How to Remove Paint from Stairs


Painted wooden stairs suffer wear and grow dull over time. Additionally the stair treads and risers undergo stains, water marks, bleaching and fading. You can apply new coats of paint over old coats to create new finishes for the stairs, but new and old problems will come forth with this method. To prevent discoloration in your painted stairs and produce even coats, you must remove the old paint on stairs and completely refinish all the wood surfaces.

Things You'll Need

  • Masking tape
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Thick rubber gloves
  • Paint stripper
  • Metal coffee can and lid
  • Newspaper
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint scraper
  • Steel wool
  • Coarse, wire pipe cleaners
  • Apply masking tape around the outer edges of your work area to protect surrounding walls, floors and other objects and surfaces. Apply plastic sheeting to the walls and floors below the stairs.

  • Pour paint stripper into a metal coffee can, filling the can half-full. Set the can down in your work area on top of a newspaper to collect any drops of stripper and protect the floor below the can.

  • Dab a liberal amount of paint stripper onto the surfaces of the stairs, using a low-quality paintbrush you can throw away afterward. Do not brush the paint stripper on thinly; apply a thick coat. Allow the paint stripper to set on the stairs according to the time directions on the packaging.

  • Hold the scraping end of the paint scraper at an angle against the surfaces, and push the scraping blade across the stairs. Wipe the paint off the scraper by scraping the blade against the inside edge of the metal coffee can. Collect all paint and stripper waste in the can for proper disposal.

  • Rub the remnants of paint down with steel wool to remove paint you could not remove with the scraper blade. Remove paint from small crevices and detailed wood carvings using a coarse, wire pipe cleaner.

  • Apply more paint stripper and repeat the steps as necessary to remove all traces of paint until you have only unfinished wood.

Tips & Warnings

  • Start at the top of the stair case and work your way down, one step at a time. Apply stripper and remove the stripper before proceeding to the next step down.
  • Dispose of the paint stripper and paint remnants by sealing the metal coffee can with the old paint brush, scraper, steel wool and wire pipe cleaner inside. Take the can to your local landfill for proper disposal.
  • Prepare your work site well for the dangerous task of removing paint from stairs. You do not want to become lightheaded and you do not want to cause damage to surrounding objects and finishes in your home.
  • Ventilate your work area, as possible, to prevent dizziness and fainting caused by fumes from the paint stripper.
  • Don a pair of thick rubber gloves and a face mask to protect yourself from the paint stripper chemicals.

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  • Photo Credit stairs image by Dmitry Nikolaev from
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