We may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of our links. Learn more

Home Improvement

Best Paint Remover

Painted furniture and architectural trim can look nice, protects the wood and can even be repainted numerous times. Nevertheless, there can come a time when it’s necessary to remove the paint, especially if the article is to be returned back to its original condition, with a varnished finish on it.

There are two basic ways of removing paint; mechanically or chemically. Mechanically basically means sanding off the old paint. This can be done with sandpaper, Scotchbrite wheels in a drill, or even a plane, if you have one that is the right shape. However, chemical paint removal is much more common than mechanical, and is done with paint removers.

Paint removers soften the existing paint, so that it can be scraped off the piece of furniture or architectural molding. It doesn’t usually fully dissolve the paint, but merely makes it possible for you to remove it with a putty knife or other tool. That way, you don’t have the dissolved paint running all over and staining other pieces.

Regardless of this, removing paint is an extremely messy proposition. So, whenever you do it, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got drop cloths down to catch the drips and the paint that you’re removing. Keep in mind that the paint remover can also attack the finish on hardwood floors; so if you are removing paint in a room that has hardwood floors, be sure to use waterproof drop cloths; possibly rubber backed canvas or plastic backed paper.

It is necessary to choose a paint remover that works well with the paint product you are removing. That isn’t always easy to determine, as you probably won’t know what types of paint were applied beforehand. With antique furniture and homes older than 50 years old, you can pretty much be assured that at least the earlier layers of paint are oil-based. Most things done in the last 40 years were painted with latex paint. Even so, there’s a grey area there, where you may not be sure what type of paint was used. For this reason, it is often necessary to do a test spot first, verifying that the product you chose will work for your project.

If your project has a lot of vertical surface, it can be very useful to use a paint remover that’s in a gel form. That way, it won’t run off the surface. Another important factor is how quickly the solvents in the paint thinner evaporate. Evaporated paint thinner doesn’t help you at remove anything.

Many modern paint removers are made from organic materials and designed to function with zero or very low VOCs. This is great if the product will work for your needs, but often, these products are slower, when used on certain types of paint.

Regardless of what type of paint remover you choose to use, be sure to read and follow the instructions carefully. In many cases, you will need some protective equipment, such as rubber gloves, eye protection and possibly a respirator in some cases. Attention to safety is important as some of these chemicals can be very dangerous.

Kutzit Paint and Varnish Remover

Kutzit is used by many professional furniture refinishers for removal of paint and varnish. This is a liquid product, which works well on horizontal surfaces. However, it is not thick enough to use on vertical surfaces without running. It is also excellent for cleaning out paint and varnish from fine carved detail. This paint remover is gentle on the wood, won’t damage veneers and won’t raise the wood grain. Cleaned surfaces can be prepared for new finish with a scraper and “washed” with paint thinner.

3M Safe Stripper Paint and Varnish Remover

This is a water-based paint stripper. As such, it is great for indoor use, as there are no harmful fumes or VOCs to concern yourself with. It also cleans up with water, making the clean up part of the job go much faster and easier. It is also biodegradable, so it can be rinsed right down the drain. A gel or semi-paste consistency, this stripper works well with both horizontal and vertical surfaces, without dripping. So safe, you don’t even need to wear gloves when using it.

Sunnyside 658G1 Ready-Strip Paint and Varnish Remover

This is a very unique product in that it changes color when it has finished dissolving the paint and it’s time to scrape it off. You can also remove up to seven layers of paint with a single application. This stripper takes about an hour to function. An environmentally safe product, it is biodegradable, non-flammable and odor free. Cleanup is easily accomplished with water. The stripper is a semi-paste, so works well for removing paint on vertical surfaces.

Dad's Easy Spray Paint Remover

This paint remover is designed for spraying on and even comes complete with a special chemical-resistant spray bottle. Although thin enough to spray, it clings well to vertical surfaces. As it sprays, it gels, providing it with the viscosity necessary to stick to those vertical surfaces. This also makes the product go twice as far as brushed-on removers, as well as getting into corners and other difficult spots well. A non-flammable liquid, this thinner also cleans up with water only.

Aircraft Paint Remover Aerosol #KLSAR-322

This is the fastest acting paint remover on the market; able to stripping multiple layers of paint at the same time. This stripper will work on almost all types of coatings, including automotive finishes. However, it is designed only for use on metal substrates, not wood. If used on wood, it will cause staining of the surface. The stripper comes in an 18 oz. spray can, allowing for easy and highly controlled application; putting the stripper right where you want it.

Rich the Tool Man

Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.

While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.

In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.

Go to top