Paint Remover for Wood

We’ll tell you where to find the best paint remover for wood and the best way to remove paint from interior and exterior wood and furniture.

paint remover for wood dedek/Shutterstock

Are you a wood lover? If you can’t imagine why anyone would cover the beautiful grain in a maple table or the vibrant color of a cherry stair rail, and if you long to restore wood to its natural beauty, keep reading. We’ll tell you where to find the best paint remover for wood and the best way to remove paint from interior and exterior wood and furniture.

Tools and Supplies You’ll Need to Remove Paint from Wood

Before beginning any paint removal project, you want to assemble all the tools you’ll need. For stripping paint from wood, you’ll want the following items:

  • A good chemical paint stripper, options include: 3M’s Safest StripperNMP, and Formby’s Furniture Refinisher if you just want to remove the clear coat over stain.
  • A heat gun, the Wagner Furno 500 is one option.
  • Proper hand tools like scrapers, non-scratch scouring pads, a paintbrush and a metal pan.
  • A metal container to pour the stripper into. This can be anything you have on hand. A metal paint roller pan, foil pan or a coffee can will do.
  • Old paint brush. You don’t want to use a new paint brush because you’re just going to throw it away when you’re done. If you don’t have an old one, buy a disposable chip brush.

Tools and Materials for Stripping Paint from Wood Furniture

  • Wide putty knife. Once the stripper softens the paint, you will use this tool to lift it from the wood. Round the corners of the knife to prevent knicking the wood.
  • Where the wide putty knife won’t reach, you need a round scraper. Make your own with a pair of pliers and a washer or a dowel with a wood screw in the end.
  • Non-scratch scouring pads. After scraping, a non-scratch scouring pad like you use on your Teflon pans, will remove any leftover residue but not harm the wood.
  • A brass brush is soft enough not to scratch the wood and gets into all the nooks and crannies. Use one on turned chair legs or stair spindles.
  • Dental picks, especially dull ones, are also good to have on hand for removing paint from deep crevices when removing paint from wood furniture.

Safety Gear Needed for Stripping Paint from Wood

Remember to strip safely. Most stripping products require the use of eye, skin and lung protection. Wear splash-proof goggles, long sleeves and pants, chemical-resistant gloves and a respirator with new organic vapor cartridges. Keep a bucket of water with rags handy to wipe off stripper that gets on your skin. Work outside if at all possible. If you must work indoors, open as many windows and doors as you can.

Before You Start: Learn How to Know if You Have Lead Paint in the House

If your home was painted prior to 1978, or if you have any doubts as to the age of the paint, it is best to take precautions. Lead poisoning is a serious problem for young children and is frequently caused from the dust from sanding lead-based paint. For expert advice, consult the Family Handyman special report “How to Remove Lead Paint Safely.”

Expert Paint Scraping Tips

Stripping off old paint and applying new is a lot of work. Make it last by following these scraping tips from the experts:

  • Prepare all your surfaces by pressure washing, filling gaps and sanding.
  • Keep your scraper sharp and always scrape with the grain. Have scrapers in a couple of different sizes, too. And remember to scrape out any old caulking material.
  • Use a stain-blocking primer and prime all bare surfaces.
  • Caulk cracks to keep out moisture.

Ways to Remove Paint from Wood: Heat Gun

If you want to avoid the use of chemicals and have a lot of time to devote to your project, try a heat gun to remove the paint.

Watch this video to see why Family Handyman experts prefer the Wagner Furno 500.

Another highly-rated option is the Milwaukee 11.6-Amp 120-Volt Dual Temperature Heat Gun. One Home Depot reviewer said, “Worked excellently! I removed 61 years of paint and varnish in one swoop without burning any wood.”

Ways to Remove Paint from Wood: Pressure Washer

Painting a house is a daunting task. Especially an older wood home. A project that huge is best started with a pressure washer. If you’ve never used a pressure washer before, read up on some basic instructions on how to use a pressure washer. Once you feel comfortable with the basics, educate yourself with how to pressure wash a house. And, if you think you want to purchase your own, read these tips and reviews from Family Handyman experts.

Top choices from Family Handyman experts include the SIMPSON MSH3125 and the Ryobi RY80940B.

Ways to Remove Paint from Wood: The Metabo Effect

The Metabo paint remover for wood is a wonderful machine. It has a circular head with two replaceable carbide heads that make sandpaper look positively prehistoric. Read about a Family Handyman field editor’s experience in this post.

Buy a Metabo paint remover now on Amazon.

Ways to Remove Paint from Wood: Chemical Stripping Products

3M’s Safest Stripper has no strong fumes and won’t burn your skin. The bad news is that it can take up to 24 hours to work. It can also be hard to find in stores, so call around before you shop, or search online for it. Strippers like this that contain water can raise the grain of wood, so it might leave you with some light sanding to do. Wear gloves if you have sensitive skin. 3M’s Safest Stripper Paint Remover runs $14 per quart, $29 per gallon.

If you’re just removing clear finish just about any stripping product will do, but products labeled ‘refinisher’ do it faster and are less likely to remove stain. Refinishers contain a mixture of solvents like methanol, acetone and toluene, and dissolve clear finishes like lacquer and shellac in minutes. Don’t use them for stripping paint. Follow the same safety precautions you would for methylene chloride. Methylene chloride runs about $17 per quart.

Read more about safer paint removers in this post.

Ways to Remove Paint from Wood: Chemical Paint Remover

Paint removers come in all shapes and sizes. Consider the following products for stripping paint from wood:

  • A slightly less-toxic product contains NMP (short for n-methylpyrrolidone). It works well, just not as quickly as products with methylene chloride in them. You still need to practice safety.
  • Billed the safest paint and varnish remover, requiring no ventilation or gloves, is 3M’s Safest Stripper. The downside? It can take 24 hours to work and may slightly raise the grain of the wood, requiring a little sanding.
  • Formby’s Furniture Refinisher is the product to use if you just want to remove the clear coat over stain. It contains a mixture of chemicals which call for the use of safety precautions.
  • Ways to Remove Paint from Wood: Removing Paint from Furniture

Removing the paint from an old piece of furniture, seeing the natural grain emerge, is a rewarding experience. For tips from the experts, read this post. And to see them in action, watch the video!

Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Popular Videos

Carol J. Alexander is a Virginia writer specializing in sustainable/green living, home remodeling, and lifestyle topics. Since 2007, her work has appeared in Grit, AcreageLife, Hobby Farms, and over 70 other national, regional, and local print publications, as well as online. Carol helps clients position themselves as an authority in the marketplace by providing easy-to-understand, educational content that attracts readers, answers their questions, and meets their needs.