How to Remove Paint

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required
  • Screwdriver
  • 2-inch paint brush
  • Heat gun
  • Putty knife
  • Paint scrapers
Materials Required
  • Heavy (4-mil) plastic drop cloths
  • Paint remover
  • Steel wool or abrasive pad
  • After wash
  • Wood filler
  • Sandpaper and sanding block
  • Dust mask
  • Respirator
  • Safety goggles
  • Chemical-resistant rubber gloves
  • Work light
  • Window fan

Before You Begin

If you are not sure what kind of paint you have on the window (including all layers) and if the window was painted prior to 1980, you should test the paint for lead content with an easy-to-use lead paint test kit. For more information, call the National Lead Information Center at (800) 424-LEAD.

On newer windows it helps to know whether you have latex or alkyd- (oil-) based paint. To find out, rub it with alcohol. If color comes off on the cloth, it's latex. Latex is considerably more difficult to remove so you may want to either buy a stronger chemical stripper or have the window "dipped". For oil-based paints, you may want to use a slower-acting, but non-toxic stripper.

If you don't have the time or desire to tackle this job, you can find a painting contractor who has the skills and tools to do it right. Click Home Advisor, a free referral service that matches homeowners with local prescreened contractors.

  • Step 1 : Prepare the work area

    Spread a heavy (4-mil) plastic drop cloth covered with numerous layers of newspaper, (so you can roll it up and toss out when it gets dirty or messy) on the floor surrounding the window.

    Turn on a work light and place an exhaust fan in a nearby window to ensure a positive airflow (for fumes and dust control). Wear old clothes, chemical-resistant rubber gloves, goggles and, if using a toxic stripper, a tight-fitting paint respirator.

  • Step 2 : Remove the hardware

    Use a screwdriver to remove the window pulls and lock.

  • Step 3 : Apply chemical stripper

    Apply chemical stripper

    Brush a liberal coat of stripper over the entire surface. Use only one or two strokes to spread the stripper. Don't brush it out, as you would paint. Allow the chemical to work for the time specified, which can range from minutes to hours, depending on the product. The finish is ready to be removed when all or most of it is visibly bubbled and wrinkled. However, if after waiting much more than the specified time, and the paint has not bubbled, test to see if it is softened with a scraper. If not, you may need a stronger stripper or need to try another method, such as a heat gun or sanding.

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