- Paint brush
- Plastic scraper
- Utility knife
Paint strippers are notoriously nasty, but newer non-VOC strippers will safely remove paint from wood without the dangerous, unstable chemicals. We will also tell you how to test for lead paint.
What are VOCs?
VOCs (volatile organic compounds) can be extremely dangerous and are found throughout our lives. Aerosol spray cans, household air fresheners, disinfectants and paint all can have VOCs. The EPA describes them as chemicals that evaporate at room temperature and are emitted by a wide array of products used in homes. They cause eye, nose and throat irritation at the minimum and, at worst, damage your liver, kidneys or nervous system. VOCs are released from products into the home both during use and while stored. Remember to check the label before you invest in a certain product.
The Safest Paint Remover
Our paint stripper preference is Dumond Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover. It is non-VOC and removes everything down to bare wood. Most paint strippers smell awful because of the harsh chemicals and can be dangerous to the touch. Dumond Smart Strip is not perfect, but it offers a much safer option to the user, substrate and environment. We used Dumond’s Peel Away Laminated Paper to speed up the process and aid in removal, but you can get away without using this product.
This process will take away everything down to bare wood. Don’t expect to keep a layer of varnish. You can lightly sand and reapply the varnish or polyurethane. Dumond Smart Strip is nearly double the price of traditional paint strippers, but it is truly worth the cost for a safer, faster removal.
Project step-by-step (5)
How to Remove Paint from Wood: Test for Lead Paint
Before you begin stripping paint, you need to test the paint for lead, especially if your home was built before 1970. 3M sells LeadCheck swabs that instantly tell you whether or not existing paint contains lead. If it does, you will need to take extra precautions while stripping the paint. Cut a 2-in. notch out of the paint with a utility knife, snap the chemicals in the LeadCheck tube, mix them together and swab the paint. If the tip of the swab is red or pink, you have lead paint on your hands. If not, you are safe to continue.
If you discover lead paint in your home, click here to learn how to remove lead paint safely.
Brush On Paint Stripper
Apply a generous amount of paint stripper to the painted surface. Your brush cannot be reused after this process, so use a cheap paint brush. If you're looking to revamp your cabinets with paint, check out the best paint for kitchen cabinets.
Apply Laminated Paper
Stick the Laminated Paper directly to the paint stripper, which will help to soften the paint.
Scrape Off the Paint
Remove the Laminated Paper and strip the paint with a plastic scraper.
This process will take away much of the paint, but you still need to immediately clean any excess with a scrub pad and warm water.