly prepared. Open up windows and turn on fans to provide adequate ventilation. Dress in long pants and a long shirt to cover skin, wear gloves, and don a face mask. Also, mineral spirits are flammable, so avoid working in a room with any burning candles or a lit fireplace.

STEP 2: Dampen a cloth with mineral spirits and use it to rub the paint splatters.

Once the room is prepared, dip a soft cloth in the odorless mineral spirits and use it to rub the paint off the floor. Toner warns that it is important to “be careful not to use too much mineral spirits, as this can damage the finish of the floor.”

STEP 3: Use a plastic scraper or putty knife to remove stubborn drips.

Rubbing the drips and splatters with this hardwood floor paint remover should be sufficient to remove them. However, if there are any splotches that are not coming off easily, try rubbing them with a plastic scraper or plastic putty knife.

STEP 4: Clean the floor to remove any residue.

After removing paint from hardwood floors using odorless mineral spirits, finish up by cleaning the floor to remove any residue. Use an approved hardwood floor cleaner and a mop or a microfiber cloth to wipe everything down, paying special attention to the area where the mineral spirits were applied.

Final Thoughts

While no one wants to find splatters on their hardwood floors, soap and water and mineral spirits can be an effective paint remover for wood floors. These ingredients should help avoid the need to refinish hardwood floors due to the splatters or drips. However, if it’s been a while, consider polishing the floors to restore their luster and improve the overall look of the space.

The next time there is a painting project, Toner recommends masking the area to protect the floor. She suggests, “Lay down a drop cloth or old sheet to catch any paint drips or splatters. Work carefully and slowly to avoid accidentally splattering paint onto the floor.