Posted in how-to's

How to Remove and Strip Paint from Wood Surfaces

Various home improvement projects involve a fresh coat of paint, but before you add a new one, the old material must be removed. We’ve created a comprehensive guide to help you get the job done with considerably less effort.


What You’ll Need

  • Paint Remover
  • Sandpaper
  • Steel wool
  • Chemical-resistant gloves
  • Plastic film
  • Tarp (optional)
  • Scraping tools

Choosing The Best Scraping Tools

The secret to a perfect paint job is taking the time to properly prep the surface prior to painting, which in most cases, means scraping away the old finish down to bare wood.

While this is no one’s idea of fun, it is absolutely necessary, and requires the right tools.

Nisaku brand scrapers have super-sharp stainless steel blades. These professional quality scrapers vary in price and offer superior performance that will last a lifetime.

Nisaku paint scrapers come in a few different grade models and offer many different size and shaped blades:

Putty Knife

These tools come with both stiff blades, like a chisel, and flexible blades, like a spatula.

The stiff blade types can be resharpened and are very effective at removing loose or peeling paint. They may also have hammer ends which allow for maximum leverage to remove tough material.

Thin or flexible blade putty knifes are best used when applying spackling paste or putty.

Multipurpose Tool

These are the Swiss army knives of the painting world. Multipurpose tools are capable of performing many tasks beyond just removing loose paint.

With so many possible uses, this tool is an excellent choice to add to your work station.

Specialty Scrapers

If a piece of wood trim or cabinetry has a complex profile, you might consider a scraper made with that in mind.

With much scraping ahead of you, be sure to choose models that have ergonomic handles, like Nisaku, to ensure you’re comfortable throughout the entire project.

Stripping Methods


Once applied, a chemical remover allows you to easily scrape paint off, and in most cases, it washes away nicely with water. Chemical removers come in both liquid and paste form for ultimate versatility.


If you only need to remove a few layers of paint or varnish, a liquid remover is the best choice, as the solution dries too quickly for larger jobs. Liquids are also preferable if working in complicated or irregular areas.


Brushable removers have a paste-like consistency and allow you to apply thick layers to any surface, which is ideal for stripping many layers of paint in one application.


A spray remover is very easy to apply, washes away with water, but still has enough tackiness to cling to any desired surface.


Aerosols are the cheapest stripping agents. They spray on as a foam and let you remove multiple layers of paint easily with a scraping tool. This method works best on small projects and detailed surfaces with many nooks and crannies which require precision.

Application + Removal

When applying the remover, be sure to only do so in an area that is small enough to manage. You do not want to cover an area which is too large because the chemical will dry out. We also recommend placing cardboard, newspaper or a tarp around your work area to make clean up easier.

If you’re taking on a big job, you can expedite the stripping process by using coarse sandpaper to scrape the surface. Just take special care not to scratch the material underneath. Apply the chemical solution and seal it under a plastic film to prevent it from drying out before it gets the chance to penetrate.

Most chemical agents typical need to saturate for 20-30 minutes, but be sure to follow the instructions on your packaging. Test the progress by scraping a small area; if the scraper blade has reached the bare surfacing, the remover has soaked long enough.

Once the chemical has softened the paint, it’s time to scrape! Keep your scraper level with the surface as best you can to avoid creating divots or making marks on the wood surface. After most of the paint has been removed, you can get any leftovers with steel wool or another abrasive tool to ensure a clean surface. Sometimes, you may have to apply another coat of the stripping agent in stubborn areas.

High-grade solutions can usually be rinsed with fresh water. Allow the surface to dry and then sand it lightly to prepare for the new coat of paint or varnish.

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