Does Vinegar Remove Paint From Wood? — Steps, Precautions, Alternatives

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Without clear and comprehensive information on vinegar’s removal and cleaning capabilities, you risk causing irreparable damage to your wooden surfaces, resulting in costly repairs or even the need to replace the entire wood.

So in this article, our woodworkers and researchers will explain if vinegar does remove paint from wood and whether or not it’s a solution worth pursuing.

About Vinegar: Removing Paint From Wood And How It Works

Vinegar is a solution made up of acetic acid and water that is commonly used for a variety of household tasks. 

Its versatility makes it a popular choice for cleaning, filtering, and creating DIY cleaning solutions to remove tough and stubborn stains and substances that may be stuck on surfaces around the home.

Perhaps you’re curious about how vinegar can effectively remove paint from wood and whether it can replace commercial paint strippers. 

white vinegar

To be clear, vinegar is one of the natural paint strippers, but it doesn’t function in the same way as commercial paint strippers. Instead, vinegar softens the rigid and stubborn paint stains and patches, causing the bonds to decompress. (More of the best paint strippers here!)

As the paint starts to lose stiffness and soften, it can be easily scraped off with gentle yet firm strokes to avoid damaging wooden surfaces. 

Why Opt for Vinegar Over Commercial Paint Strippers?


Compared to standard paint strippers, vinegar is a more cost-effective option. Purchasing a can of paint stripper can be expensive. In contrast, vinegar is a common and inexpensive kitchen ingredient readily available. 


Vinegar is considered an eco-friendly paint stripper due to its natural properties and minimal impact on the environment.

It is also a non-toxic and biodegradable alternative to many chemical-based paint strippers, reducing potential harm to human health and the environment. 

Ease of Use

Vinegar is remarkably convenient. It is a user-friendly and straightforward product that is easy to use and suitable for on-the-go paint cleaning from the surfaces of wood.

cloth and white bottle


Vinegar is a safe and effective option for maintaining wooden structures, as it is a common ingredient used in cooking and has no negative side effects. 

Whether you use a little or a lot while removing paint from wood, there is no need to consider causing significant damage or experiencing any adverse effects.

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How To Use Vinegar To Strip Off Paint From Wood: 4 Steps

What You’ll Need

Step #1: Heat Distilled Vinegar

To remove paint from wood using white distilled vinegar, heat an appropriate amount of the vinegar. Take caution when heating and ensure the temperature is not too high, which can affect its effectiveness. 

heat vinegar

Step #2: Dip a Clean Cotton in the Vinegar

After heating the white vinegar, immerse a clean cotton cloth into it, ensuring it is thoroughly saturated. Then, gently apply the vinegar to the surface with dried paint generously to achieve the best possible results.

Step #3: Allow it to Soften

This step requires patience. As mentioned earlier, vinegar softens and dissolves the paint. Therefore, it is essential to allow the vinegar to work for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

If the stubborn paint proves challenging, and the difference is not evident after the first application. Just repeat the second step and wait for the same duration.

Step #4: Start Removing the Paint

To remove the softened paint from the surface of the wood, you can utilize a potent paint scraper or chemical paint strippers, or a wire brush. After removing the paint, take a damp clean sponge to wipe away any remaining paint residue, vinegar, and dust particles.

scraping paint

Removing Oil-Based Paint from Wood: 7 Steps

Step #1: Protect Yourself and Ready the Work Surface

To prevent hazardous chemicals from coming into contact with your skin and eyes, we recommend wearing protective gear such as coveralls, latex gloves, and safety goggles.

Step #2: Ensure the Wood is Worth Exposing

One common problem with wood is rot, especially if it is improperly maintained. To test for wet rot, try poking different areas on the wood. If it feels soft and spongy, it may contain wet rot. Other signs of wood problems include shrinkage or warping.

Step #3: Inspect if the Oil-Based Paint Has Lead

The paint utilized in 1978 likely contained lead, which can be hazardous if the dust is breathed in. While there are DIY lead detection kits available, their accuracy is not foolproof, and it’s best to seek the assistance of an expert if you believe the paint has lead.

cabinet drawer

Step #4: Detach Protruding Screws, Nails, Etc.

Before you use vinegar on wood, remove any connecting hardware or decorative from the surface. Alternatively, to cover any non-removable parts not made of wood, you can use protective tape.

Step #5: Start Applying the Paint Stripper

Thoroughly shake the chemical paint stripper can and pour the contents into an empty container. 

Next, generously apply the chemical paint strippers to small wood sections using a paintbrush. Allow the product to remain on the wooden surfaces for the specified time before proceeding.

Step #6: Scrape the Paint Off

After softening and making the oil-based paints pliable, use a scraper to remove it from the painted surface while applying light pressure to avoid harming the wood underneath.

paint scraper

Step #7: Clean the Wood Surface

After all the paint has been removed, use a damp clean rag to wipe away any excess paint stripper and paint from the wood. 

Best Way to Remove Old Paint from Wood

Using paint strippers is the most effective way to remove old paint from wood. While several paint removal methods are available, strippers need less physical effort than most. 

Furthermore, when working on intricate surfaces, a paint stripper is less harsh on the wood than other methods, as they decrease the chance of accidentally sanding down some of the intricate details.

Paint strippers come in two varieties: solvent-based and caustic.

Solvent-Based Paint Strippers

Paint removers that are solvent-based work by breaking down the bond between the surface of the bare wood and paint and facilitating easy removal through scraping. 


They are a suitable option for maintaining the wood’s natural appearance post-paint removal, as they do not stain or damage the surface, resulting in a clean finish.

Caustic Paint Strippers

In comparison to solvent-based options, caustic paint strippers operate in a distinct manner. These paint removers decompose the paint’s chemicals, resulting in its easy removal from wooden surfaces.

Removing Paint Marks from Wood

Fresh Latex Paint Marks

Begin by soaking a clean cloth in warm water. Then gently wipe off the paint marks, rinsing and re-soaking the rag multiple times if the paint mark is extensive to ensure complete removal. For more options, check this guide on removing latex paint from wood

Fresh Oil-based Paint Marks

Pour a moderate amount of mineral spirits into a small container. Next, dip a clean, soft rag into the mineral spirits. Carefully wipe the paint off the surface.  

Dried Oil-based Paint Marks

Take a fresh, clean cloth and immerse it in boiled linseed oil. Apply the oil-soaked cloth to the dried paint and press it down firmly. Allow the oil to soak into the paint for approximately one minute. When the paint has softened, wipe it away. 

removing paint

Other Uses Of Vinegar On Wooden Surfaces

For Cleaning Wood Floors (Not Hardwood)

For cleaning non-hardwood floors with vinegar, simply mix one cup of vinegar into a gallon of warm water. Use a mop or clean cloth to coat the floor surface with this solution. Mop or wipe the floor multiple times to eliminate any dirt or impurities. 

For Cutting Boards

While vinegar does remove paint from wood, it can also effectively remove the stubborn residue of fruits or vegetables on wooden cutting boards. 

Simply sprinkle vinegar onto the wooden cutting board and wipe the surface with a cloth to remove all residue.

For Furniture

Mixing vinegar with olive oil can create a versatile cleaning solution for your furniture. 

mix olive oil and vinegar

Combine one full cup of olive oil and one-half cup of vinegar, then stir the ingredients thoroughly. Apply it through a spray bottle or just use a clean, soft rag.

For Wood Paneling

Mix vinegar and olive oil in equal proportions, and then add four cups of lukewarm water. 

Thoroughly combine the ingredients, then use a soft cloth to apply it to the wooden surface. There is no need to rinse the surface. Use a separate, clean, and soft cloth to dry the area.

For Cleaning Countertops

Simply mix half a cup of water and one cup of white distilled vinegar, then add 15 drops of your favorite essential oil, such as lavender, lemon, peppermint, or orange. Mix well and transfer the solution to a spray bottle, shaking well before each use. 

Mistakes to Avoid When Stripping Paint From Wood Floors Using Vinegar

Applying Vinegar on Hardwood Floors

It’s crucial to avoid using vinegar to clean hardwood floors, especially those with lead paint, since it can harm the finish and make the surface appear dull. Instead, use soapy water or appropriate cleaning agents to clean the floors. 

wiping hardwood floor

Using Vinegar on Greasy or Oily Stains

It may not work as well for cleaning greasy spots on the wood because vinegar is an acidic solution. It is better to use standard cleaning agents such as dishwashing liquid or soap for such surfaces.

Clean Wood Wax with Vinegar

Avoid using vinegar on wood wax as it can dissolve it. For cleaning waxed surfaces, our experienced paint pro recommends using a specific cleaning solvent.

Combining Vinegar with Other Strip Paint Cleaners

The most significant error you could make is combining vinegar with other potent cleaners. Certain household cleaning products are extremely reactive and should not be mixed with each other. Examples of such products are:

Chlorine Bleach

Combining hydrogen peroxide and vinegar creates peracetic acid, which can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Mixing chlorine bleach and vinegar can create hazardous chlorine gas, resulting in health issues, coughing, and discomfort in the nose, eyes, and throat.

hydrogen peroxide

Alternative Ways To Strip Paint Off the Wood

Hot Air Gun/ Heat Gun

Heat guns emit hot air streams that induce old paint layers to form bubbles and detach from the surfaces of wood. This technique is faster and more hygienic than using chemical paint removers. 

Nevertheless, high temperatures can generate toxic and harmful chemicals from the paint and scorch the surface, posing health risks.

To remove paint using this technique, follow these steps

removing paint with heat gun
  1. Switch on the hot air gun and wait for it to heat up. 
  2. Gently glide the hot air gun back and forth over a small section, causing the paint to wrinkle and create creases. Avoid holding the gun in one place for too long to prevent the paint from smoking or the wood from burning.
  3. When the paint has become more pliable, remove it by applying gentle pressure with a scraper to avoid harming the wood underneath.
  4. In case the wood has intricate or tight spaces, opt for a paint scraper that is smaller and has a contoured shape, to access and remove the paint from those areas.
  5. After successfully eliminating all the paint, immerse a gentle cloth in mineral spirits and use it to wipe the entire surface meticulously.
stripping paint with heat gun
Heat Gun Safety Precautions


If you don’t have access to an industrial wood sander, it is possible to remove obstinate paint from wood through manual sanding is possible, particularly for small-scale projects. This approach is quite laborious but effective, particularly for old paint.

To remove paint using this approach:

sanding wood surface
  1. Clean the wooden surface thoroughly using regular dish soap or any household cleaner, then allow the surface to dry completely.
  2. Next, apply gentle pressure using 80-grit sandpaper to sand the wooden surface in the direction of the wood grain to avoid causing any damage.
  3. After wiping away the debris and sanding dust, use medium 150-grit sandpaper for another round of sanding.
  4. To achieve an even and smooth wooden surface, repeat the process using fine 220-grit sandpaper.
  5. Soak a cloth in water and use it to wipe down the surface, then apply a fresh coat.

Chemical Strippers

This choice is undoubtedly the most effective for removing paint from wood. Chemical stripping is more likely to result in a smoother surface than sanding.  

To remove paint with this approach:

pouring Citristrip Gel
  1. Prepare the workspace by covering the floor to avoid mess.
  2. Use protective gear to protect yourself from chemical toxic fumes.
  3. Apply the chemical stripper to a small section of the wood using a brush, roller, or spray, as per the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  4. Let the stripper sit for the time period mentioned in the instructions, generally around 15-30 minutes.
  5. Check if the paint has loosened up by scraping it off gently using a scraper. 
Chemical Strippers Precautions

Pressure Washing

This paint remover method is particularly useful when removing paint from fences and decks.

pressure washing paint

However, before using a pressure washer, it is important to ensure that the surrounding areas are protected from water damage. 

Here are the steps to use pressure washing to remove paint from wood:

  1. Set up the pressure washer. 
  2. Adjust the pressure to a lower setting, usually around 1500-2000 PSI, to avoid damaging the wood.
  3. Wear protective gear to protect yourself from the paint and water spray.
  4. Hold the pressure washer nozzle at a distance of around 6-12 inches from the wood surface and spray the paint from one end of the surface to the other.
  5. Keep the pressure washer nozzle moving back and forth over the surface to ensure that the paint is evenly stripped.

Scraper or Soy Gel

Handheld scrapers are a great option if you want to remove paint from small projects or difficult-to-reach areas. They can be used with an extension handle for added reach.

Follow these steps to use a scraper or soy gel to remove paint from wood:

applying soy gel stripper
  1. Apply the soy gel or stripper to a small section of the wood.
  2. Let the soy gel or stripper sit on the painted surfaces for the time period mentioned in the instructions, generally around 30 minutes to an hour.
  3. Then scrape it off gently using a scraper. If the paint comes off easily, move on to the next step. If not, wait for some more time.
  4. Once the paint has been stripped off, use a scraper to remove any remaining residual paint.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is an effective paint remover for wood. However, it is worth noting that the process is time-consuming.

To use baking soda in removing paint from wood, follow these steps:

baking soda
  1. Mix equal parts of baking soda and water in a container to make a paste. You can adjust the quantity depending on the size of the surface you need to strip.
  2. Apply the paste to the painted wood area using a brush or spatula.
  3. Let the paste sit on the painted area for at least 30 minutes or until it dries.
  4. Once the paste is dry, use a scraper or sandpaper to gently remove the paste and the paint layers it has lifted. Be careful not to damage the surface.
  5. If any paint remains, apply another layer of the baking soda paste and repeat the process.
  6. Once all the paint has been stripped off, clean the surface with a damp cloth to remove any residue.

Washing Soda

This paint remover method is generally effective for removing old paints and varnishes, particularly if there are no multiple layers.

Here are the steps to use washing soda to remove paint from wood:

washing soda
  1. Wear safety gear to protect yourself from the washing soda and paint.
  2. Mix 1 cup of washing soda with 1 gallon of hot water in a container.
  3. Dip a cloth or sponge in the washing soda solution and apply it to the painted area.
  4. Let the solution sit on the painted area until it dries.

Can Vinegar Really Dissolve Paint?

Does Mixing Baking Soda and Vinegar Get Rid of Paint from Wood?

Yes, vinegar does remove paint from wood, and baking soda is also effective as a paint remover. Still, if the two products are mixed together, there will be a chemical reaction, resulting in the formation of water and carbon dioxide, which makes it ineffective in removing paint. 

This is because vinegar is an acetic acid [1] and baking soda is an alkali, and they neutralize each other, making the mixture useless in removing old paint.

Can You Use Acetone to Remove Paint?

Yes, acetone can remove some types of paint, particularly latex and acrylic paints. Acetone is a powerful solvent that can dissolve and break down the paint, making it easier to remove. 

using acetone

However, it is ineffective for removing all types of paint, such as oil-based paint. 

Additionally, acetone can damage certain surfaces, such as plastic and some types of wood finishes, so it should be used with caution and tested on a small, inconspicuous area first. 

Can White Spirit Strip Off Paint from Wood?

Yes, the white spirit can be used to remove paint from the wooden surface. White spirit, or mineral spirits, is a common solvent used to thin oil-based paints and clean brushes. It can effectively dissolve and remove oil-based paints from wood surfaces. 


Is vinegar capable of removing paint from metal?

Vinegar can be used to remove some types of paint from metal surfaces, but its effectiveness can depend on the type of paint and how long it has been on the surface. 

Vinegar is acidic and can weaken the bond between the paint and the metal, making it easier to remove with a scraper or sandpaper.

Can you remove lead-based paint from wooden surfaces using vinegar?

Vinegar is not an effective way to remove lead-based paint from the surfaces of wood. Lead-based paints are hazardous material that requires specialized handling and removal techniques.

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Indeed, vinegar does remove paint from wood, but it may not be the most effective option for all paint or wood surfaces. 

It’s important to choose the method best suited for your specific needs and take proper precautions to ensure your safety and the protection of the stripped wood surface.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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