How To Remove Layers of Old Paint On Your Walls

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Learn how to get paint off walls before applying a fresh coat.

Nothing brightens up a room like a fresh coat of paint. And, because it’s a relatively low-cost, high-reward makeover, you may encounter multiple layers of paint already on your walls. If you have peeling paint on your walls, do you have to remove it before you repaint? Short answer: Yes. Here’s how to get paint off walls the right way.

Get Paint off Walls Safely: Check for Lead

First things first. If you’re planning to repaint walls with peeling paint in a building that was built before 1978, you will want to test for lead. Testing kits are readily available and will let you know if there is lead paint present. If so, you’ll need to be extra careful with any dust or chips created during your project.

Did your walls test positive? You’ll need to take extra precautions to remove lead paint safely.

Give Walls a Once-Over

Give your painted walls a once-over by inspecting them for any signs of bubbling, cracking or peeling. If you find any evidence of unevenness or paint failure, your best bet is to remove the peeling paint from your walls by scraping it and removing anything that’s loose. If it’s smooth, even and flawless, lucky you—you won’t have to do any scraping or sanding.

Prep the Room

You’ll also want to protect your furniture and floor from the mess that may ensue. Use painter’s tape, drop cloths and any other painting tools you need to paint a room without making a mess.

How To Get Paint off Walls With a Scraper

No matter what, getting paint off walls is a physical job. If you decide to go the route that requires the most elbow grease, you will use a scraper (and wear a dust mask). Use a scraper with rounded corners so you are less likely to gouge the wall and try not to push too hard on the scraper.

Some people suggest using a hairdryer or heat gun to loosen peeling paint, but that is generally not a safe option. You could burn down your house. It’s best to simply plan for the time and energy it takes to scrape and sand the walls to ensure a better paint job.

How To Get Paint off Walls With Paint Stripper

If you decide to remove peeling paint from your walls with paint remover or stripper, a good choice is Dumond Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover. It is water-based, 100-percent biodegradeable, zero-VOC and powerful enough to remove eight to 10 layers of paint. And, it’s safe enough to use on painted woodwork, too. You paint it on with a brush, apply laminated paper, and then you remove both the paint and paper with a plastic putty knife. You may have to do a little extra scraping of bits left behind, and walls may still need sanding before you prime and paint your walls.

After cleanup, you’re ready to paint.

Katie Dohman
Katie Dohman is an award-winning freelance writer who has written about home, design, and lifestyle topics for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured in Artful Living, Midwest Home, Star Tribune, and Teen Vogue, among many others. She is currently living her own how-to story as she and her husband work through a complete gut remodel on their 1921 home—while parenting three tiny tots and dodging their dog and cat, who always seem to be underfoot.