How to Use Paint Stripper (5 Easy Steps)

Are you ready to remove paint using a paint stripper?

We've got your how-to info right here!

In this ProPaintCorner guide, you'll discover...

  • The 5 easy step process to use paint stripper 
  • What materials you'll need
  • Other considerations when stripping paint

And much more!

How to Use Paint Stripper (5 Easy Steps)

Most often, you'll find yourself reaching for some paint stripper when attempting to give a new life to a weathered and aged furniture item.

In most other cases, such as walls, trim, concrete, and brick, you can usually get away with a quick sand, prime, and re-paint strategy to refresh a surface.

Paint strippers are exceedingly useful when trying to paint an old drawer or cabinet that no longer operates properly due to the multiple layers of paint that have accumulated over the years.

This is where using a paint stripper is your move.

What Do You Need to Know About Using Paint Stripper?

Paint stripping can be a potentially dangerous task that absolutely requires a proper understanding of the materials, their application, and how to cleanup properly. 

You're going to want to invest in a quality respirator and pair of thick chemical-resistant rubber gloves. 

These will protect you from any adverse health effects that would result from direct exposure to these compounds. 

Read More >> What Are The Best Paint Strippers Out There?

Select by surface type

There are many paint strippers on the market and each specializes in their own particular uses. One formula may be best for use on wood, while another may be best suited for brick, metal, or concrete. 

Simply scan the product's label and any related product information when buying online and ensure that the product is designed for the specific surface type upon which you intend to apply it.  

Going vertical?

Apply stripper to a vertical surface? 

If so, then definitely select a paint stripper advertised to have a thicker consistency. This makes it stick better and will prevent running, dripping, and will save you valuable time that'd otherwise be spent cleaning up.

Stripping Paint Off Furniture?

On these sorts of delicate tasks, you really want to limit the thickness to prevent dripping. 

Do this by applying your paint stripper material starting from the top of the piece and going down covering the entire surface as you go. That will help in uniform coverage as well as drip prevention. 

Remove cabinet doors, drawers, and any hardware such as knobs and pulls and put them aside in a safe place. 

Lay your disassembled pieces flat and apply your material to them, complete the entire process, and once all surfaces have been scraped of their paint, return all hardware and reattach each piece to its original mounting point. 

Take It Outside

Space permitted, bring the piece you're stripping paint or varnish off of outside for the work. 

The heat from the sun will speed up the chemical process that occurs once the stripper is applied. 

Watch and learn

Here, Danielle Driscoll, a DIY YouTuber, shows in just under five minutes how easy it really is to apply and then subsequently remove paint stripper. 

She also discusses her take on the merits of using plastic sheeting.

Her paint stripper brand of choice is one that we've recommended many times on this site; CitriStrip. Click here to order it on Amazon.

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

Click here to check out our pro painter search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) painters in your local area.

Process Takes About 30 Seconds

Supplies You'll Need When Using Paint Stripper

Gather the following materials so that they're at hand as you follow this easy five-step guide.

  • A stiff-bristled wire brush
  • Paint stripper
  • Drop cloth
  • Plastic sheeting
  • An inexpensive paintbrush
  • Painter's tape
  • Very fine steel wool (optional)
  • Goggles
  • Putty knife or plastic scraper
  • Protective painter's gear (optional)

How to Use Paint Stripper (5 Easy Steps)

  1. Protective Gear
  2. Test
  3. Clean & Prepare
  4. Apply
  5. Clean Up

Step 1: Protective Gear

Before doing anything, put on your safety gear. 

This includes a respirator, safety glasses, and chemical-resistant gloves. 

The bare minimum list of protective gear that you'll want to wear working on this are the following:

  • Long-sleeve shirt
  • Goggles
  • Facemask or respirator
  • Nitrile gloves

See this CSPC guide on proper respirator use while using chemical paint strippers.

Step 2: Test

Once protected, you'll be using your cheap paintbrush to apply paint stripper on a small area of the larger surface.

Consult the remaining steps in this guide for applying and removing material from your test area only. After your see the intended outcome on your test area, you'll be ready to treat the rest. 

The goal is that the product removes the paint on your test area, without any undesirable effects, including discoloration.

Step 3: Clean and Prepare

Great, your test was a success. You saw that the product worked as advertised and you've even built some experience working with it. Now that you know it works, get ready to treat your entire surface.

Thoroughly wash the area that you're stripping. Be sure to rid it of any dust, loose paint particles, and dirt. 

This will open the pores in the painted surface up allowing paint remover to work down into the many layers of paint that have built up over the years.

You may opt to use some sanding method on the surface prior to stripping, but it certainly isn't necessary. 

There's no need to worry about anything cosmetic, at this stage, as that top layer is coming off anyway. 

The only point there would be to sanding the surface is to, once again, help it ventilate so that paint stripper may possibly penetrate deeper down into those layers of old paint.

Read More >> What Are The Best Heat Guns To Remove Paint With?

Step 4: Apply

Grab your plastic sheeting, paint stripper, putty knife, and your cheap paintbrush. 

Scoop stripper using your putty knife and begin to smear it onto the surface. Depending on your surface, you could also simply pour a little out of the container onto your surface to start.

Using your paintbrush, manipulate your coverage into a quarter-inch layer of material, spread evenly across the entire painted area that you're stripping.

If the material you've selected isn't that thick, it's ok. 

Also, remember, you're not painting as much as it may feel like the case. You're using your paintbrush to apply paint stripper

It doesn't have to be smooth, even, or pretty. It's all coming right back off anyway.

This cheap applicator brush is also getting thrown out after you're done. Cleaning it would not prove worth your while.  

Apply to the entire area, being sure that the stripper doesn't have enough time to dry before you cover it with sheeting. You may consider cutting your sheeting into 3ft. or smaller square sections for convenience, ease of application, and removal.

Step 5: Scrape and clean

Allow the plastic sheeting to remain on your surface for at least 30 minutes before attempting to pull it off. Once that time has elapsed, begin to carefully pull it back, ensuring that the plastic sheeting doesn't rip.

Ideally, you'll see somewhat-dried paint stripper coming off along with softened paint, leaving your bare surface exposed. 

Where old paint remains, scrape with your plastic paint scraper to loose those remaining painted areas. 

Should you find some of them too persistent, that's ok.

Simply go back to step one and repeat the process on those stubborn areas. 

Dousing the already scraped surface with mineral spirits could also loosen some of this remaining paint that's resisted your first treatment. 

You may also consider using that very fine steel wool mentioned above in the supply list. 

Keep in mind that this paint removal technique could create fine abrasions on the surface that may be challenging to remove later. 

Some form of steel wool is almost always necessary when removing paint from old furniture. 

It's great for getting into those decorative nooks and crannies that are commonly found carved into many antique wooden furniture pieces.

If you intend on sanding, refinishing, and applying new paint after stripping, then using this fine steel wool is absolutely a viable option. 

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

Click here to check out our pro painter search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) painters in your local area.

Process Takes About 30 Seconds

Other Considerations When Using Paint Stripper

Like many other DIY and basic home improvement tasks, this one ends up also being far easier than you believed possible. 

Here are a few additional pro-tips that we believe will aid you in accomplishing this task with ease.

Keep it separated

Firstly, don't apply the material directly from the main container.

Rather, pour your material into a smaller paint cup or a glass jar that you don't ever intend for food use. 

This separate container will serve as a means of keeping your product clean for the next time you need it.

That paint thinner in the separate container will be the only one that's exposed to fine debris that could get picked up during the application process.

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

RJ Parker

RJ Parker

My first job as a painter’s assistant at the ripe young age of 13 charted a path ahead in my life that would gravitate around painting. Now as a freelance handyman and writer, I paint both with the brush and with words. If I’m not edging-in trim or rolling on a top-coat, you might find me out in the fields tending to a flock of goats. Literally. No lie. Or, perhaps you may catch me engaged in my other favorite pastime, eating. It’s fair to say that I’ve painted outside the lines, so to speak, prior to finding my natural stroke. Now, these misadventures and mishaps that I’ve experienced don’t have to happen to you. My mission at ProPaintCorner is to continue painting remotely through the advice, inspiration, and confidence that I give to my readers.

Got A Paint Question? Ask Your Pro Painter!

Learn More Expert Paint Tips

Painting shouldn’t be this hard. Check out some of these other helpful guides to help you nail the perfect paint job!

How to Use Dispose of Paint Stripper (5 Easy Steps)

Are you ready to properly dispose of used paint stripper? Great news! We’re about to

Read More »
Top 5 Best Paint Strippers For Wood (2020 Review)

Are you looking for the best paint strippers for wood? Look no further! In this ProPaintCorner Review,

Read More »
Top 5 Best Heat Guns To Remove Paint (2020 Review)

Are you looking for the best heat guns for removing paint? We’ve got your back! In this

Read More »
Top 5 Best Paint Strippers (2020 Review)

Are you looking for an amazing paint stripper? You’ve come to the right place! In this ProPaintCorner.com

Read More »

Got Paint Questions? Search For In-Depth Answers Below!

RJ Parker

RJ Parker

My first job as a painter’s assistant at the ripe young age of 13 charted a path ahead in my life that would gravitate around painting. Now as a freelance handyman and writer, I paint both with the brush and with words. If I’m not edging-in trim or rolling on a top-coat, you might find me out in the fields tending to a flock of goats. Literally. No lie. Or, perhaps you may catch me engaged in my other favorite pastime, eating. It’s fair to say that I’ve painted outside the lines, so to speak, prior to finding my natural stroke. Now, these misadventures and mishaps that I’ve experienced don’t have to happen to you. My mission at ProPaintCorner is to continue painting remotely through the advice, inspiration, and confidence that I give to my readers.

About Pro Paint Corner

You’ve got painting questions. We’ve got the best painting answers from a network of seasoned painting pros.

Recently Published Guides