How To: Remove Paint from Wood
Sure, it's messy and time-consuming, but removing paint from wood can be an extremely satisfying project. Follow our tutorial, and you'll be stripping paint like a pro.
It can be mighty labor-intensive and time-consuming to remove paint, which is why many do-it-yourselfers dread the task, even avoiding projects that involve stripping away layers of old paint. That’s a shame, given that the results are so often worth the effort. Fortunately, by following the simple steps outlined below, you can successfully remove paint with minimal aggravation and without causing damage to the wood in the course of the paint-stripping process.
Remove all hardware (nails and screws, brackets and doorknobs) from the wood you are going to work on. If there are any nonremovable parts made of anything other than wood, cover them with protective tape. Before you begin work, put on the safety gear that’s essential to wear in the presence of chemical paint strippers—that means gloves, glasses, and a respirator. Having closely consulted the manufacturer’s instructions, pour your chosen solvent-based paint stripper into an empty bucket.
Note: Always observe the proper safety precautions when dealing with paint strippers and take care to select the right product. Because caustic strippers are capable of changing the color of wood, many experts recommend instead the use of solvent-based strippers. These are readily available online and in local hardware stores.
Concentrating on one small section at a time, liberally apply the paint stripper with a paintbrush. Leave the product on the wood for about 20 minutes, or until the paint starts to bubble and peel. Bear in mind that if you are removing several layers of paint, it may be necessary to let the solvent sit for up to a few hours. As time elapses, test the paint intermittently to see whether it has softened to any noticeable degree.
Use a paint scraper to take off as much paint as possible from the area where you applied the stripper. Be gentle as you scrape; don’t gouge the wood. Once you’ve removed all you can with the scraper, you may choose to repeat the process, reapplying stripper and going through the steps once more. Once you’re satisfied with the condition of the area you’ve been stripping, move on to the next section.
After you have worked section by section removing all the paint from the flat portions of the wood, it’s time to address any raised or recessed areas (for example, moldings). Spread the stripper on the wood again and wait at least 20 minutes, but this time scrape with a wire brush that can access those hard-to-reach crests and depressions. Take care not to scrape too hard, which can leave scratches on the wood.
Wash the wood with a clean, water-soaked rag, then sand down the entire surface. If you have access to a power sander, you can use it to make quicker work of sanding the broad, flat sections, but you should still manually sand any fragile or carved parts of the piece. Finally, wipe the wood free of dust and debris, and that’s it! You’re done.