The Best Ways to Remove Latex Paint From Wood


Two common ways to get paint completely off trim and other wood is with heat or stripping chemicals. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Chemicals are messy and give off nasty fumes, but are a little more thorough. Heat can backfire on you if you don't get all the paint off the first time, making it harder to go back and remove the paint after it cools, but it's a clean, no-chemical way to refinish painted trim. Whichever method you choose, set up newspaper under the work area to catch the falling paint.


  • If you're repainting old painted wood like trim or a door, and parts of the paint are peeling up, start by using a paint scraper or steel putty knife to scrape off all the loose parts. You'll then have to decide whether the wood needs to be stripped down to bare grain throughout. If you're repainting in dark color, you may be best off to just sand over the existing paint, make sure no more of it is coming off, and paint right over it. If you're using a light color that will show a lot of surface detail, proceed to take the rest of it off.


  • To strip with chemicals, put on rubber gloves and spread stripper on with a brush. Let it work for about 10 minutes until you can see the paint starting to soften and wrinkle. Use a plastic putty knife to scrape off the softened paint, dropping it onto newspapers below the wood. Make sure the room is well ventilated, and wrap up and dispose of the newspapers immediately afterward. When the woodwork is dry after stripping it, sand it down to remove the last of the stripping residue.


  • If you decide to use a heat pan, which is available at local hardware stores, start at one side of the wood and hold the heating element right over the surface, no more than two inches away. Watch the surface the whole time; once it starts bubbling up and dripping, move the pan away and immediately scrape the softened paint with a metal putting knife. Make sure to get up all the softened paint that will come. Work in sections, and don't let the paint cool after it's been heated up, as it will form a shell and become more difficult to remove. Sand the wood smooth when you're done.

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