1 Many home repair jobs
require you to remove a coat of old paint or varnish
before applying new finish.
2 You can remove old paint or varnish using one of three
different methods. The first involves using a chemical
paint or varnish remover to soften the painted surface.
Then, the old paint can be scraped off or washed away with
3 Paint can also be sanded away or removed with heat. In
most cases, chemical paint removers are the easiest and
fastest means for removing old paint or varnish.
4 Chemical paint and varnish removers are available in a
variety of semi-paste and liquid forms. Almost all
chemical removers are referred to as "paint removers" or
5 There are several basic types of paint removers.
6 Liquids are primarily for clean coatings and removing
one or two layers of paint. This formula dries too quickly
to remove multiple layers of paint. Good for detail areas
or irregular surfaces. Also good for the stubborn spots
after a washable has been used.
7 Brushables are a thick, paste-like formula that allows
the paint remover to be applied in heavy layers so that it
stays wet in order to strip multiple layers (up to 10 or
more) in one application. Allows remover to cling to
vertical or even overhead surfaces. Some paint removers
are the "wash away" or "water wash" types. These terms
simply indicate that the paint remover formula includes an
emulsifier that permits the chemicals to mix with water
and be rinsed away with a hose.
8 Use care when using this type of remover on fine
furniture. Too much water can cause damage to the grain in
9 Read the labels on all paint remover cans and follow the
manufacturer's instructions carefully.
10 When removing paint, pour part of the paint remover
into a small, wide mouth metal can (Fig. 1). A can with a
plastic resealable lid works especially well.
11 Using a good quality brush, spread the remover thickly
and evenly over the surface. Brush in one direction (Fig.2
) Try not to brush over areas that are already covered
with paint remover.
12 Sprayables are for easy application. Some removers come
with a spray bottle or sprayer. These removers are thin
enough to spray yet thick enought to cling. Most of these
removers are "water washable."
13 Aerosols are the most convenient and fastest way to
apply paint remover. These removers are sprayed on and
create a foamy, clinging layer thick enough to remove
several layers of paint. If needed, reapplication is much
easier, too! These removers are perfect for smaller jobs
and detail work where brush application is difficult.
Aerosol paint removers are available almost everywhere
conventional removers are sold.
14 Some newer removers contain chemicals that are more
"environmentally friendly." These removers generally work
slower than more conventional types, but some allow use
indoors with good ventilation. These are more expensive,
but for people who are sensitive toward harsh chemicals,
may offer an excellent choice.
15 In addition, several types of specialty removers are
sold to remove certain coatings or using on a specific
surface, These include stain removers for surfaces such as
16 After scraping, use a suitable solvent such as ethanol
or mineral spirits (or water if a "water washable" paint
remover was used.)
17 For difficult to remove coatings, removal can be
speeded up by scratching the coating with coarse
sandpaper, but be careful not to deeply scratch the
underlying surface. Then apply the remover and cover with
plastic film to keep the remover wet.
18 Check the label of the paint remover to see how long
you should leave the remover on the surface, usually about
20 to 30 minutes. Test the condition of the surface by
rubbing the blade of a chemical-resistant scraper in a
circular motion to see if the paint has been loosened
19 If the scraper cuts through to the surface of the wood,
the paint remover has done its job. Always wear
chemical-resistant gloves and work in a well-ventilated
20 Apply paint remover to a manageable area. Only cover an
area that allows you to scrape or wash away the paint
remover before it dries.
21 Lay the paint remover on thick, and do not stir it
after applying it to the surface. Give the chemicals time
22 To help keep the area clean and make clean-up easier,
use a cardboard box with a heavy layer of newspaper to
catch the paint and remover.
23 When the paint remover has done its job and the surface
is softened (Fig. 3), you are ready to remove the loose
paint. It is usually best to remove as much remover and
paint as possible the first time. A scraper works well for
this (Fig. 4).
24 Follow this with a medium grade of steel wool, old rags
or an abrasive scouring pad (Fig. 5).
25 For hard-to-remove spots, you may need to apply a
second coat of paint remover. Wetting the steel wool with
paint remover will also work in some cases.
26 After cleaning and allowing to dry, most surfaces will
need to be lightly sanded to prepare the surface. With a
better grade of remover, no sanding or swabbing is
necessary. Some types of paint can be especially hard to
remove. This usually requires a second coat of paint
remover after you have removed the first coat of enamel
(Fig. 7). If the surface has several layers of paint, it
may be necessary to apply paint remover a third time.