A few dried paint drips on natural trim can make a whole room look shabby. But you don't need to strip the woodwork to get rid of them. You can remove drips—and the streaks of old paint that make edges of trim so hard to repaint—just by scraping, even if the paint has been dry for years.
First, scrape the paint with a metal putty knife (Photo 1). Paint doesn't stick well to varnish, and often the drips will pop right off. Use a razor knife for corners (Photo 2).
Finally, clean up any residue by rubbing the wood with denatured alcohol (Photo 3). Use matching stain or a stain marker to touch up any light spots (Photo 4).
Scraping removes the big blotches but sometime leaves paint in the wood grain. For that, you may need to use a little paint remover. Start by taping off the wall and removing the largest blotches (Photo 1). Next, scrub off the remaining paint (Photo 2).
Avoid Drips as You Paint
Masking tape does a good job of protecting woodwork—if it's applied well.
Clean off all the dirt and grime along the edge of the trim with a damp rag. Hold the tape tight against the wall and roll it out so the tape covers the edge. Press the tape against the wood with a putty knife along the entire length. Use painter's tape that's at least twice as wide as the trim and leave it flared out to protect the face of the trim from drips. When you're done, either remove the tape immediately while the paint is still wet or wait until the next day when it's totally dry. If you pull it free when the paint is partially dry, you may peel off bits of fresh paint along with the tape.