How to Strip a Banister

Banisters can be stripped and refinished using chemical solvents and a little elbow grease.
Banisters can be stripped and refinished using chemical solvents and a little elbow grease. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

It is not uncommon to find wooden banisters that are painted. These vertical supports for porch and stair railings are usually finished with paint to protect the underlying wood from damage. But over time, painted banisters tend to chip and wear. The best way to refinish a banister is to strip it completely of paint. This is accomplished using a few effective tools and some time.

Things You'll Need

  • Drop cloth
  • Painter's tape
  • Paint remover
  • Paintbrush
  • Putty knife
  • Steel wool
  • Water hose (optional)
  • Mineral spirits
  • Clean cloths
  • Rubber gloves

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Tape off the areas surrounding the banisters with a drop cloth and painter's tape. This may only be necessary for indoor applications.

Apply paint remover to the banisters with a paintbrush or clean cloth. Check the label on the solvent to see how long you should leave it on to soften the paint.

Use a putty knife to scrape the layer of paint off each banister. Use light pressure, so as to not scar the underlying wood surface.

Dampen a steel wool pad with mineral spirits. Remove any remaining paint by rubbing each banister with the wool pad.

Spray the banister with a hose if outdoors. For indoor applications, a clean cloth dampened with mineral spirits will do fine. Remove any remaining residue from the banisters.

Allow the banisters to dry completely before attempting to repaint them.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wearing rubber gloves will prevent and skin irritations from the chemical solvent.
  • If your banister has more than 2 or 3 layers of paint, you may need to use a brushable paste form of paint remover.
  • Always use chemical solvents such as paint remover in a well-ventilated area.


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