What is the Best Paint Stripper for Wood? (2024)

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If you’re redecorating or remodeling your home, preparing furniture and wood floors is key, and that often includes stripping away old layers of paint. However, it’s crucial to choose the right paint stripper, as the wrong one can damage the wood.

To make your choice easier, I’ve put together a list of the best paint strippers for wood. These are products I trust to get a clean finish, minus the damage. Let’s dive into the details!

Premium Option
Dumond's Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover
Editor’s Choice
Smart 'n Easy's Citrus Paint and Varnish Remover Gel
Budget Option
MAX Strip All-purpose Remover
Dumond's Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover
Smart 'n Easy's Citrus Paint and Varnish Remover Gel
MAX Strip All-purpose Remover
• Effective on all types of surfaces
• Removes more than 15 layers of paint and other finishes
• No caustic chemicals
• Ideal for big projects
• Removes up to 15 layers of paint
• Effective on all types of wood
• Has no caustic chemicals
• Ideal for DIY projects
• Applicable to all types of surfaces
• Easy to use
• Removes multi-layers in single application
• No harmful fumes
Premium Option
Dumond's Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover
Dumond's Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover
• Effective on all types of surfaces
• Removes more than 15 layers of paint and other finishes
• No caustic chemicals
• Ideal for big projects
Editor’s Choice
Smart 'n Easy's Citrus Paint and Varnish Remover Gel
Smart 'n Easy's Citrus Paint and Varnish Remover Gel
• Removes up to 15 layers of paint
• Effective on all types of wood
• Has no caustic chemicals
• Ideal for DIY projects
Budget Option
MAX Strip All-purpose Remover
MAX Strip All-purpose Remover
• Applicable to all types of surfaces
• Easy to use
• Removes multi-layers in single application
• No harmful fumes

Reviews of the Top Paint Strippers for Wood

1. Smart 'n Easy's Citrus Paint and Varnish Remover Gel

The Smart N’ Easy Citrus Paint and Varnish Remover Gel is an excellent product that removes more than 15 layers of oil-based and latex paint in a single application. 

It’s non-toxic and has a pleasant citrus scent, so you can use it on surfaces inside your home without any worry.

I’ve tried and used it on various materials like wood, tile, concrete, metal, and masonry with great success. The paint starts to bubble and soften within minutes, and with a little sanding, it peels away cleanly.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

2. Dumond's Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover

Dumond is known for manufacturing revolutionary woodworking products, and their Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover did not disappoint. It removes more than 15 layers of tough paint in just 24 hours upon application.

It excels in efficiently removing paint from many surfaces, including wood, concrete, metal, tiles, brick, tiles, fiberglass, and more. You can use it indoors as it’s non-toxic and does not need to be neutralized after stripping. 

It is also very easy to apply using a spray applicator, paintbrush, or roller. For optimal results, though, I’d recommend giving it a full 48 hours before beginning the scraping process.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

3. MAX Strip All-purpose Remover

If you’re looking for an effective paint stripper that can also be used to clean spills, grease, grime, paint drips, glues, graffiti, and stickers residue on any type of surface, this all-purpose remover from Max Strip is the ideal choice. 

It effectively cleans dried and tough paint from wood, glass, metal, porcelain, granite, brick, marble, concrete, fiberglass, laminate, clothing, and carpets, among other surfaces. 

Another great feature about the Max Strip Strip All-Purpose Remover is it has lower volatile organic compounds (VOC) and is non-caustic compared to other paint strippers. Hence, it’s safer to use on indoor furniture.  

What I Like

What I Don't Like

4. Sunnyside Corporation 65664 Hi-Speed Ready-Strip Citrus Paint and Varnish Remover Gel

Next on this list is this Sunnyside Corporation 65664 Hi-Speed Ready, which works well and fast on various surfaces. After just two minutes of application, it removes three layers of paint on a wood surface. 

For those who are on a tight schedule and need a quick solution, I highly recommend this paint stripper. Its no-drip formula adds to the convenience, making it mess-free and straightforward to clean up.

And for those wary of the strong odors typically associated with paint strippers, this product is a breath of fresh air—literally. It’s scent-free and doesn’t rely on harsh chemicals.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

5. Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel

The Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel is effective in removing hard and dry latex or oil-based paint. But it also works well with shellac, polyurethane, varnish, and lacquer on wood, metal, and masonry surfaces. 

It remains active on surfaces for 24 hours, making removing more than five layers of paint easier in just 30 minutes. However, I suggest you wait one hour after the application to get the best results.

Safety-wise, this product is a safer alternative as it’s free from NMP and methylene chloride, which means no overwhelming fumes. However, I still highly recommend wearing proper gear when applying Citristrip as it may cause skin burns and respiratory irritation. 

For a comprehensive guide, we detail how to use CitriStrip stripping gels properly and effectively here!

What I Like

What I Don't Like

6. MAX Strip Paint and Varnish Stripper

This is another product by Max Strip that can remove tougher paints and varnishes on many surfaces. I typically use it for removing shellac, acrylic, latex, and polyurethane finishes. It has professional strength and quality at a very affordable price. 

The organic formula of MAX Strip Paint and Varnish Stripper does not contain chemicals or release harsh fumes, so it is eco-friendly and safer to use indoors or even in work areas with poor ventilation. 

However, you’ll find this difficult to work with when removing factory-finished surfaces, deck paintings, and baked coatings, like vehicle paint. But when it comes to wood, this is one of the best products I highly recommend.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

7. Goof Off FG900 Paint Splatter Remover for Hardwoods

The Goof Off FG900 Paint Spltter Remover for Hardwoods is popular among DIYers and professional woodworkers due to its efficiency in removing tougher paints on different types of hardwoods. 

You’ll only need a few minutes to let it stay on the surface, and then you can easily scrape the paint off the hardwood without damaging it. It works great on horizontal surfaces like floors. 

While you can use it on vertical spaces like walls, you’ll need to sand first before repainting. Also, you’ll find this paint remover a bit pricey, so you’ll need to pay more for big projects. 

What I Like

What I Don't Like

4 Types of Paint Strippers

There are many factors you must consider in choosing the best paint stripper for wood. Below are the things you must keep in mind when buying a paint stripper ideal for your project. 

Biochemical Paint Strippers

This type of paint stripper is a combination of organic compounds like NMP and plant-based solvents, such as terpenes extracted from citrus and pine. 

If you’re looking for a safer paint stripper, biochemical paint is a safe alternative to caustic and solvent strippers. 

You can use it on different surfaces, such as wood, concrete, and metal. However, one of its downsides is it takes a longer time to varnish and strip paint. 

Although they have lower Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) and harmful fumes, their NMP content is hazardous if inhaled and may cause respiratory and reproductive problems. While skin exposure to NMP may cause severe irritation. 

Therefore, wearing protective gear, such as a mask, goggles, and gloves, is necessary when working with it.

Caustic Paint Strippers

These are water-based solutions with high pH and are considered alkaline. They contain an active ingredient known as lye, which consists of potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide. 

Essentially, lye transforms dried paint or mostly the paint film’s oily part into soap, helping to loosen up the paint on the wood surface. 

Its only disadvantage is it’s highly hazardous and can cause skin burns and lung irritation. So, wipe down the wood surface with water and vinegar solution to effectively neutralize its high pH level. 

Solvent Paint Strippers

Solvent strippers utilize toxic chemicals to soften the paint and completely remove it from the wood surface. Most solvents contain methylene chloride with higher VOC content. While some solvent products have higher alcohol, acetone, and methanol content. 

This mixture works more efficiently, causing the coats to bubble up, soften instantly, and remove several paint layers in one application. After stripping the coating, you do not need to neutralize the surface, as solvents have lower pH levels. 

However, they release strong fumes that are more hazardous compared to other paint strippers. These fumes from the paints are highly flammable and may cause brain damage if inhaled. So, always wear high-quality protective gear when working with solvent paint. 

Zero-VOC Paint Strippers

For a paint stripper that’s both safe and free of strong odors, I’d recommend zero-VOC strippers. These are specifically formulated without NMP, methylene chloride, or lye, making them a less hazardous choice for your stripping projects.

They are safer because they do not contain harmful chemicals and volatile organic compounds. 

You can use zero-VOC to remove paint on wood, metal, and concrete. But they are less effective and may take three to four days to work, significantly longer than paint strippers with VOC. 

Paint Strippers for Wood: Buyer’s Guide

Surface Material

When choosing the paint stripper ideal for your project, an essential factor you must consider is the type of surface material you will use it on. 

Remember that paint strippers are manufactured for certain surfaces, and they may not work on other types of material. So, take note of the type of paint stripers depending on your project’s surface material. 

Solvent

I recommend using solvents to remove paint on wood, metal, and masonry surfaces as they work better on these materials.

Zero-VOC

If you’re looking for a paint stripper that has no toxic chemicals but also works well with wood, metal, and masonry, I suggest you use zero-VOC formula. 

Biochemical

This is an excellent choice for surfaces including metal, wood, and masonry.

Caustic

This paint stripper works efficiently on masonry surfaces, including your brick fireplace and concrete floors

Safety

When working with paint strippers, you need more precautions on some products as they are more harmful while some are less toxic. 

protective gears

Therefore, you must wear appropriate gear when working with these products to avoid health hazards that they may cause, such as the following:

Solvent

This paint stripper can cause reproductive problems and brain damage.

Zero-VOC

While it is less toxic, it may still cause lung problems and skin irritations. 

Biochemical

You may encounter breathing difficulties or severe skin burns when working with biochemical paint strippers.

Caustic

Despite being less harmful, caustic products can still irritate your eyes and skin and may cause lung problems if inhaled. 

Application Method

Yes, the application method for paint strippers can vary significantly depending on the type you’re using. So, I always stress the importance of adhering to the instructions provided on the product’s label.

It also indicates the recommended thickness of layer application to scrape the paint effectively. Generally, below are the application methods of different types of paint strippers.

Solvent

You must apply a thin layer of solvent, preferably 1/8 inch or less. It will only take a few minutes before the paint starts to bubble up, then you can remove it from the surface.

Zero-VOC

Meanwhile, zero-VOC products must be applied in 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness, then allow the strippers to stay on the surface for 24 hours before scraping the paint. 

Biochemical

The biochemical stripper must also be applied in 1/8 to 1/4-inch layer thickness, then let it stay on the surface for three to four hours before you remove the paint.

Citristrip Stripping Gel applied on wooden table

Caustic

For caustic products, you must apply them at 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness, then allow them to stay on the surface for 24 hours before you scrap the paint. 

VOC

VOCs contain toxic chemical formulas, such as NMP and methylene chloride. They are highly hazardous to your health, especially when inhaled or got contact with your skin. 

So, I suggest you choose a paint stripper that has no or less VOC content for your projects to avoid health complications. 

Solvent

Solvent products have high VOC content.

Zero-VOC

Zero-VOC products do not have VOC and are safer to use.

Biochemical

Biochemical products have low VOC content and are safer than solvent products

Caustic

Caustic products also have lower VOC content than solvent products.

Using the Best Varnish and Paint Remover in 4 Steps

Once you’ve chosen the best paint stripper for wood for your project, I’ll now outline and detail the steps, tools, and materials to help you finish your project efficiently:

Materials/Tools You’ll Need

Step #1: Do the Preparations

Stripping paint can be a challenging and messy job. So, before you start working, cover your furniture and floor with plastic, kraft paper, or rosin. 

preparing work area

Open all the windows and doors for better air circulation. Clean the wood surface to remove dust and debris.  Ensure to wear your protective gear properly.

Step #2: Start Applying the Paint Stripper

Ensure to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and follow the recommended application process. The tools you will use depend on the type of surface and stripper. 

Shake and mix your paint stripper before applying them. You may use a paint roller, spray applicator, or brush to apply the stripper evenly on the wood surface. 

Step #3: Remove the Paint Using a Scraper

Once the paint bubbles up, gently scrap it with the manufacturer’s recommended tool for the paint stripper you’re using. Some paint strippers may not thoroughly remove the paint in one application, so you must redo the process.

Step #4: Tidy Up and Neutralize

You must remove the old paint residue completely before you apply the new layer of paint. Some paint strippers must be neutralized first to remove the toxic chemicals and balance the pH level. 

I suggest you refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to neutralize and clean the surface. Finally, allow the surface to dry before using it. 

removing Citristrip Stripping Gel

Safety Tips To Consider When Using Paint Strippers

1. Always Protect Yourself

Your safety is at most importance. So, ensure that you follow all the safety precautions. Before you start working, read the container label of the paint stripper and follow the instructions properly. 

Always wear high-quality protective gear like masks, google, and gloves, especially when working with toxic paint strippers

2. Ensure Good Ventilation

Ensure to open the doors and windows of your workshop. If you’re working on a fixed item inside the hose, put an electric fan near the window or by the door to blow out the toxic fumes. 

3. Work Outside

As much as possible, work in an open space. If you are stripping paint off a moveable item, take it outside. This will avoid contaminating the indoor air and risking the health of the household members. 

ventilation system

4. Don’t Forget to Protect Your Floor

If you’re working on walls or furniture inside your house, you must put a durable chemical-resistant tarp on other furniture and the floors to protect them properly. 

5. Don’t Eat or Drink While Working

You must keep drinks and food away from your workshop. Before you eat or drink, ensure that you properly wash your hands. 

Also, if chemicals got contact with your skin or your eyes, wash them off with clean running water immediately.

6. Have Some Break

If you suffer any breathing problems, nausea, headaches, and dizziness while working with chemical paint strippers, immediately stop working and get fresh air. 

paint stripped with MAX Strip Paint & Varnish

I suggest you take 10 minutes break intervals and step away from your workspace to get fresh air. 

7. Be Aware of the Fire Caution

As most paint strippers are flammable, you must keep away anything that may cause fire from your work areas, such as cigarettes, lighters, and candles.

8. Be Patient

If you use safer and less toxic paint strippers, expect that they work slower and require a longer time to fully remove the paint. 

You may need to reapply them as they won’t work in a single application. So, you must have enough patience to finish the job successfully. 

9. Get Help or Assistance

If you’re not familiar with using chemical paint strippers, it is important to seek professional help to avoid any hazards the toxic chemicals may cause to you and your environment.

paint stripping MAX Strip All Purpose Remover

10. Always Protect Your Surrounding

Paint strippers are highly hazardous to your surroundings and may harm your plants and pets around the work area. So, you must cover the plants and flowers near your work area and ensure that your pets will not go near while you’re working. 

11. Know the Proper Disposal

Lastly, once you’re done working, ensure that empty containers and waste materials are put in a proper bag and discard them in a hazardous chemical disposal site in your area.

FAQ

What removes paint from wood fast?

The solution that removes paint from wood fast is the caustic paint stripper. It is also suitable for removing the heavy and thick layers of paint on many types of surfaces, such as wood, metal, stone, and plaster. 

What is an alternative to CitriStrip?

The alternative to CitriStrip is the Orange-Peel. It contains orange extracts and other bio-degradable ingredients that are safe and effective on wood, masonry, and metal. But it must not be used on rubber, plastics, asphalt, and synthetic fibers.

How do you strip paint without damaging wood?

To strip paint without damaging the wood, ensure that the paint has softened and bubbled up before stripping it off. If you scrape the paint sooner, you may need to reapply the paint stripper. But if you wait too long, the stripper may harden and will be difficult to scrape. 

What’s the strongest stripping paint solution?

The strongest stripping paint solution is CitriStrip paint and varnish stripping mixture. It has no VOC content and works effectively on different types of varnishes and paints. This paint stripper has a citrus scent and can be applied on various types of surfaces. 

Will paint strippers damage fabrics?

No, paint strippers will not damage fabrics. In fact, many paint strippers can be used to wash off paint stains from clothes and fabrics. But they may leave an unpleasant and strong smell on the fabric. 

Do paint strippers go bad?

Yes, paint strippers can go bad once you unsealed them and left them unused. Although they do not necessarily have an expiration date, you should reseal them properly to avoid contamination. 

What’s the best alternative way to remove paint from wood?

The best alternative way to remove paint [1] from wood is by using sandpaper and a heat gun. Ensure that the heat gun is on a lower setting to avoid burning the wood. It may take longer, but the heat will soften the paint, then you can scrap it with sandpaper. 

More articles for you

My Top Pick For a Paint Stripper for Wood:
Smart 'n Easy's Citrus Paint and Varnish Remover Gel

After testing different paint stripper products, the Smart ‘n Easy’s Citrus Paint and Varnish Remover Gel has beaten the rest. 

This is the best paint stripper for wood due to its effectiveness in removing many layers of tough paint in a single application. Although it’s a bit pricey, it’s easy and safe to use on many types of surfaces.   

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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