Gilles' Outlet

April 11, 2010

Stripping Paint from Wood

Filed under: Wood Restoration and Finishing — Gilles @ 6:01 pm

Several layers of latex paint are stripped from a wood board. The boards is then washed with mineral spirits and sanded smooth.


Skill Level: 1 (Very Basic)

Time Taken: About 30 minutes (with 4 hours wait)

When wood has been painted, there are at least three ways to remove the paint: sand / scrape it, apply heat to the paint to loosen its bond to the substrate or use a chemical to soften the paint.

Paint used to contain lead and scraping / sanding paint may release fine lead dust which is harmful to humans, specifically children. Also, heating lead based paint with a heat gun can release dangerous lead based fumes of the gun is set to operate at too high of a temperature. For these reasons, I always prefer chemical stripping.

There are two kinds of chemical strippers: the “methylene chloride” based ones and the “natural” based ones. Methylene Chloride is a harsh chemical,so when possible, I always prefer more environment friendly products like Citristrip, made out of orange peels.

In this article, we give a new life to a board which would otherwise have gone straight to the landfill.

Left: The board to remove paint from. Just by looking at it, I counted at least 10 coats of paint plus some drywall texture.


Right: A quart of Citristrip. This product is all natural, made form orange peels and while the manufacturer demands gloves to be worn when using this product, it is certainly less toxic than methylene chloride.

Left: Using an old paint brush, I liberally applied Citristrip to the board. I performed this operation indoors, out of direct sunlight which could dry the product prematurely. This is important.


Right: The board covered with Citristrip. Now, we wait. The goal of paint stripping is to let the product do the work and this takes time, specifically when the coat of paint is thick.

I decided to let the product act for 4 hours.

Left: After four hours, I used a small putty knife to test the progress. The paint went right off. It is important to round off the edges of the putty knife with a file to avoid gouging the wood.


Right: Details of the paint being removed. It makes some sort of viscous goop which can be scraped easily. I use newspaper to collect the goop and I disposed them in the garbage.

The paint was hiding what seems to be vertical grain fir. Someone thought this board was only junk but I knew better and saved it from going to the landfill.

Left: After scraping all the paint, I cleaned the board with a paper towel soaked in mineral spirits. This removed residues of dissolved paint from the wood.

I then went outdoors and washed the board with clear cold water to remove all traces of Citristrip. I let the board dry for several hours.


Right: I sanded the board with 60 grit sand paper first and then 120 grit. This removed all traces of paint goop which seeped into wood pores.

This board (as well as similar others) will be used to build a new coffee table.

Tools Used:

  • Putty knife with edges rounded over.
  • Old paint brush.
  • Power Sander.

Materials Used:

  • Citristrip.
  • Mineral spirits.
  • Sand paper: 60grit and 120 grit.


Blog at