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Any kind of dramatic changes to wood colors need to be carefully processed to both guarantee the wood’s natural preservation and prevent any obstruction from the previous color. If you insist on the quick way, then primer will help you, but if you care as much as I do about starting fresh with even coats, then you’ll want the best paint stripper for wood.
Over time, the previous paint job could be weathered, lead based, or been botched from the beginning, any of which would indicate a serious do-over. The only way to start from scratch is by removing that previous paint job, and perhaps sanding it down a bit if need be. The end result is always a more uniformed, polished, and finished look.
However, depending on several variables, (type of wood, base of the stripping solution, amount of time it’s left on the wood, and the method of removal) removing paint from wood can be a HUGE pain. This article will provide additional insight on how the process should properly be done given any specific situation so that it won’t need to be repeated.
Best Paint Stripper for Wood
This “environmentally responsible” advanced paint remover is a water-based chemical solution formulated to be used inside and outside. It is extremely effective in removing multiple layers of architectural and industrial coatings from most surfaces including wood, brick, metal, concrete, stone, plaster, fiberglass, etc. Methylene chloride, or caustic, is most commonly used with chemical strippers, however Smart Strip has excluded that from this solution, however there are still health risks involved (refer to material safety data sheet for more information).
Smart Strip is compatible with the safe removal of lead based paint, and is also great intricate molded surfaces. When applying, the best results are when temperatures are between 50-95 degrees, but it can be used when temperatures are as low as 32 degrees. The consistency itself is a paste and the most compatible method for applying is with a roller or brush.
The solution remains wet and effective over long periods of time, and it can take anywhere between 3-24 hours for it to dwell. Removing the waste can vary inside and out. Outside, it is recommended to use a power washer to thoroughly rinse off all excess material after agitating the surface residue with a stiff nylon brush or scouring pad. Inside, simply use a sponge and water or denatured alcohol, then dispose of waste properly (see local government regulations).
- Formulate without methylene chloride or N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP)
- Removes up to 15 layers of paint, varnish, stain, lacquer, and urethane
- Solution actives in 30 minutes
- Sticks to vertical surfaces well and available for use indoors and outdoors
- Multiple surface applications include wood, plaster, concrete, brick, stone, masonry, marble, metal, and veneers
Sunnyside non-flammable Multi-Strip is specifically designed to be incredibly potent for removing paint, and its fast forming process is proof of that. Similar to the Smart Strip, it is also biodegradable and contains no methylene chloride, NMP, or caustic. Its functionality is suitable for a variety of surfaces, indoors or outdoors. Its odor emission is relatively low, so if you do plan on using this inside then I would recommend appropriate ventilation for safety.
The fourth generation company manufactures an unquestionably competent product that can remove both oil and water-based paints and varnishes. Unlike a overwhelming majority of solutions, the Multi-Strip can completely shred the more difficult coatings like two part epoxies and urethanes. It can be coated with a brush, roller, or airless paint sprayer, and has a coverage potential of 50-75 square feet per gallon. While the number of layers it is able to remove depends on the density of the coating, it can remove up to 15 layers.
Applying this product is most ideal in temperatures between 60-80 degrees F. Within those limitations, you can expect the solution to have zero drip, making it really easy to use on projects like walls and fences.
A helpful hint that will spare you the headache is to mist the area to be stripped with water before removal. This makes raising the coating easier, and if the ideal results are not satisfying, then leave the stripper on longer if it is still wet (or put on a thicker coat). If the consistency is moist and tacky, just reapply the paint remover over itself. If it’s totally dry, I recommend scraping it off then coat the surface again.
Super Remover co-partnered company alongside University of Massachusetts Lowell that has been manufacturing solutions since 1979. Its industrial performance is largely benefited by a fast acting, multi-layer stripper. Even though it doesn’t penetrate as many layers as some other options, the time it takes to work and finish the job is faster when compared.
Luckily, its efficiency isn’t exclusive to any one particular type of material and can be applied to metal and concrete as well. The applicable finishes it can remove include anything from oil paints to lacquers, however water-based solution seems to be an exclusion from this product. It is gentle enough for antique furniture, yet still thorough for the heavy-duty jobs.
Specifically speaking on wood surfaces, I suggest using a stripping pad when the stripper is through with the bulk of the work. Add small amounts of the stripper following the grain of the wood in order to remove the remaining coats. Apply with a brush and is cleanable with water and scraper combo.
Citristrip gel is a slower acting answer for taking off paints and varnishes indoors and out. Obviously the citrus scented aromas it emits advocate for be able to apply it inside, however I would recommend doing outside if at all possible. Cabinets, doors, tables, and furniture can all be relocated, but the Citristrip is for anything that you can’t move and requires indoor application.
Patience is a the key ingredient to getting the stripping gel to really take effect. Too often impatience leads to a botched stripping job. Let it marinate into the wood for several hours, or if the material is heavily layered, then leave it on for the entire 24 hours.
It is just as useful for outdoor projects as the indoors ones. It tends to dry faster if applying in the sun, but the best paint remover for wood can better be applied during the evening time or in the shade.
Having experienced the Citristrip several times now on one project, I’ve made a dummy-proof suggestions in light of my discoveries for everyone:
- Container needs a thorough shake before using. Mix very well if you’re pouring it into an alternate container. You want a consistency similar to yogurt
- Use a paint brush, but glob it on instead of “painting” it on. By using the dry-brush method, all areas where its thin enough to look clear instead of pink are going to dry too fast
- Keep it from drying out by periodically globbing on more in the areas that look thin or dry
- Spot test small area with a scraper. If it does anything else but slide off completely, reapply and wait longer
- Keep scraper parallel with the wood while gently removing the stripper. The piece I worked on had lots of curves so it was difficult, and perhaps it’s due to me reapplying several times but it seemed to have softened the wood with some gouges to fill
Types of Paint Removers
Paint strippers can fall into three categories: solvent, biochemical, and caustic. Generally, people are accustomed to the brand that they find works best for them, and by reading our reviews, speaking with other painters, and experimenting, you can find the best paint stripper for your needs.
I found that, after speaking with several paint dealers, that most painters aren’t that familiar with how paint removers work, or, more importantly, how to match the right stripper to the job. While a lot of them actively seek out eco-friendly options, most need to use them periodically. So before picking just any kind of stripper, it is important to first learn how to use them accordingly and safely.
Caustic types are water-based solutions with their primary operating ingredient being lye. Lye could potassium hydroxide (caustic potash) or sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), and it works by reacting to oily components of the paint’s film changing it into soap. The soapy reaction loosens it from the surface of the wood and makes it easy to remove. Caustic options have health risks including skin burns and lung inflammation.
Solvent options strip paint by dissolving the bond between the film and substrate, this causes the coating to bubble. Methylene chloride (known as dichloromethane) is the most prevalent kind, but ketones, alcohol, toluene, and acetone are present as well. While methylene chloride works incredibly well, exposure to it is more serious than caustic options. A few health dangers include: temporary reduce blood capacity to carry oxygen, permanent liver and kidney damage, and cancer.
N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) is another solvent that’s also used, mostly in combination with dibasic esters (DBE). DBE attaches to vertical surfaces pretty well, but it takes longer to take effect and it has been known to cause the surface of wood to fuzz. Typically marketed as a safer alternative, their potential health risks aren’t completely recognized. EPA claims that NMP causes skin irritation, blisters, and swelling.
Another solvent cocktail combination uses alcohol, toluene, and methanol that works very quickly, though it does evaporate quickly also. The highly flammable solution also comes with health risks that can give you brain damage if inhaled.
Biochemical-based strippers have active plant based solvent that could include terpenes (pine or citrus), lactic acids (corn sugars), dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO — wood pulp), citric acid, and soy oil. Some of which can irritate the skin. Citrus based options are not widely used professionally, but customers who are using it inside or are concerned with odors are more suitable for its application. They still contain chemicals that are harmful, and it will take longer than the average amount of time to take effect.
Solutions labeled as either “eco” or “safe” do not contain methylene chloride, but they might contain DBE, NMP, biochemicals, or a mixture.
Match Paint Stripper to the Job
Each type of solution has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, when compared, methylene chloride and caustic will shred most mixtures of latex and alkyd paint. While methylene chloride is slightly better suited for taking on epoxies and polyurethanes, caustics perform better than solvents when applied to alkyds. Be aware that caustics darken wood, so if staining the wood is your end goal then bleaching it is a necessary step before applying the stain. That being said, caustics do require to remain on the surface longer than other strippers, but the health risks of caustics are rather minor compared to methylene chloride or other solvents. Keep in mind that surface temperature plays a big part in the process of application for every stain remover as well as ventilation. Caustics do not work well under 50 degrees, and applying methylene chloride inside when it is too cold to open some windows is a very bad idea.
Solutions like…for lead-based paint contain lime, this helps bond with the lead to prevent it from leaching out when the waste is being scraped off.
Knowing what kind of paint you need stripped is important for determining the best paint stripper for wood, but you won’t always know the kind you are dealing with. I recommend setting up test patches using various types of paint removers. Not only will this show you which solution is best for the job, but it will also show you how long to wait before you’re able to scrape it off.
Regardless of what type of stripping solution is being used, it is absolutely necessary to avoid exposure by taking the proper precautionary measures. Cover your skin, wear a respirator constructed for eliminating solvent vapors, safety glasses, and neoprene or butyl gloves. Obviously ventilation is incredibly important, so take removable pieces outside to strip. If working indoors is unavoidable, have a fan present so that it constantly blows the harmful vapors away from you out of the window, and not towards you.
How to Remove Paint From Wood
When in doubt, read the product label. Directions and information about how long the material should be left alone before removing, best method for removing the waste, and additional information that you’ll find beneficial is included.
Paint removing solution can be applied with a roller, brush, spray bottle, or sprayer. The method of application really depends on the density of the material. Not all types of solutions are compatible with every method, solvents and caustics damage the rubber, leather, and aluminum pieces of a sprayer. Those rubber pieces of some sprayers can be replaced with neoprene or polyethylene parts, and stainless steel for the aluminum. Typically, sprayers are best for larger areas, but rollers and brushes are solid alternatives.
For a caustic stripper, brush a generous amount in one direction on to the surface of the wood. Once it is applied leave it be, or else it will agitate the airtight layer that forms to maintain moisture in the chemicals. Liquid and/or gel solvent products do not require a generous amount.
Next, let the material be and give it time to work on the paint. Refer to your test patches or product directions to gauge how long to leave it on for. After it is finished, dull the edge and round the corners of a flexible-bladed drywall knife (this prevents gouging on the surface). Steel wool is know to leave rusty fibers, so use a plastic rub in order to extract everything from the wood pores. Be diligent about removing everything, even from the smaller crevices, and if any paint is left over just do an additional coat.
Finally, once the paint is gone, neutralize the wood surface according to the instructions provided. Caustics are able to be neutralized with vinegar and water, and solvents can be cleared with mineral spirits. Methylene chloride-based products are removed with water, but this could potentially fuzz the top of the wood, so using mineral spirits is a go to method. Give the surface time to dry, speed up the process by using fans and heat, before applying other stains or paints. A moisture meter will help tremendously in this situation because it can give you the ok when it is ready for more. Cedar, cypress, and redwood may take up to 60-90 days to dry because of the water-soluble material it contains, which could bleed through the paint if it is still damp.
Without a doubt the best paint stripper for wood is the Multi-Strip by Sunnyside. It’s diversity is unmatched to all the other options when considering what type of finish your wanting to take off, what kind of surface your working with, the nature of its position (vertical or horizontal), and can be used inside and outside.