What is the best paint remover? This is something that I get asked a lot and so I thought that it would be good to address this in an article so that YOU can decide. There are actually many options that you can choose from and some fine home recipes that will work in a pinch, so while I can’t tell you what the best paint remover will be for you, I can certainly give you a lot of options.
Sites like Bob Vila’s have a number of commercial recommendations but today we’ll give you a few of those, as well as some home recipes that you can mix up when you need it. We’ll start off with some of the best commercial paint removers and then I’ll share some recipes that you can easily make ‘on the fly’ that will also get the job done.
In the end, you can decide which is the best paint remover for your own personal needs!
The best commercial paint strippers
In this section I’ve compiled some of the best commercial paint removers for your DIY projects. These are available at your local hardware store or online and they all work a treat, just be sure to use them only in a well-ventilated area and that you’ve got some gloves and safety goggles in case of any splashing. Without further ado, here are the best commercial paint strippers for your work.
Dumond Chemicals Smart Strip
First off is this eco-friendly Dumond Chemicals Smart Strip paint remover and this is great stuff for indoor use. It doesn’t have an odor to it and it’s great for removing multiple layers of paint when you need it. It also works on multiple surfaces, such as plastic, metal, brick, wood, and more, and it is 100% biodegradable so it’s easy to dispose of.
It also has the advantage of being a water-based paste. With paste strippers, you can get deep into recessed and carved items of furniture to ensure that you are getting ALL of the paint which you are looking to remove. While it is ideal for indoor use, you can certainly use it outdoors as well and since it comes in a 1-gallon container, you will have plenty to work with. According to the packaging, this means you’ll get about 50 square feet, but in my experience, it seems a little less.
That said, it’s still very much worth it.
When you use it, I highly recommend brushing it on liberally. Treat it like cake frosting and you can strip off multiple layers in one go. This stuff is strong and it will get the job done.
If you want a professional-grade paint stripper that’s good for DIY or for contracted work, then Sunnyside Multi-strip might be the best paint remover option for you! This paint remover works quickly, with a thin application of the product being ample enough to remove 3 or 4 layers of paint and it works a little more quickly than most.
Generally after about half an hour it starts eating that paint aggressively and it should devour oil and water-based paints, urethanes, and 2-part epoxies with ease. Since it goes on thickly, you can also apply it to vertical surfaces and this is definitely a bonus. Just be sure that you are using your safety gear and that you’ve lined the area below because it will start working fast and you don’t want a mess.
For the record, it is advertised as a ‘no-drip’ formula, but as I haven’t used it on vertical surfaces experience has taught me to prepare for potential messes anyways. Just use your best judgement.
Sunnyside Multistrip is good for both interior and exterior use, just make sure there is proper ventilation, and it may be used on a number of surfaces, including concrete, plaster, wood, metal, and more. It can remove up to 15 layers of paint, so it’s definitely up to most tasks, and each container is good for 60 to 100 feet of coverage.
My favorite thing about this product is that it doesn’t dry quickly, so you can put it and leave it on overnight if you like. It keeps working and saves you a lot of time!
Max Strip paint and varnish remover
Another eco-friendly option on our list is this Max Strip paint and varnish remover. While a lot of paint strippers use NMP and Methylene Chloride, this paint and varnish remover doesn’t employ them. The formula that they do use is still effective and you can even use it without gloves!
Did I mention that it also smells good? If you use paint stripper a lot then you know how long it typically takes for that smell to go away, but Max Strip actually has a pleasant smell to it and that’s just another
“Max Strip actually has a pleasant smell to it”
one of the reasons that this is one of the best paint remover options on the market.
This no-drip gel formula is easily removed with water and may be applied to a number of surfaces, such as fiberglass, clothing, marble, carpet, glass, metal, wood, laminate, and more. For this reason, it’s a great all-purpose paint remover to have on hand.
It does come with some caveats, however, one of which being that it dries fairly quickly. With that in mind, I recommend that you don’t use it anywhere near sunlight. It also is not as aggressive as some of the paint removers on our list, so it’s a bit of a trade-off if you want to go the eco-friendly route.
Since it works on so many surfaces and smells good, however, I keep 2 quarts in the garage as a sort of ‘DIY preventative-maintenance’ option for cleanup after a particularly busy day of painting.
For that reason, I love this stuff, but you’ll have to give a try to see what you think.
One of the best, if not THE best of the eco-friendly options is this Citristrip gel for paint and varnish removal. Made in the good ol’ U.S. of A, don’t let the ‘eco-friendly’ label fool you… this stuff really works, staying active for up to 24 hours after application. Despite this aggressive and useful behavior, it’s still 100% biodegradable and non-toxic to boot. It doesn’t really have much of a scent to it either, so it’s good for indoor or outdoor use.
Citristrip will remove oil and latex-based paints, lacquer, shellac, polyurethane and varnish from masonry, metal, wood, and more. It works fast, too, and in my experience, you can just apply it, wait an hour, and give it a good scrubbing with a plastic-bristle brush. You’ll be surprised how many layers it will eat through in such a minimal time.
It’s good stuff.
Now, the ‘Citristrip’ name seems to imply that it should smell like citrus fruits, but I want to make it clear that it does NOT. It smells like paint stripper, but the scent is very mild. That said, it works a treat without a lot of harsh chemicals so if you are attentive to your own environmental footprint then this non-harsh, non-toxic alternative might be a good fit for your DIY projects.
Sunnyside 2-minute remover
Sometimes you’re in a hurry and in those cases, having some Sunnyside 2-minute paint and varnish remover on-hand will make you a happy person indeed. This stuff is amazing, frankly, and really does start doing it’s job in the advertised 2 minutes (up to 10 for heavily layered paints).
Despite this, it doesn’t use harsh chemicals like Methylene Chloride, and a little goes a long way. You get about 100 square feet of coverage per quart, though personally I apply it on thickly and count on about 25 feet of coverage.
Sunnyside is a good fit for masonry, wood, or metal paint-removal jobs and while I prefer their original formula, the current breed of Sunnyside paint and varnish remover is still very good at its job. So, if you want to have something on-hand for when you are in a rush or simply want to get to the projects that are more fun, then you might consider putting some Sunnyside away for when you need it.
DIY Paint Stripper recipes
The nice thing about being the do-it-yourself type is that you don’t actually have to buy a lot of your gear. You can simply consult the old brain-bank and whip up what you need from scratch! To that effect, I’ve got some old-school DIY recipes that will get that paint off and save you a little cash in the bargain (which you can, of course, funnel into other projects… Don’t act like you won’t!).
In the section below you’ll find some useful alternatives to buying commercial paint stripper, just be sure to write down a recipe or two and this information might just come in handy when you’ve got paint to remove and no time to run to the store.
Lye and corn starch
It doesn’t get more ‘old school’ than lye. This stuff has been used for a long, long time for removing paint and it will even eat glue, so you are well-advised to use gloves if you decide to go the lye-route because this chemical doesn’t fool around. It WILL burn your skin if you don’t, so be sure to only use this with your safety gear on.
Lye is still around, but you’ve got to ask for it by its proper name, which is Sodium Hydroxide. You’ll also want to get some corn starch for this recipe and a large, heat-resistant bucket. You can mix it up with the following steps and measurements to take advantage of the best paint remover from the old days:
- Pour 2 gallons of water into your heat-resistant bucket.
- Mix in 1 cup of Sodium Hydroxide and 1 cup of corn starch.
- Stir it with a wooden spoon or a handy stick to mix well.
- Your lye is ready to use. You can apply it right away and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
Now just go after that paint with a scraper and it should slough right off. Don’t forget your gloves, of course, as this stuff is really caustic and when you’ve gotten the paint off, clean it with a little vinegar and water and allow the treated surface to dry.
This DIY paint remover is good for your clothing and for your carpet. It gets the job done and it’s a lot safer than going the bleach route, plus it’s something that you almost always have in the house.
If you want to remove some paint with Hydrogen Peroxide, just use the following steps:
- Dampen the area with a wet washcloth and some warm water. Be sure to get the affected area as well as a little surrounding area.
- Using a spoon, dish out some Hydrogen Peroxide on the painted area and stir it up a bit to get it in the fabric or carpet nice and thoroughly.
- Let it sit for about an hour (or 2 if it’s a pretty vicious stain) and then go at it first with a soft plastic-bristle brush and a damp towel.
- Repeat as-needed.
Liquid Laundry detergent
While it’s not going to tackle most paint problems, liquid laundry detergent is a great way for removing paint from things like doorknobs or for cleaning your tools. To do this, you’ll want to mis about ¼ cup of liquid laundry detergent into a standard-sized bucket of cold water and mix it up thoroughly.
If you are cleaning a doorknob, then remove the knob, and then place it (or whatever other metal item you are cleaning) into the bucket and let it soak for 20 – 30 minutes. After that, scrub the items down with a toothbrush and as long as it’s a minor paint-removal job then the liquid detergent should work a treat.
This method isn’t good for walls or even your floor, but for metal tools it will work a treat. The detergent soak helps to degrade the paint slightly, but usually enough for effective scraping and abrasive removal.
“This method won’t be suitable for rust-prone tools”
This method won’t be suitable for rust-prone tools (hey, there are still some out there), but if you are worried you can always dry and oil them thoroughly afterwards just to cover all your bases.
Vinegar is the easiest DIY paint remover to prepare because it only consists of itself! That’s right, without mixing it with anything, Vinegar can do all sorts of things. You can kill weeds, clean glass, and yes, it will take off paint.
The trick to using it for paint removal is simple. We’ve got to heat it up!
Use the following steps to ‘weaponize’ your Vinegar for paint removal:
- Measure out half a cup of vinegar and pour it into a microwave-safe container. You can do it on the stove too, but pre-heat the burner if you do.
- Microwave or stove-heat your vinegar, but NOT to boiling. We don’t want it to evaporate, we just want to get it hot and hungry for your paint.
- Soak up the warm vinegar liberally into a handy sponge and saturate the painted surface that you are looking to clean.
- Let it sit for an hour (or 2 for good measure) and then give the paint a few ‘test-scrapes’ to see if it has weakened enough for removal. If it hasn’t, repeat the saturation process another 2 or 3 times as-needed with new, fresh, and hot vinegar. That should do the trick nicely.
It’s a slow process, but the best paint remover doesn’t have to be the fastest if you are the patient type. Vinegar has the advantage of being handy and cheap, so keep this hack in mind when you need to remove a spot of paint and don’t feel like visiting the store. You might find it quite useful in a pinch.
Sodium Bicarbonate and Flour
Sodium Bicarbonate, also known as ‘washing soda’, is another handy paint remover that you can whip up easily and you also have a few different recipes for doing so, depending on your needs. It also works on floors and walls, by the way, so I think that you’re going to like this recipe.
What you’ll need is basically flour, water, and washing soda. Mix 2/3 cup of flour with warm water until it takes on a pasty consistency, then add in just under 1 cup of washing soda that has been dissolved in cold water.
You’ll end up with a gel that is great for DIY paint removal and it only takes a few minutes to make, with inexpensive ingredients to boot!
To use this, apply it to the area that you want to strip and leave it on for an hour. You’ll want to fill a water sprayer with some cold water, so that you can lightly spray it every 10 to 15 minutes to keep it moist while it does its work. After that, go after your newly-softened paint with a scraper and for best results, clean the area with a mix of vinegar and water.
I think that you will love the results!
Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Borate, and Ammonia
The last DIY paint removal solution that I’ve got for you is also the most heavy-duty (with the possible exception of Lye). The chemicals involved are dangerous, so if you want to use this recipe then make sure that you only mix it outdoors. It’s a great paint remover for walls and floors, but this is a very aggressive mix, so you need to mix and use it carefully with your goggles, gloves, and facemask. You don’t want to get this on your skin, trust me on that.
Now that we’ve gotten that warning out of the way, you can mix this paint remover up with the following steps:
- Measure out your Sodium Borate (also known as Borax!), Washing soda, and Ammonia into 3 equal, separate portions.
- Mix them in up in a plastic bucket along with 8 cups of water. This should be cold water, not warm.
- Once thoroughly mixed, apply it to the surface where you want to remove paint. This works on many kinds of surfaces, even brick, but you’ll need to leave it on for about 30 minutes to one hour to get the best results.
- Scrub the treated surface with steel wool (and your gloves on!) and the paint should strip right away!
Now you’re ready to decide the best paint remover for you!
This concludes my article on commercial and DIY paint strippers that you can use for those pesky paint-removal scenarios that come up more often than most of us would like! If you stock up on some cheap ingredients, you can make your own paint stripper, but if you prefer to simply buy some commercial brand then I’m confident that you’ll enjoy the brands that I’ve listed for you today.
Whether you make it yourself of purchase it, you should now be well-prepared to strip that paint and give your project that signature look which is all your own!