The Best Way To Strip Old Paint

Over the years, craftsmen have come up with various ways to effectively strip old paint. There is no one method that is significantly better than any of the others, however, some are preferred because of the lingering effects of dust or chemical odors. Stripping old paint is a moderately difficult task, but with a relatively small project such as a piece of furniture you can expect to complete the job in less than a day.


Whether you plan to sand your old painted project or apply a chemical finish remover, there are a few tools necessary to complete the task. For sanding, you will need course-, medium- and fine-grit sandpaper, a sanding block, an orbital sander and a damp cloth. For chemical stripping, you will need a can of chemical stripper, a brush for application, a scraper, putty knife, painter’s plastic protective sheeting, masking tape, paint thinner, cotton rags, rubber gloves, eye protection and a dust mask.


Remove the old finish or paint with sandpaper. If you can, situate the painted materials on a stable, roomy work platform–sawhorses topped with plywood will do. Sand the painted area using course-, medium- and fine-grit sandpaper. Make sure the room is properly ventilated and wear a dust mask when sanding. When you have finished, and if the surface is wood, spray a fine mist of water over the clean wood to raise the grain. Re-sand with fine-grit sandpaper, always sanding in the direction of the grain (sanding against the grain will damage the wood surface). You can use an orbital sander instead of sanding by hand.

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Regardless of which method you choose, make sure you use coarse and medium sandpaper to remove the finish and fine sandpaper for smoothing the surface.

Chemical Removal

Make sure your work area is properly ventilated, then apply chemical stripper to the old paint using a brush and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Prevent the stripper from drying on the surface by lightly covering the area that has been treated with plastic sheeting. Use a putty knife to scrape away the old finish and then reapply as necessary until all finish has been removed. Use a fine wool pad to smooth the surface and remove any leftover paint particles.

Areas of Detail

For intricate or awkward areas such as carved patterns and trim, use steel wool to vigorously work the paint from crevices, nooks and crannies. You also can use a brass wire brush–the bristles are relatively soft and won’t damage the wood. Use a dental pick or similar instrument to reach into tighter spaces. The dental pick will require more patience, but if you are restoring something like a quality piece of furniture with intricate detail, it will be well worth the effort.