How to Remove Dried Oil-Based Paint

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Extra care should be taken to avoid paint drips while painting.
Extra care should be taken to avoid paint drips while painting. (Image: Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Taking extra care to mask off surfaces before painting begins is the best defense against having to clean up dried oil-based paint later. Oil-based paint, once dried, is a difficult paint finish to remove. A solvent must be used to dissolve the paint layer after layer. Scrubbing with paint thinner or mineral spirits is one way to do it and using a chemical paint stripper is another way. The method used depends on what surface the paint has adhered to.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • Painter's rags
  • Paint thinner or mineral spirits
  • Paint stripper
  • Paintbrush
  • Ventilation fan
  • Painter's plastic

Small Areas

Put on a pair of rubber gloves and place a painter's rag over the tip of your index finger.

Dip the painter's rag into the paint thinner solvent.

Rub the dried oil-based paint with the painter's rag. Move the rag on the tip of your finger, after it becomes colored with the dissolving paint, to a clean section of the rag. Wet the clean part of the rag with thinner and continue rubbing the paint until it has been completely removed. Rub only the paint and nothing around it.

Wipe the area with a dry painter's rag to remove excess solvent.

Large Areas

Pour chemical paint stripper into a paint tray on the floor.

Dip a paintbrush into the stripper and apply the stripper generously over the dried oil-based paint. Generously means about one-quarter-inch thick.

Allow the stripper to sit on the paint for 24 hours. Watch the area during the chemical treatment to see the paint begin to soften and peel.

Wipe the paint and stripper off the surface with a painter's rag.

Tips & Warnings

  • Lay down painter's plastic beneath areas where you'll be removing the paint.
  • Set up a ventilation fan to provide adequate fresh air while using solvents.
  • Use paint thinner or mineral spirits to remove oil-based paint from previously painted surfaces, because paint stripper is capable of removing several layers of paint at a time.
  • Oil-based paints, paint thinners, mineral spirits and paint strippers are extremely flammable. Avoid using them around open flames.
  • Wear paint respirators while using solvents and strippers, because the vapors are harmful.

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