How to Remove Paint from Wood

We paint our wood for different reasons. Sometimes we do it to protect the wood from pest infestation; other times, it might be for decoration, waterproof, and prevent decay.

Whatever the reason is, we might still get the urge to strip the paint off the wood and do something else with it, maybe as a result of it becoming old, cracking, or having blisters. You just want to find another way to rejuvenate your wood again. The first step to achieving this is to remove the paint.

Stripping paint off can be very difficult and tasking, especially if you don’t have the right tools, materials, and, most importantly, technical know-how.

In this article, you will be learning the various ways to remove paint from wood and the main steps involved. I promise that after reading this, you’ll become a pro at this task.

3 Ways to Remove Paint from Wood

There are various methods by which you can successfully remove paint from wood. They include sanding, heating, or chemical stripping.


This is an easy technique to use. You use either the sandpaper or power tools to remove paint from the surface of the wood.

When using the sandpaper, you have to be very vigilant about the pressure applied in the wood unless you want to use the power tools (sanding disks and clapboard sanders), which makes things easier because the same pressure is evenly applied on the wood.

The major setback to using this method is that it scrapes off the wood surface. Therefore expertise and care are required so that the wood surface doesn’t look all rusty and deformed because uneven pressure was applied.

Sanding is a good option when you plan on repainting the wood over again.

The major tool used in sanding is the sandpaper.


  • Rough sandpaper – for removing the majority of paint.
  • Smooth sandpaper – to smooth off the wood and remove traces of paints.

Sanding Machine

  • Sanding disks.
  • Clapboard.

Buy these materials easily at stores and shops around you.


This is a way easier and neater technique to use. It does not leave off dust just the way the sand does.

In this technique, you make use of the hot air gun to remove paint from the wood. The heat gun slowly hovers around the wood, and the heat melts the paint away. A metal paint scraper is then used to remove the melted paint away.

Although this is a very neat method as it doesn’t raise dust, it is more dangerous when you don’t have the basic idea of how to do it.

Why? Because the high heat intensity is dangerous to the wood and, if not managed carefully, can set the wood on fire. That is why water needs to be nearby when carrying out the process; to reduce the heat level.

Carry out the process slowly from one end to another till all the paint is successfully removed.

Note: This process is carried out while the paint is still warm from the heat.

Chemical Stripping

This method involves the use of chemicals, gels in pastes to dissolve the paint on the wood.

Here, the chemical capable of melting (dissolving) the paint is applied to the wood. After minutes, you find your wood as neat and fresh again.

The downside of this technique is that it can be very messy, smelly, and slow, but apart from this, it is very efficient in removing paint from corners and awkward shapes of wood (unlike when using a heat gun).

It is the best method to remove paint, especially if the paint is layered upon each other. They are equally fast and deliver the best result, among other methods of paint removal.

There are two types of chemical wood strippers available for use. They are:

How to Remove Paint from Wood

Solvent Paint Remover

This kind of stripper removes all kinds of finishes and paints, even contemporary finishes. They do not damage the wood as they are not harsh on it. It gives the wood a cleaner and neater appearance afterward. They are perfect for removing damaged items, e.g. beams. One of the cons of this type of paint removal is that it is very messy and tends to be more expensive than its counterpart.

Caustic Paint Remover

These are perfect for removing paint build-ups. Compared to the solvent paint remover, they are cheaper, faster and also release fewer fumes. They are also better at removing complicated moldings than the solvent paint remover.

Tips for Removing Paint from Wood

Before you decide to strip your wood off the paint, you should consider these things.

Is The Wood Worth Exposing?

Your intentions for stripping the woods should be made clear. Why do you want to expose the wood? Is it so that you can just finish it off with a clear coat of finish instead? Do you still plan to repaint it?

If you just plan to clear coat it, discover if the wood has the potential to still look good if left uncovered.

Do you choose professional help or DIY?

DIY’s can be fun and adventurous. Yes! But you should decide if you are worth it. Do you have at least an ounce of technical know-how to handle the task? Or do you just prefer to hire a professional?

If it’s the former, you should also choose a technique/method that is best suited for you.

Do you have the right tools?

Gather your tools! You should shop for the necessities when you plan to DIY. The tools and materials should depend on the type of removal technique you want to use and find out the essential tools needed.

Now, you must have gotten the basic idea from this. It is not a difficult task once you understand the processes. So, let’s take a quick look at the paint removal steps used for any of the three methods.

Steps to Remove Paint from Wood

To remove paint from wood, you will need different tools and materials. And, this differs from each other depending on the type of removal technique you have employed.


Materials Needed For Sanding

  • Palm sandpaper – smooth and rough
  • Electric sanders (if necessary)
  • Sanding block
  • Safety glasses
  • Painters tape.
  • Facemask
  • Screwdriver
  • Tack cloth


  1. Put on your gloves, safety glasses, and face masks.
  2. Prep the woodwork by washing it with soap and cool water.
  3. Fix your sandpaper into the sanding block if you’ve decided to use the manual sanders.
  4. Sandpaper slowly, following a similar pattern and doing so carefully, so even pressure is applied throughout. Once the paint is off, wipe the surface off the dust.
  5. Use the smooth sandpaper to smoothen it out.
  6. Repaint if you want.

Pros of Sanding

  • It is easy to handle, especially if you don’t have much expertise.
  • The materials used are cheap and can be easily purchased at stores.
  • It is a fast method, mostly when you plan to repaint the wood.

Cons of Sanding

  • It is relatively slow especially when the manual sanders are used.
  • Dust is generated in the process.
  • It is a futile effort if you do not plan to repaint.

Chemical Stripping

Materials needed for chemical stripping

  • Rubber gloves
  • Paint strippers
  • Face mask
  • Paintbrush
  • Metal scraper
  • Small bowl
  • Mineral spirits
  • Wool (steel)

Please note: chemical strippers either come in liquid, gel or paste. If you plan on using it on a vertical wall, use either the gel or paste.


  1. Read the direction of use on the stripper you have purchased. Even if you are familiar with the method, read the guidelines because various strippers come with different methods.
  2. Put on your protective rubber gloves, and face masks.
  3. Grab a small bowl and fill it with the paint stripper.
  4. Pick up your paintbrush and start applying the stripper.
  5. Cut into sections. Apply the stripper section by section for a better outcome.
  6. Apply evenly so that the paint will be stripper evenly.
  7. Let the chemical stripper stay for a while – dependent on what is written on the guideline.
  8. Once you start seeing bubbles and cracks, pick up your metal scraper and start scrapping. Do this immediately you notice bubbles.
  9. After scrapping, apply another strip of paint stripper and follow the same steps till all the paint is off.
  10. Once you’re done, apply the spirits with a hand towel and clear the surface of the wood.
  11. Wood is ready for refinishing.

Pros of chemical stripping

  • It gives a very neat finish; hence the wood can be left unpainted afterward.
  • They deliver the best results.
  • No dust is involved in the process.
  • Least harsh.
  • Faster than sanding.

Cons of chemical stripping

  • It can be messy and smelly.
  • It gives off fumes that can be toxic.

Keynotes when using chemical strips

  • Remember to wear old clothes so that you don’t damage your beautiful pieces of clothes.
  • Make sure you put on your protective gear – facemasks and rubber gloves.
  • Carry out the process outdoors, because chemical strips give off fumes that may be toxic.
  • Always cover the lid of the chemical stripper container; otherwise fumes will evaporate in your workspace.
  • Cover the surrounding area where you are stripping with an old piece of cloth so that it won’t be damaged in the process of striping.


Materials needed for heating

  • Heat gun, infrared devices, or heat stripper.
  • Metal paint stripper
  • Disposable tray
  • Safety gloves
  • Hand gloves
  • Face masks
  • Hammer
  • Basin of water
  • Mineral spirits
  • Drying towel
  • Steel wool


  1. Prep the wood surface. Make sure that it is a hundred percent dirt free. If dirt is left on the wood, it might burn during the heating process and damage your workpiece.
  2. Preheat your heat gun or other heating devices you are going to use.
  3. Begin heating the paint. Move the heat gun up and down the wood slowly and carefully.
  4. Heat the paint until it begins to bubble, crack, and melt.
  5. When the paint melts, grab your metal paint scraper and begin scarping.
  6. Use the steel wool to remove the dot of remainder paints.
  7. Clean the wood surface using white or mineral spirits.
  8. The wood is ready for vanishing or finishing.

Tools You Can Use To Heat the Paint

Heat Guns

These are the hairdryer look alike. Heat guns make use of hot, concentrated air to loosen the paint. They come with regulatory settings where you can increase or decrease the temperature you want. It is easy to handle.

Infrared Device

These make use of infrared rays to heat and loosen paint from the wood. They do not generate noise or dust, unlike the heat gun.

They work relatively fast and are very efficient in removing very old paints, but they are very heavy and difficult to handle.

Steam Strippers

This stripper makes use of water vapor to heat up and melt paint. They do not give off dust and fumes. They are fast and are very easy to handle.

The major con of this type of heat stripper is that it generates a lot of moisture, which can damage the wood in the process of removing paint.

Pros of Heating

  • It is a very neat method to remove paint from wood.
  • It gives off fewer fumes and relatively no dust during the process.
  • It is fast to use, as the heat melts off the paint very fast.
  • The wood does not get damaged; hence can be left unpainted afterward.

Cons of Heating

  • The equipment used for heating can be very expensive and difficult to obtain.
  • If not used carefully, the heat can burn the wood in the process.

General Precautions to Take when Removing Paint from Wood

  • Always wear protective gloves, facemasks, and glasses.
  • Protect the surrounding areas always.
  • When using chemical strippers, always do it outdoors.


All these methods are equally very efficient. You just need to decide which is best suited for you. Ask a professional for help if you don’t know how to come about it, otherwise use the sanding technique since it does not require a lot of skills to carry out.