How to Use Paint Stripper (10 DIY Steps)

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Paint strippers are effective paint-removing compounds that can be used either as a cleaning agent or a stripping compound. There are tons of paint strippers out there spanning across various brands and manufacturers.

You can use paint strippers to get rid of paint stains, clean painting equipment, and strip finish from wood and other materials.  Paint strippers are usually chemical compounds that are made from different chemicals and solvents. 

However, as cool and effective as paint strippers are, they need some getting used to. If you haven’t used a paint stripper before or you don’t know how to use one, it’s best to find a professional to help you out. This is because so much can go wrong.

For starters, the striping compound usually produces some toxic fumes when it comes in contact with the paint. These fumes can prove dangerous if inhaled.

Also, paint strippers usually have a ratio for their application. If used wrongly, the stripper can damage the wood. So, how to use paint stripper? Well, let’s find out.

How to Use Paint Stripper?

Before using any paint stripping compound, the first thing to do is to read the instructions on the container or on the pamphlet that comes with the paint stripper.

While reading the instructions, you are checking for two things. The first is if the paint stripper is recommended for the surface you want to strip paint from and the second thing you are looking for is the guide on how to use the paint stripper.

There is a general way to use paint strippers but as you probably know, there are several brands and types of paint strippers out there

. Each with its drying time, recommended surface to be used on, specific instructions, and method of application. So in addition to the steps below, ensure to follow all the instructions indicated on the container of the paint stripper you buy.

The first thing before using a paint stripper is to:

Put on Your Safety Gear

Paint strippers are made from a mixture of chemicals, compounds, and solvents. The combination of these chemicals and their reaction when they come in contact with paint usually produce toxic fumes in the air.

If inhaled, these fumes can cause digestive and respiratory illnesses amongst others. So it’s best to use a pair of gloves, a pair of goggles, and breathing protection before handling a paint stripper.

Remove All Items on the Surface

After putting on your safety gear, you should remove all the items and attachments on the surface. If you want to strip the paint from a wall, you should remove items like the wall clock, frames, and the likes. If you want to strip paint from a door, you should remove the doorknob, handle, and so on. I’m sure you get the idea.

Clean the Surface

You need to get rid of any dirt and debris from the surface before you apply the paint stripper. If there is dust and other materials on the surface when the paint stripper is applied, the result might not be good. This is because the debris will prevent the stripping compound from coming in contact with the paint.

After you apply the paint stripper, you should use a knife or a putty knife to scrape the paint off the surface. Although, the paint stripper takes most of the paint off, you still have to scrape the paint that is left with a putty knife.

So ensure to clean the surface. You can use a brush or a vacuum to clean the surface. If the surface isn’t too dirty, you can use a rag to wipe the surface clean.

If it’s an outdoor surface, then you might want to wash the surface because dirt, dust, and grime would have accumulated on the surface. You can use detergent and warm soap to wash the surface. You can also use a soft brush and soapy water to scrub the surface.

The downside to washing the surface is that you will have to wait a few hours or a few days for the surface to get dry enough before applying the paint stripper.

Allow for Ventilation

Open all the doors and windows before applying the stripper. As stated earlier, paint strippers produce toxic fumes so you should allow proper ventilation in addition to putting on breathing protection.

If the item to be stripped can be carried outside, then you should do that. The weather and sunlight outside will speed up the chemical process of the paint stripper.

Allowing ventilation in the room will also allow the paint stripper to dry in time. In addition to allowing ventilation, you should also check the room’s humidity and temperature.

If the level of humidity is above fifty percent (50%), you shouldn’t use the paint stripper. The room temperature should also be between 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Use a Dropcloth or Plastic Sheet to Cover the Areas and Objects Around the Surface

Applying paint stripper is easy but it can be messy too. Use a drop cloth or a plastic sheet to cover the floor and other objects around the surface you want to strip paint from.

This prevents any excessive cleaning after. You can also use duct tapes to hold the drop cloth or plastic sheet firmly so it doesn’t shift or move out of place.

Apply the Paint Stripper

The next step is the most important. Paint strippers are usually applied directly from the container. There isn’t any need to mix or thin the stripper before using it.

Before you move on to the main surface, you can test the paint stripper on a small part of the wall first to see how it works. This prevents large-scale damages to the surface.

To apply the stripper, you can use a putty knife, a paintbrush, or even a roller. It all depends on which you are good with. For this guide, the putty knife is recommended.

Use a putty knife to scoop some paint stripping compound and apply it to the surface. After scooping the stripping compound, you should press it on the surface and not just apply it.

Don’t Apply Too Much

You also need to make sure that the stripping compound is applied correctly (thick but not too thick). If it is too thick, then it will take longer to dry.

Not to mention the fact that applying multiple coats of stripping compound on a surface will ruin the surface.

If you apply the stripper too light or not thick enough, then you will need to do a lot of cleaning because of runs and drips. Not to mention the fact that the stripping compound will not work well.

Apply Two Layers of Paint Stripper

The best way to apply the paint stripper is to apply two layers of the stripping compound. You should overlap the first coat with another. While applying the stripper, do so in one go. If you are using a paintbrush, apply the coat with one stroke of the brush.

Then overlap with another stroke. If you are using a roller, apply the paint stripper in one roll and then overlap with another.

Check the instructions on the paint stripper for the rules guiding the application of multiple coats of the paint stripper. Paint strippers require a time frame, usually about 10 minutes after applying the first coat before applying the second coat. Some paint strippers don’t require any time so you can add two to three coats almost immediately.

Scrape the Stripper Off

After the time stated by the manufacturer has lapsed, that means the paint stripper has done its magic. You should then use a scraper to scrape off the paint stripper and the paint below. After applying the paint stripper, a chemical reaction starts as the chemicals in the stripper come in contact with the paint.

The chemical reaction causes the paint to come off from the surface and then it is absorbed by the paint stripper. Then when you use the scraper to remove the dried paint stripper, the already absorbed paint comes along with it.

Remove The Paint Stains That Are Left

After scraping the paint stripper off the surface, you might still notice some stubborn paint stains that didn’t come off. You can easily use a putty knife or a scraper to remove these stubborn paint stains. If the paint doesn’t come off, you can apply the paint stripper again following the steps explained above.

When you are satisfied with the stripping result, you should clean the surface well and let it dry before refinishing it.

Some paint stripping compounds usually require the user to apply solvents like rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) or acetone to the surface to stop the chemical reaction of the paint stripper. You should also follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the disposal of the stripped paint.

Is Sanding Better Than Using Paint Strippers?

When it comes to removing material and finish from surfaces, there are often two ways to go about it. You can either sand or use a paint stripper. Primers usually go along with sanding so you can sand and then prime or use a paint stripper but which method is better?

Depends On The Material

The better method of removing finish or material depends on how much material you want to remove. If you want to remove the material or finish slightly, then sanding is okay.

Sanding is used to increase the adhesive qualities of the surface. It doesn’t remove much material or finish from the surface. Sanding only makes the surface slightly rough so the paint can stick better.

Sure you can use coarse sandpaper to remove multiple coats of finish but such sandpaper will damage the surface. You will most likely be removing more than just the finish from items like furniture if you use coarse sandpaper. Sanding is best suited for removing a light finish or just the top coat of a finish.

Related Read — How To Paint Rubber?

Depends On The Paint Stripper Type

Paint strippers on the other hand are used for one main thing and that is for stripping old paint and finish from surfaces. There are different types of paint strippers.

One thing they all have in common is that they can strip multiple coats of finish from any surface easily. So if you want to remove multiple coats of finish from a surface, using a paint stripper is the best.

Sanding can also be used if you want to use the same color that was previously on the surface. For instance, if you are retaining a brown kitchen cabinet with the same shade of brown, you can sand it.

Depends On Your Color Preference

However, if you want to use a different color or a lighter shade of color on a darker color, then it’s best to use a paint stripper to remove all the previous paint. If you use sandpaper for such a task, you will still notice the previous color underneath the new layer and that will just ruin the whole look.

Paint strippers also leave the surface smoother than sandpaper. The bottom line is if you want to remove multiple coats of paint or much material from a surface, you should use a paint stripper. But if you just want to remove small materials, you can use sandpaper.

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