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, you'll discover:

  • How to remove paint from wood with a paint stripper
  • What to look for when buying a paint stripper for wood
  • Our top paint strippers for wood picks

And much more!

Top 5 Best Paint Strippers For Wood (2020 Review)
Image Product

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Citristrip Paint And Varnish Stripping Gel
  • Citrus scent
  • No harsh fumes
  • Strips multiple layers
  • Citrus scent
  • No harsh fumes
  • Strips multiple layers
View on Amazon

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MAX Strip Paint And Varnish Stripper
  • No ventilation needed
  • Skin-safe
  • No MEP or NMP
  • No ventilation needed
  • Skin-safe
  • No MEP or NMP
View on Amazon

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Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover
  • Biodegradable
  • Water-based
  • Odorless
  • Biodegradable
  • Water-based
  • Odorless
View on Amazon

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Peel Away 1 Heavy-Duty Paint Remover
  • Powerful
  • Removes many layers
  • Great on wood
  • Powerful
  • Removes many layers
  • Great on wood
View on Amazon

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Sunnyside Back to Nature Multi-Strip
  • Environmentally-safe
  • Biodegradable
  • Gentle on old wood
  • Environmentally-safe
  • Biodegradable
  • Gentle on old wood
View on Amazon

Our Overall #1 Rated Pick

(updated 6/15/2020)

Citristrip's paint and varnish stripping gel takes our top overall top pick. 

It's perfect for indoor use as it doesn't emit any noxious chemicals such as methylene chloride. It sticks like honey to vertical surfaces, in some cases making plastic wrapping unnecessary. 

Its gel-like texture spreads easily and is a breeze to use. It's priced right and is tough enough to tackle lead paint.

On paint that isn't very old, Citristrip has the ability to blast through up to three paint layers in one application.

Keep reading to learn more about paint strippers like Citristrip and how they are used on wood surfaces.

Top 5 Best Paint Strippers For Wood

In a hurry? Check out our top five paint strippers for removing paint from wood! Keep reading to discover more about our top picks.

  1. Citristrip Paint And Varnish Stripping Gel
  2. MAX Strip Paint And Varnish Stripper
  3. Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover
  4. Peel Away 1 Heavy-Duty Paint Remover
  5. Sunnyside Back to Nature Multi-Strip

How Does Removing Paint From Wood With Paint Stripper Work?

When used correctly, paint stripper takes off multiple layers of paint at once.

Plus, it's faster and easier than sanding.

This approach works best on old paint that's been dry for many years. 

Of course, there are countless paint removal methods. For wood, though, a paint stripper is definitely your first and best strategic move.

Paint stripper begins to work by penetrating the dried layers of paint. Then, it seeps deeper and creates separation between the old paint and the original wood surface. 

Sometimes your old paint will bubble up. Other times, it will fall right off. And in some cases, you'll have to take a little elbow grease to it with a scraper after your material has set.

After reading this guide, you'll be ready to remove old paint from wood using various types of paint strippers.

Read More >> How Do You Remove Paint From Brick?

What To Consider When Choosing A Paint Stripper For Wood Surfaces

Paint strippers, in general, tend to earn lower customer reviews across the board, compared to many other home improvement and DIY product categories.

Many negative ratings for paint strippers result from improper application or misuse of the product. Each situation is unique, and although we all might wish it were otherwise, there is no magic super remover that works in every situation. 

The most important thing to have going into this is a broad understanding of the task at hand. 

You'll want to know how to prep, what some best practices are, and at the end, how to properly dispose of any waste material.

Safety Considerations When Using A Paint Remover On Wood

Proper safety practices keep everyone smiling. Celebrate a paint stripping success by staying safe throughout.

Here are the basic health and safety materials to have on hand:

If you need some encouragement to wear a proper respirator, here is a CDC report explaining exactly how MEP inhalation has potential fatal outcomes. Always have proper ventilation and always use a respirator!

How To Prepare For Stripping Paint From Wood

We did most of the heavy lifting for you: Our top three picks all are incredibly mild formulas that have a far, far lower toxicity level than most paint strippers.

Regardless, wear chemical-resistant gloves whenever safety procedures for a given product call for them.

Supplies

You'll need these basics to get started stripping paint off wood:

  • Paint stripper material
  • 2 1/2" putty knife
  • Plastic sheeting

Prep your work area

Prep for using a paint stripper on wood is, thankfully, rather straightforward. 

It's like a paint job prep without brushes, paint, and rollers. 

The first step is that you'll want to set up plastic or cloth drops beneath your work area. 

These will catch any wet or dry debris that may fall off during application. Additional material may also come loose and fall off while it sets and the dry bits that fall when you peel or scrape off the material will all go onto your plastic drop.

Once again, just like a paint project, have that damp rag handy. You'll use this for cleaning your paint scraper when it becomes inundated with material.

Of course, be sure to always wear safety glasses and protective chemical resistant gloves.

Read More >> How Do You Clean An HVLP Spray Gun?

Did you know: Most paint strippers are made with a combination of acetone, toluene, and methanol. These chemicals evaporate quickly, but they're also highly flammable, so use with caution!

Techniques For Using A Paint Stripper On Wood

The actual paint stripper application process is also rather intuitive. 

Simply slather it on like peanut butter on a sandwich, except perhaps a little bit thicker.

Once the entire area is covered, if your product calls for it, apply plastic sheeting.

Plastic Sheeting Top Layer

Have a look at Amazon reviews for even the best paint strippers, and you'll find some customers complaining that the paint stripper didn't remove the paint at all, or that it wasn't easy, or effective.

Read their reviews carefully and you'll notice that many of these customers did not apply plastic on top of their paint stripper. They're leaving out a crucial step.

Cover the still-wet paint remover with plastic. That will keep it from totally drying out, while it continues to permeate paint layers.

The same material typically used for a plastic drop cloth when painting also is an excellent material to use when stripping paint. 

Specifically, you might do well with a roll of 3.5mm plastic drop.

After the recommended amount of setting time, usually around 30-40 minutes, it's time to peel back the plastic and scrape off that goopy material with your scraper.

The huge sigh-of-relief moment comes when you see that fresh old wood that had been hiding under those layers upon layers of old, crusty paint and shellac.

Way better than sanding with sandpaper, these non-caustic paint strippers are fast, effective, and way better for your health than breathing in harsh chemicals.

Now that the task is laid before you, it's time to actually choose a product and try it for yourself!

Read More >> What Are The Best Paint Sprayers For Walls?

Our Reviews Of The Best Paint Strippers For Wood

Citristrip's non-caustic paint stripper earns our top nod because of its effectiveness on wood.

Whether taking paint off an old stair railing or off the side of a barn, it does the trick. 

Apply a generous layer, let it sit for several hours, then wipe it off. There's not much to it!

When stripping many layers of century-old paint this solution may be less effective, so a fair forewarning on that.

Also, take note: You'll need gloves made of butyl rubber, such as these LANONs, for use with this formula.

It contains N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects. 

Some also have complained about the smell, saying it doesn't quite have that tangy orange aroma they expected.

Pros

  • Citrus scent
  • No harsh fumes
  • Strips multiple layers

Cons

  • Mild odor
  • Slow removal

Chemical paint strippers are plain nasty and that's why we've tried to exclude them at all costs from this review.

Enter the MAX Strip Paint and Varnish Stripper. With this we've selected another product that does not have any MEP or NMP as an active ingredient.

Those are toxic chemicals that make prep a chore and expose you and those present to unnecessary respiratory risks. 

Another really nice benefit of MAX Strip is its usefulness in stripping paint off antique woods.

Be mindful that, although the manufacturer does state that no special ventilation is required, it couldn't hurt to keep your work area well ventilated if the weather allows for it.

Pros

  • No ventilation needed
  • Skin-safe
  • No MEP or NMP

Cons

  • Weak on spray paint
  • Lackluster adhesion

Were it not for the premium price tag, this Smart Strip from Dumond Chemicals would take our overall best pick.

As effective as Smart Strip is, that may justify your extra few dollars' investment.

Dumond chemicals, maker of Smart Strip, boast that their 100% biodegradable paint stripper works on wood, stone, concrete, brick, plastic, glass, and metal surfaces. That's versatile.

It is really also quite good at cutting through multiple layers of paint, up to 15 at once! 

Be careful not to work in direct sunlight when using it though, it'll dry out too fast.

Pros

  • Biodegradable
  • Water-based
  • Odorless

Cons

  • Not for varnish
  • Too goopy

Heavy-duty oil-based paints call for a heavy-duty paint remover. 

That's why we recommend Peel Away 1 paint remover.

Each kit covers approximately 20 square feet. We do recommend that a heavy hand be used when applying the paste.

The suggested eighth-inch of thickness is the bare minimum amount that'll be effective.

Use a little thicker coating. It's better to use a little extra material and finish in one application, rather than to have to apply a second treatment.

Remember, Peel Away 1 is best suited for removing oil-based paints. To remove latex paints, try Citristrip or MAX Strip.

Pros

  • Powerful
  • Removes many layers
  • Great on wood

Cons

  • May darken hardwoods
  • Not for latex paint

Once again, here we are with Sunnyside's offering as another environmentally friendly paint stripper choice.

This one's quite effective on wood as well. 

This Back to Nature formula also happens to be biodegradable, so you can feel a little better about all those scrapings that get thrown out. 

The price isn't extraordinary, but it is a bit higher than the other's we've selected. 

Amazon shoppers, in their feedback, have reported that the value for your money on Sunnyside's paint stripper is rather good.

Fortunately, it is gentle on wood, despite making a bit of a gummy mess after it's doing its job. Messy and effective beats clean and ineffective, any day.

Pros

  • Environmentally-safe
  • Biodegradable
  • Gentle on old wood

Cons

  • Messy
  • Expensive

The Citristrip Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel is our overall top pick.

It works on varnish, and obviously on paint, but on paints of all ages, and of all types.

We're not alone in picking this brand either. It also happens to be the number one best selling paint stripper on Amazon as we create this report.

Sure it gets a little messy when all is said and done. That mess will be well worth it because this stuff works!

Check out the lowest price now on Amazon!

Final Thoughts on using Paint Strippers On Wood

Besides stripping paint with the various paint removal products we've suggested here, there are other methods.

In the case of wood, harsh abrasive tools like sandblasters and pressure washers are often too powerful.

You might try a lye treatment. It'll take one cup of lye power and one cup of corn starch mixed with two gallons of water.

Brush that on your painted wood, let it soak in five minutes, then go at it with a scraper. This could be done in a pinch if you actually happen to have lye power on hand, not as common an ingredient as it once was!

Read On >> Top 5 Best Heat Guns To Remove Old Paint 

Clean Up

Grab a heavy-duty contractor bag. You're going to throw out all your plastic drops with the removed layers of paint on them.

Start by folding in from the edges and sort of lifting the drop cloth as you go towards the center. That should create a little hill that the old paint can fall down towards the center.

Fold up the drops, put them in the contractor garbage bag and clean your scraper and you're about done.

If the mess was small, you could use your paint scraper to collect the old paint debris and sweep that into a dustpan rather than throwing out your plastic drop cloth, if it's in reusable condition.

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.

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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.

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