How To Remove Paint From Wood

Table of Contents

Removing paint from wood can take various forms depending on how long the paint was applied. You might have to use heat, physical force, or chemicals. The good news is that almost any type of paint can be removed from any type of wood. We are not saying that you will be able to remove all paint from all woods, but by following our methods, you can do the best job of it.

Paint Stripper

A paint stripper is a chemical used to lift paint from the wood or destroy it altogether. The chemicals can be used on large jobs and are great for most types of wood. The paint stripper will often come as a liquid but can also be found in gel or paste form. It is one of the best methods for getting into hard-to-reach areas, dealing with uneven surfaces, and rounded or curved areas. Of course, paint striper is a chemical, so you should always be careful when using it. Always read the instructions before use, and we recommend wearing gloves, eye protection, and a respirator. Before you begin, you should have the necessary tools ready for any clean-up.

How to use paint stripper:

  1. Test on a small area first to ensure it works as intended.
  2. Start at the top and work your way down.
  3. Apply the paint stripper to all surfaces evenly.
  4. Wait the recommended time.
  5. Remove the paint with a scraper, cloth, or another tool.
  6. Repeat the steps as needed.
  7. Wash off the remaining paint stripper.
If you are cleaning vertical surfaces like doors, we recommend using a gel or paste instead of a liquid. This will limit the dripping and running of the paint thinner and give you more control.

Heat Gun

As you might expect, a heat gun uses heat to burn and melt the paint, making it easier to scrape off. You can find heat guns that will burn the paint away, but more commonly, you will use a heat gun that will soften the paint so it can be scraped. Heat guns work well for most types of paint, but they don’t deal well with wood stains. Stain soaks into the wood and will not bubble up on the surface like paint will.

How to use a heat gun:

  1. Operate the heat gun as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Hold the heat gun roughly 2 inches from the surface.
  3. Move the gun back and forth across the paint.
  4. Look for the paint to bubble and blister.
  5. With your free hand, use a scraper to scrape the paint.
  6. Go over any areas where there is still paint.
  7. Clean the scraped surface with rubbing alcohol or mineral spirits.
Using a heat gun and scraper needs trial and error, and you will get a feel for it as you move the heat gun over the surface. If the paint ever starts to smoke, you have applied too much heat and should remove the heat immediately. Holding the scraper at a 30-degree angle works best, though you might have to switch it up in any problem areas or awkward spaces.


You can go old-school and put some sweat-equity by sanding down a surface. Of course, you don’t have to rely only on your elbow grease, and you can use a power sander for larger areas. This method will generate a lot of dust. If you are working indoors, we recommend wearing a respirator, eye protection, and a ventilation system to remove paint dust.

How to use sandpaper:

  1. Clean the surface with a regular cleaner.
  2. Allow the surface to dry thoroughly.
  3. Remove any obstructions (handles, hinges, etc.).
  4. Start with coarse sandpaper.
  5. Apply enough pressure to remove the paint but not damage the wood.
  6. Clean away dust.
  7. Move to finer sandpaper.
  8. Repeat the previous 2 steps until all the paint is removed.
  9. Wipe down the surface with a wet cloth.
You want to start with coarse sandpaper to remove most of the paint in one go, but as you get closer to the wood, you want to use a finer and finer grit so that you do not damage the wood or sand off too much of the wood. If sanding difficult areas, such as wood molding, you might have to get creative with how you use the sandpaper. We like to wrap sandpaper over tools like screwdrivers to get into tight areas.

Tips For Removing Paint From Wood

You might have to use a mix of the three methods detailed above, depending on the type of paint and how long the paint has been on the wood. We have some expert tips to keep you on the right track.
  • Is it worth it? Is the wood below the painting worth exposing? You might save time and effort by just painting over the already existing paint.
  • Does the paint have lead? If the paint is old, it might contain lead, and you should investigate how to safely deal with lead-based paint.
  • Try an area first. Not only will this tell you if your chosen method will work, but it will also show you the wood below and aid you in deciding whether the project is worth the effort.
  • Assemble your tools first. Make sure you have all the tools you need to strip the paint from the surface and the tools needed to clean up at the end. This includes personal protective equipment too.
  • Can you handle it? This might be a job best left to the professionals. If the job needs specialized tools, it might be easier and more cost-effective to call a professional to help.
If you need any help or friendly advice, we are on hand to help answer any questions and help with any projects you might have in mind.