Stripping Paint

For many people, this is a horrible job; and for the rest, they avoid it.

But it is a useful step in renovating doors and other woodwork. Too many layers of old paint obscure the detail in mouldings, and cracks in paint allow moisture to penetrate and cause hidden damage.


Lead Paint

Beware of lead paint. Whereas the removal of paint containing lead should not normally affect adults, it does pose a risk to children. Lead is absorbed through the skin or by ingestion. Take these precautions.


Take care with hot air methods close to glass; even an electric hot air gun can crack glass.

Note that chemical strippers soften putty; this can be useful if you want to remove the glass, but be warned.

Methods for Stripping Paint

There are two methods of stripping paint - chemical and heat. Chemical paint stripper is effective, particularly for complex mouldings, but dangerous and messy. Hot air tools, either the modern hair-dryer type or the traditional blow-lamp, leave you with a pile of dry strips and pieces of paint, but they will crack adjacent glass, can burn the wood and are harder to use on fine detail.

Chemical strippers are usually solvent or alkali-based. Wood and plaster are best stripped with a solvent-based stripper, wire wool and stiff brushes. Alkali-based strippers can blacken hardwoods but work well on metal and stone.

Types of Paint

Emulsion Paint on Brick

Modern emulsion paints come off brick very well using a hot air gun and a paint scraper. Heat up a small area at a time and scrape. The paint does not bubble or burn, instead it softens. Once you have lifted a small area, you can get your scraper in and the paint comes off right down to the bottom layer in one go.

Gloss Paint on Indoor Walls

Try either a hot air gun or else a caustic poultice stripper, applied and covered with polythene. For suppliers, please search on 'stripper' in the Directory.

After a couple of days, a scraper will take off the stripper in a stiff, gungy layer. You then need to wash the residue off. If you put plenty of polythene down you should be able to catch most of the water.

Gloss Paint on Wood

A poultice stripper can be a very satisying method, but one application still tends to miss areas of paint. Follow it up with a liquid stripper or else a hot air gun.

Paint on Exterior Walls

If you want to remove paint from stone or brick, you are most likely to have success with a chemical stripper.

If the 'paint' is a multi-layer coating, perhaps with a texture, you are recommended to employ an expert company. They will try different chemicals to find the best one, and have the hot water washer to clean off the paint and stripper residue which is unpleasant to handle. We have pictures from a typical project.

If you have a small area of ordinary exterior paint, try a stripper from a DIY store.

See the section in Exterior Walls.

Paint on Tiles

Chemical strippers are usually the best approach. Unless the glaze is crazed, these should not penetrate the tile. Try a solution of Sodium Hydroxide (oven cleaner) or, as a more gentle alternative, a boiling solution of washing soda.

If the paint layer is thin, try 00 or 0 grade wire wool. Be as gentle as possible and test it on a very small area first.

Paint on Windows

To remove the paint on frames, don't flood the window with stripper as it will soften the putty. Use a little at a time on a cloth or paint brush and wash it off as soon as it has softened the paint. Be extra careful if the glass is painted ('stained') rather than self-coloured; if it is, keep the stripper away.

For companies specialising in this area, see the Products and Services Directory.