Home » How to Remove Paint From Wood? – 4 Ways That Work

How to Remove Paint From Wood? – 4 Ways That Work

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Are you bored of seeing the same old, dull colors on your tables, chairs, and other furniture around the house? I am sure you have considered repainting them, but before you do so, how do you remove the old paint from the wood?

That’s a question a lot of you have been asking. Since answering every one was tough, I decided to do a post on it.

From using heat guns, scrapers, sandpaper, to chemicals, in this post, I’ll cover every method in the book to safely remove paint from wood without damaging it, so your home always looks new and welcoming.

Let’s dig right into it.

How to Remove Paint From Wood?

Before we dive into the steps, the first thing to ensure is that the wooden surface doesn’t have any water on it. In case it does, wipe it dry with a cloth. You can also use a heat gun, but it is my least favorite option since it requires a power source nearby plus, you should wear gloves and other safety equipment.

Yes, a heat gun is more effective than a cloth but also involves more risk so just putting that extra effort with a dry cloth is relatively easier.

In case you do go with a heat gun, always use gloves, a mask, and eye protection glasses.

Another thing you need to make sure of is whether the wood you are working on is

Method 1: Using a Sandpaper


Sandpaper is available in multiple grains. I would suggest you get both a rough one and the slightly smoother one. While the rough can help get the layer of the old paint off, the new smooth one can add the finishing touches giving you a smooth and clean surface to work your magic on.

Note: Don’t be too rough with either sandpaper. Not only will it damage the wood, but it also creates heat due to the friction that can be detrimental to the surface,

Method 2: Using an Electric Sander

Using an Electric Sander

Sanding using sandpaper is time-consuming and takes a lot of effort. Not to forget the paper will need to be replaced once it is covered with paint all-around. That’s where electric sanders come in handy, and if you are into woodworking and already own one, it is a no-brainer.

They are also ideal for larger surfaces. Though on the downside, they create a lot of dust and dirt and thus need to be attached to a vacuum cleaner. It would be best if you could do the sanding in an open area. Also, make sure you are wearing your face mask and other protective gear like gloves, goggles, etc.

Once the sander has done its job, you need to clean the dust off the surface as well. For this, I’d recommend dipping a slightly rugged cloth in paint solvent. A clean, smooth surface will be easier to paint on and gives a better finish. Any dust on the floor can be either swept or vacuumed.

Method 3: Using a Heat Gun

Using a Heat Gun

Not exactly my favorite method as it is risky, but if you are accustomed to using heat guns, this is one of the easiest and quickest methods to get rid of old paint on wood. Plus, it also helps to cover the tight corners and spaces.

But what makes it so risky?

Well, wood isn’t heat-resistant so if it gets too hot, you run the risk of charring the wood. It also releases fumes that you don’t want to breathe in. And worst-case scenario, you could end up setting the whole house on fire.

But don’t worry, I’ll guide you the best I can to ensure such incidents don’t happen

Step 1: The first thing you want to do is wear your safety gear which would be your goggles, face mask, and gloves. Also, keep a large bowl of water close by in case anything overheats or there’s a slight fire.

When melting the paint, hold the heat gun at least 6-9 inches away from the surface. While it might add to the time, it will keep the wood protected.

Step 2: Gently move the heat gun over the surface. You can move it either sideways or up and down based on your convenience. As for the corners, do not run the heat gun for too long as these only need to be slightly warmed up, and overdoing it can create burn marks.

Step 3: When the paint softens up it will start to wrinkle. Use a scraper over it gently, and you’ll see that the paint easily comes off. Continue to do this for the entire cupboard or table that you want to repaint.

Step 4: Once the entire paint is off, put away the heat gun and other items you had been using as it will give you a clean space to work on. Plus, the heat gun is going to be hot, and you do not want it around the wood or your hands as it can burn both.

In case there is a small fire, do not panic. Use the bowl of water immediately to prevent it from turning into an all-out hazard. Also, make sure you unplug the heat gun and put it away.

Step 5: Use the sanding paper and scrape off any paint that remains after scraping. You can do it with any grain that works. Also, an electric sander would be overkill in this case as the soft paint would come off easily. But do not wait too long to sand as the paint will cool down quickly as well.

Other heat devices you can use

Infrared Heating

Apart from a heat gun, you can also go with infrared heating devices. The best part about this is that noise and dust will be minimal. Plus, they are quicker means your paint will soften in about 25-30 seconds.

To top it all, they keep the temperature in check which means your wood will not burn as easily as with a heat gun. On the downsides, these are bulky thus difficult to store and carry around. You will also have a hard time reaching corners with these. Also, they aren’t as readily available as heat guns.

Steam Strippers

Another device that is safer to use as compared to heat guns is steam strippers that use a temperature around 200-degree Fahrenheit which is much lower than the temperature at which wood burns.

These use a condensation process to melt paint which is also noiseless and dust-free but that’s also their biggest drawback as you run the risk of saturating the wood.

These are compact so storing them and working with them with one hand should be a breeze. This is important because you need to scrape as you heat. And in case you need to breather in between, use a metal tray to lay the device on.

Method 4: Using Chemical Strippers

Using Chemical Strippers

When you are using chemical strippers you must go with toxic-free chemicals. While these take a tad longer to get the job done, the lack of methylene chloride also makes it safer to inhale and touch. Here are a few non-toxic chemicals that you can use.


One of the best things about this chemical stripper is that you can apply it to the surface in multiple ways. Yes, whether you want to roll it, brush it, or spray it onto the surface, it gives you the freedom to work at your convenience. Also, it is strong enough to rid the wood of about 10-13 layers of paint.

Though keep in mind, the thicker the paint, the longer you will have to leave it on. In most cases, anything between 4-10 hrs should be enough.

Once it dries up, just use a scraper to peel the paint out.

Peel Away

If your wooden surface is lead-based paint, this is the ideal chemical stripper for it. That is because it uses a special paper for evaporation control that prevents the fumes from being breathed in. Though, on the downside, leaving it for too long can result in stains.

Depending on the layer of paint, I’d advise leaving this on for not more than 10-15 hours. Once the paint is removed, brush some neutralizer on the surface.


If you are looking for something on the cheap, this is the chemical stripper for you as it costs less than $25 for a gallon. Though cheap, it works like a charm, and even applying a coat of just ⅛ inches can eliminate 6-7 paint layers.

And if the paint layer is thin, you only need to leave this on for about 45-60 minutes which is much lower than the other chemical strippers allowing you to get the job done on the same day.

It even comes off easily and even if you use a plastic scraper, it requires minimal effort. In case it misses out on a few spots just scrub with an abrasive pad and some spirit.

The one paint stripper you want to avoid at any cost is DCM. The reason being, breathing in the fumes makes you vulnerable to cancer, liver issues, and in some cases, even death (Not kidding, CDC has reported about 10-12 deaths). In fact, people have complained about feeling dizzy and nauseated within minutes of using it.

Furthermore, in Europe, you are barred from using the chemical at home.

Since you would be using scrapers quite often with any of these methods, let’s talk a little about them as well.

The ideal scraper for the job is the 5 in 1 scraper. This is often used by painters and works quite efficiently while keeping the wooden surface safe thanks to its special curved edge.

In case you have a push scraper, plastic, and not metal is the way to go. That is because plastic is easy on the wooden surface thus reducing the chances of chipping or scratching the wood which would have been softened by the chemical strippers.

A Final Say

Well, that’s everything you need to know to remove paint from wood and give your interiors a different look. And since you can do it all by yourself, you won’t have to pay any hefty service charges.

Just make sure you always have your protective gear around and go with lead-free paint for the job. I’d suggest using toxic-free chemical strippers or an electric sander for removing the paint. Only use heat guns or other similar devices if you are experienced with them.

In case you have any questions regarding any of the methods mentioned above, hit me up via the comments section below. You can also email me using the contact page.

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