Everything You Need To Know About Paint Stripping

As a contractor and remodeler I often get questions from people doing their own DIY project. Paint stripping just so happens to be on of the most frequent questions I get because homeowners tend to feel most comfortable doing painting projects on their own.

Here are the most frequent questions I get about paint stripping for wood projects.

What IS paint stripping?

Painting stripping is, traditionally, when you remove paint (or other finishes) from a surface. Paint stripper, interestingly enough, is also used to clean what is below the paint you are stipping. You do not have to use a “paint stripper” when stripping paint because sanding, scraping, and heat are just as effective. It really depends on the scope of the job/project.

Is stripping paint optional?

Paint stripper is not always required. If you can get a smooth and even surface from sanding the existing paint you don’t need to strip it all away. Also, some paints don’t require stripping, like “no-prep” paint or using a spray on primer and sanding away the gritty residue afterward. The trick is to understand what your consequences will be when you skimp on the prep work, if you are not experienced in painting then I would suggest stripping the old paint and starting fresh.

How do I strip paint from wood?

  1. Your very first step for stripping paint from wood is to read the directions for your paint stripper and always wear gloves.
  2. Apply the stripper to the old paint uniformly and let it sit until the paint starts to bubble. WORK ON SMALL SECTIONS AT A TIME!
  3. Take a plastic scraper to the bubbly paint and remove all the paint you can.
  4. Apply mineral spirits and scrub any remaining paint with a steel wool.
  5. When the paint is all gone, clean down the surfaces with mineral spirits.

What kind of solvent would you use?

When removing old paint Mineral Spirits is a must, but for strippers, it depends on the project. Most strippers are in liquid form, but if your project is vertical walls then you would need a stripper in gel or paste form. Try to avoid strippers that are advertised as “no rinse”. I like to use Citristrip Stripping Gel because it is versatile and it doesn’t smell awful.

How long will the process take?

The whole process shouldn’t take longer than 30 – 40 minutes depending on the scope of the job.

I’ve heard you have to de-neutralizing afterward, rubbing the surface with mineral spirits. What does this do? Is there a proper way to do it?

Rubbing the surface with Mineral Spirits is crucial for avoiding problems when sanding and staining later because the Mineral Spirits remove the stripper from the wood.

If you decide NOT to strip, but you still want to paint a wood surface that’s been previously painted, what should you do?

If you decide NOT to strip the paint from a wood surface you can either sand the old paint smooth or sand the old paint completely away and paint over it.

Can you just paint over it? Do you always need to sand the surface?

If you don’t have the time to strip or sand old paint there are other options. You can use a “no prep” paint or use a sandable primer, but with a sandable primer, you will still need to sand the primer smooth. Alternatively, if sanding is a headache for you because of the curves and crevasses of the project you can always use a Deglosser, aka “liquid sandpaper”, to scuff up the old paint enough to paint over it.

If you do sand it — what do you need to do? What kind of sandpaper do you need? Can you walk me through the steps?

  1. Prep the woodwork with soap and water.
  2. Buy a sanding block or sponge to make your life easier
  3. Sand paint with 180 grit sandpaper until it becomes dull. If you need to sand away paint globs then use a coarser grit paper like an 80 grit.

What about priming — is this always necessary?

Using a primer is not always necessary, but we always recommend using a primer because the job always comes out looking better and it is always better to cover all of your bases when investing time into a project.

You do NOT need a primer if…

  1. New coat matches the old coat
  2. The walls are clean
  3. You are using a paint + primer combo paint

You DO need a primer if…

  1. You are painting over a glossy coat.
  2. The surface is bare wood.
  3. You are changing the paint color from dark to light.

If you have any questions about your painting project be sure to ask them in the comments below!

Author Bio:

Blake, of Project Build Construction Group Inc, loves all things DIY and home improvement. When he isn’t working as a General Contractor for PBC Group Inc he enjoys honing in on his writing skills. Project Build is your Orange County Painters.


As an owner and writer at Decorating Buzz, Harris splits his time among looking at beautiful pictures, writing about home decor and home improvement.

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