The 7 Best Paint Strippers and Removers of 2024

Get the answers to your questions about the best paint strippers—what they are, how they work and which are best for your DIY project.

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Paint strippers (or paint removers) are chemical compounds designed to quickly lift and peel away paint, varnish, lacquer and other coatings from surfaces, like wood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), metal and masonry. The main categories of strippers/removers found in stores today include caustic, biochemical, solvent-based and heat. We’ll explain more about each type of paint stripper below, but it’s important to know that paint strippers and removers, in general, can be harsh on the skin, so don’t forget to take caution when using them.

Now it’s time to shop the best paint strippers on the market.

1 / 7

Best Overall Paint Stripper

CitriStrip Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel

Loosening up seven layers of paint in one step without harsh chemicals, CitriStrip’s paint and varnish stripping gel does most of the paint-stripping work for you. It strips latex and oil-based paint, varnish, lacquer and shellac from wood, metal and masonry surfaces, making it a do-it-all product. Slather it on and let it penetrate. The gel stays wet and active for up to 24 hours.

It gets extra kudos for its fresh, pleasant scent. Since it won’t stink up the place, you can use it for your indoor paint stripping projects.

Pros

  • Strips multiple layers in one step
  • Works on wood, metal and masonry surfaces
  • Affordable
  • No methylene chloride or NMP

Cons

  • May need more than one bottle if stripping large surface area

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2 / 7

Best Budget Paint Stripper

Max Strip All-Purpose Remover

A solid value for a big 22-ounce bottle, the Max Strip All-Purpose Remover is a fast-acting spray that erases drips, spills and overspray left behind by sloppy painters, removing the damage before it becomes permanent. It also tackles stuff like permanent markers, ink, glue, decals, stickers, gum and anything else your kids can throw at you (or on the walls).

For extra-obstinate stains, let it sit a while. The dwell time can span a few seconds for pen marks to a couple of minutes for mysterious goopy stuff.

Pros

  • Won’t break the bank
  • Convenient spray bottle
  • No methylene chloride, NMP, caustic and flammable chemicals

Cons

  • Might have a tougher time stripping varnish

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3 / 7

Best Heavy-Duty Paint Stripper

Dumond Peel Away1 Heavy-Duty Paint Remover

Dumond’s heavy-duty paint remover is especially well-suited for large home renovation projects and historic restoration projects. According to the manufacturer, one coat strips up to 30 coats of paint! The formula also contains no VOCs, so it’s safer for you and the environment. The kit includes the paint stripper, laminated paper, Citri-Lize Neutralizer, a pH test kit and a plastic scraper under the lid.

One pail of Peel Away1 holds over 1 gallon of paint stripper, so it’s a cost-effective way to remove paint if you’re working throughout your home. It’s works on interior and exterior surfaces, and is excellent for removing old coatings from intricate or molded surfaces.

Pros

  • One coat removes up 30 layers
  • Emulsifies coating and eliminates need for sanding
  • Kit includes laminated paper and more
  • Works on wood, brick, stone, metal, most plaster substrates and more

Cons

  • On the pricier side

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4 / 7

Best Eco-Friendly Paint Stripper

Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover

If you want to steer clear of harsh chemicals, Dumond’s Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover is a revolutionary, nontoxic paste alternative that’s simple to use, even for novice DIYers. Totally biodegradable, Smart Strip cleans up with water, is pH-neutral and odorless.

You can buy it in 1-quart, 1-gallon or 5-gallon containers on Amazon. You can also buy it alone or as a kit with a plastic scraping knife set. This paint remover can remove up to 15 layers of paints and coatings in just one application and works on nearly any surface.

Pros

  • Made without caustic chemicals
  • One coat removes up to 15 layers
  • Works on wood, brick, stone, metal, marble and more

Cons

  • May take longer to remove layers than strippers with harsher chemicals

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5 / 7

Best Paint Stripper for Multiple Layers

Back to Nature Multi-Strip Advanced Paint Remover

This advanced paint remover dissolves numerous coats of stubborn paint and varnish in a blink of an eye. Just apply, set and scrape—it begins working in 30 minutes or less.

What’s more, the professional-quality, non-drip formula clings to most interior and exterior surfaces whether they’re horizontal or vertical. For eight to 15 layers, it could take up to 24 hours to work.

Pros

  • One coat removes up to 15 layers
  • Begins working in 30 minutes
  • Adheres to vertical surfaces
  • No methylene chloride or NMP

Cons

  • May require to put in some elbow grease

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6 / 7

Best Paint Stripper for Furniture

Klean Strip Kwik-Strip Paint and Varnish Stripper

Klean Strip’s paint and varnish stripper scores high marks for its ability to break down old paint, varnish, lacquer and shellac without ruining the wood’s natural grain underneath. Its semi-paste, brushable formula clings to vertical surfaces without runs or drips, stripping up to five layers fast. Dissolve decades of built-up finishes to give your treasured hand-me-down desk or funky garage sale headboard a new lease on life. Check out our guide to stripping wood furniture.

Pros

  • Brushable
  • One coat removes up to five layers
  • Works in 15 minutes
  • Non-methylene chloride formula

Cons

  • On the pricier side

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7 / 7

Best Heating Tool for Paint Stripping

Furno 500 Heat Gun

For a 100% chemical-free way to remove paint, consider the Furno 500 Heat Gun. This point-and-shoot tool can be used for stripping paint off family heirlooms, crown moldings and other uneven surfaces. It features two fan speeds and 12 digital temperature settings, ranging from 150 to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, for precise heat application.

It’s also handy for softening adhesives, defrosting PVC pipes, embossing and more. After you’re done, hang up the heat gun from the built-in loop to cool off and store.

Pros

  • Has 12 digital temperature settings
  • Chemical-free method
  • Includes two nozzles
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Corded

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What to Consider When Buying Paint Stripper

Depending on the paint stripping project at hand, it may be useful to know how each of the main categories of removers function. Below are descriptions for each of the main types of paint strippers on the market.

  • Caustic: Caustic paint removers work by breaking down the chemical bonds of the polymers in the paint. They may burn skin and cause lung irritation. Caustic paint removers are often used for removing thick layers of paint, but they may stain or scorch wooden surfaces.
  • Biochemical: Biochemical stripping agents are derived from plants. These citrus- and soy-based formulas are less toxic and somewhat safer to use. Many are biodegradable but some are not, so be sure to read labels carefully. Biochemical strippers can still irritate the skin and are most effective at removing water- and oil-based paints.
  • Solvent-Based: Solvent-based strippers and removers penetrate the paint to dissolve the bond between surfaces and paint. This type of paint stripper can cause skin swelling, irritation and blisters. While solvent-based strippers are not good at removing thick layers of paint, they do provide a clear finish without damaging or staining surfaces.
  • Heat: Becoming more popular in recent years, heat guns and steamers propel hot air to loosen paint on surfaces. Not economical for one-off jobs, it is, however, a good option if you’re doing a lot of paint stripping. Heat guns can be a fire hazard if not used properly.

How We Found the Best Paint Strippers

As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then, we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.

FAQ

What are the two most common methods for paint removal?

The two most common methods for paint removal include heat removal and sanding removal, partially because these methods are chemical-free. However, these methods alone might not do the job if you’re stripping multiple layers of old paint from large surfaces.

Is it better to sand or strip paint?

In most cases, it will be more efficient to use a paint stripper than to sand away paint. Unless the old finish is already flaking off, it’s going to be a lot more time consuming to sand away layers of paint and varnish.

What is the problem with paint stripping?

Some chemicals found in paint strippers can be harmful if they’re not used properly. Since many are absorbed readily through the skin or are inhaled easily, some paint-stripping chemicals can irritate the skin and eyes. It’s important to know the active ingredients within any paint stripper you purchase and how to safely use whichever paint stripper you choose.

On March 15, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the manufacture and sale of methylene chloride paint removers. As Andrew Raker, third-generation owner of Clark Paint in West Springfield, Mass. points out, “With the outlawing of methylene chloride’s use in paint strippers, the new alternatives work but be prepared to wait longer for the stripper to do the job.”

Because there may still be products containing methylene chloride floating around on store shelves, be sure to check the ingredients before buying to avoid the serious health risks associated with their use.

As with any household solvent, when using a paint stripper, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and work only in well-ventilated areas. Always wear protective clothing and use proper safety equipment, like gloves, respirators and goggles. Most importantly, store these products out of reach of children and pets.

Mary Henn
Mary Henn, MFA is an Associate Shopping Editor at Family Handyman. She’s also a national award-winning writer and journalist. Her expertise lies in interior design, home decor, gardening and outdoor trends. When she’s not working on the latest content at FHM, you can find her reading poetry or hiking with her dog, Henry.