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As we are Toolmonger readers as well I wanted to get the opinion of the TM faithful on my latest project. I have a table project I’m working on that needs to have some awful, snot green, latex paint removed. What’s the best way to go about that?

I’m guessing scrapping, sanding, and picking at it are in my future, but I’ve always wondered if there is a better chemical way that everyone uses that is “the way to go” when it comes to removing unwanted paint.

Can you point me in the right direction? I really like the table and there is some good-looking wood underneath that I’d like to save instead of dumping more paint on it to hide the crappy paint. School me in comments.


17 Responses to Reader Question: Stripping Latex Paint

  1. Ted says:

    Geeze, no idea. I actually had to use chisels to scrape latex paint off of our kitchen cabinet frames; that was latext painted directly over laminate (no surface prep done at all, just coats and coats of the stuff). Even the belt sander was unusable until I got down to just the laminate.

    Good luck!

  2. Austin says:

    I have tried several chemical approaches, but tend to use a heat gun most often.
    I once tried a 3M product ‘Safest Stripper’ that was water based, but didn’t like how it soaked into and softened the wood.
    Both ways require some care obviously – but you can go right to sanding after using a heat gun instead of washing down and then waiting for everything to dry out.

  3. Mike47 says:

    This product is used extensively in the restoration of railroad passenger cars at California state Railroad museum:


  4. tooldork says:

    Depends on number of coats. A lot of strippers will only remove one or 2 coats at a time and can lead to softened wood that makes it difficult since you may have to do more sanding.

    I use razors a lot for wider areas by setting at an angle and pulling. For more detailed areas, I use a profiled razor kit, similar to a dental pick set, where the shaped razor is inserted into a plastic insert that sets into the shaft and threaded on.

    Sanding floss should work well in the recessed areas of the details.

  5. PutnamEco says:

    Find a professional paint removal service, they will soak it in a big vat, and have it back to you in a few days, all clean. Well worth the price IMHO.

  6. Yurko says:

    x2 on having a stripping shop do it for you. In my experience if there is several layers, you’ll need to apply stripper for each layer. It took me 12+hours to strip a single door (both sides), and quite a bit of stripper. I called a local shop and they will do a door for $55, which is a steal when you think about the cost of the stripper, and your time. Not to mention you don’t run the risk of damaging the wood during the scraping.

  7. Old Coot says:

    What PutnamEco said X10. IMHO there is absolutely nothing legally available to a DIY person that will do the job satisfactorily, let alone safely. Factor in the cost of whatever goo you must buy, the ruined tools, damage to whatever you’re trying to refurbish and the horrific mess and a commercial stripper will seem cheap whatever the cost.

  8. Shopmonger says:

    I would agree with the Pro_dipping method for this type of project. Chairs are very hard, then some floss sanding.

    Then some of that strip sanding paper for teh spindles, a scraper to clean edges. and REMEMBER IF USING WATER BASE, YOU WILL NEED TO RESAND.most likely also because of he chemical bath, maybe a light sanding sealer like General Finishes Seal-a-Cell or Armor Seal. Even a light shellac (see the above 2 options or other ways) before you stain, wax or seal with poly.

    P>S> got to library and check out the finishing/ refinishing book by Sam Maloof,

    or go to

    TheWoodWhisperer.com and check out his podcast 6 part series about refinishing…

  9. Gough says:

    I’ve seen so many projects totally ruined by vat stripping, so I don’t recommend it. I’m assuming that there was a coat of varnish or similar underneath, so what you really want to do is remove as much of the paint before disturbing the varnish underneath. If you can do that, it’ll make for a much cleaner finished product. What we would do first is try water with a little bit of detergent added. It it’s just latex paint, this is often enough to wrinkle and lift the paint. If that happens, you can generally remove nearly all of the paint with plastic putty knives, some of them artfully carved, or similar soft scrapers. If the water doesn’t work, we go to heat: heat guns for the turnings/carved areas and heat plates for the large flats. Latex will usually lift fairly quickly and can be scraped off, preferably the largest pieces possible to minimize the amount of paint left. Once that is done, you can switch to chemical strippers to remove the varnish. For pieces made of solid wood without elaborate carvings or turnings, we use 3M Safest Stripper. Lay it on, cover it with 1-mil visqueen and let it sit. The trade off with this stuff being so much safer it that it is a lot slower. Often, we let pieces sit overnight. Scraping, synthetic steel wool, and lots of water finish the clean up. For veneered pieces, turned, or carved work, we go to the old-school methylene chloride strippers. CAUTION: this is nasty stuff, so the idea working space is outside on a breezy day. We apply the stripper and then cover it with plastic or foil. We then let it “cook”, but for a much shorter time. Putty/taping knives work for removing the finish and stripper from the flats, but not for carvings/turnings. For those, we use wood shavings, either planer shavings or animal bedding from a pet store. We wear heavy neoprene gloves and scrub the areas with handfuls of the shavings. It soaks up the stripper and the mild abrasive action of the shavings cleans out the nooks and crannies.

    My company has been doing this for 30+ years and this is a pretty highly-evolved set of techniques. We’ve used them on everything from a mantel clock to houses full of doors and woodwork.

  10. Duane says:

    I’m totally not a shill for these guys, but I heard about their product on a home restoration forum, and couldn’t resist buying one of them. It’s called The Silent Paint Remover, and you can find one here: http://www.silentpaintremover.com/ It took easily 8 coats of paint off my antique medicine cabinet in a single swipe, and wasn’t nearly as noxious as the paint remover gels. I decided to subsidize it’s cost by “loaning” it to friends, and having them write me a check for what they thought it was worth to them in saved time. So far, it’s nearly paid for itself. Just be careful around it, the metal is HOT and will get you a good burn if you’re not paying attention.


  11. Gough says:

    Duane, we haven’t tried the Silent Paint Remover yet. We have too much tied up in regular heat plates, but I can see making the change. Like the heat plates, I’d use this to remove the paint, then switch to a chemical remover for the final clean up.

  12. Michael W says:

    I’ve been using Citrus Strip for quite awhile.


    No harsh chemical smell (safe to use inside). Has worked on all types of paint that I’ve tried it on. Just brush it on and scrub/scrape the paint of.

    Used it recently to remove paint layers that someone had put on top of a 1930’s Coca Cola sign. Worked great.

  13. DDT says:

    Circa 1850 works really well. Just don’t get it on your skin because it burns, like aftershave in an open wound, but worse lol

  14. elmegil says:

    I use Ready Strip (http://www.readystripsales.com/paint_remover_s/18.htm), just did a doorway with it. Any stripper (even in a vat) is going to soften the wood; you need to be ready to let it dry back out and do some sanding when you’re done. I believe it is also citrus based.

  15. Casey says:

    Any methylene chloride based stripper will generally kick ass. Look for the handy-dandy skull and crossbones on the label.

  16. Levi says:

    I am a big fan on heat guns. After striping woodwork, doors and windows, with chemicals and manual scraper, I found that the $20 heat gun at the big box stores works wonders. As many layers of paint as you can think, and types- 80+ years of paint. Comes off like butter – falls off in some situations.

  17. Gordon says:

    Easy-Off Oven Cleaner… the stuff with lye in it.

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