How to Remove Chalk Paint From Wood (Guide & Safety Precautions)

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Different kinds of paint have different applications and corresponding effects. Chalk paint, for instance, is enjoyable to use, but can be quite challenging to strip, especially without the appropriate tools and skills.

Therefore, learning how to remove chalk paint from wood properly is valuable especially when you have applied it in excess. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the process and steps so you don’t damage your prized furniture pieces.

Why is Chalk Paint Used on Wood?

Furniture, and even wood floors, applied with chalk paint have a vintage look and feel. In addition, paint coatings applied to furniture can also lead to a distressed look. 

However, make sure that the wood’s surface is free from dust prior to the application of this specific paint for a smooth finish. Also, opt for a high-quality brush suitable for chalk paint for an even coat. 

Here are some advantages of using chalk paint:

chalk paint
  1. This paint can dry up fast
  2. Applying chalk paint is easy to handle
  3. Once applied, this paint will leave the surface with a matte and vintage finish
  4. You can seal chalk paint with several thin layers of top coats 

Can You Get Rid of Chalk Paint Easily?

There are different methods to help you get rid of paint, which are as follows:

With Heat

Heat can be used to remove paint from surfaces. 

With the Use of Chemical Products

You can remove paint with the use of chemical products such as paint strippers. 

Mechanically or Use of Power Tools

You can remove paint mechanically or with the help of fine grit sandpaper and power tools.

various types of sandpaper

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using the Mechanical Method

The mechanical method of removing old paint is done faster especially with an orbital sander. You can get the work done with less labor and less time. 

That said, I’d advise against using this approach on soft woods or delicate furniture pieces. The aggressive nature of the sander can potentially leave unsightly scratches and compromise the integrity of the wood.

MechanicalThermalChemical
SpatulaTorch burnerRubbing alcohol
ChiselSpecial construction hair dryerSolvents
SandpaperSteam ironPaint thinner
Hard metal brush  
Grinder  
Drill  
Grinder with nozzles  

Methods of Removing Chalk Paint from Wood

Learning the ways to remove chalk paint from wood is not rocket science. Here are the methods and their corresponding steps for removing this paint from wood.  

Method #1: Paint Stripper

You can use a paint stripper to remove the chalk paint from wood such as kitchen cabinets, wood paneling, and hardwood floors. 

preparing Citristrip Stripping Gel

Safety Precautions

  1. Choose an environment-friendly paint stripper or paint remover with a biodegradable formula.
  2. Gather and wear protective gear before starting the process. Strippers are formulated to contain chemicals.
  3. Work in a well-spaced and aerated area
  4. Protect surfaces by covering them with plastic sheeting. 

Supplies You’ll Need

Here are the tools and supplies you’ll need to remove chalk paint from wood:

  1. Paintbrush
  2. Paint stripper/paint remover
  3. Plastic or metal putty knife
  4. Plastic scraper
  5. Steel wool scrubber pad
  6. Fine grit sandpaper (100 or 120)
  7. Plastic sheet
  8. Face mask
  9. Gloves
  10. Bucket
  11. Soap mixture
  12. Dry lint-free cloth

Step #1: Gather All the Required Tools/Equipment

Gather all the required tools and equipment. Make sure to wear protective equipment before starting the process of chalk paint removal. 

tools and materials for removing paint on wood

Choose a well-ventilated area to work at and line the floor with a plastic sheet to avoid mess. 

Step #2: Remove the Old Paint

Remove the majority of the paint by using fine-grain sandpaper [1]. Make sure to sand gently in circular motions. 

Step #3: Begin Applying the Paint Stripper

Apply a generous coat of your preferred paint stripper or paint remover on the piece of wood you are working on. I suggest you use a high-quality paint stripper for wood for better results.

You can apply the paint stripper using a paintbrush. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended waiting time.

Generally, it is good to allow the paint stripper on the painted surface for approximately 30 to 60 minutes.  

Step #4: Clear Out the Paint Using a Paint Scraper of Putty Knife

By this time the chalk paint from wood may have creased and fluffy on the wood surface. You can now clear out the paint using a paint scraper or a plastic putty knife. Make sure to apply enough pressure to remove the majority of the paint on the surface. 

paint stripping

Step #5: Wipe Off the Excess Chalk Paint

Using your scrubber pad and a little bit of soap and water mixture, scrub off the excess remaining chalk paint residue. It is alright if you cannot remove all of the chalkboard paint from the surface. 

Proceed to remove chalk paint scrap using a scrubber pad and steel wool together with some soapy water. Wipe the surface with a damp cloth and repeat the steps if necessary. 

Step #6: Sand for a Clean Finish

Allow the furniture to completely dry for approximately 12 to 24 hours. Sand the surface using fine-grade sandpaper to smoothen out the paint marks as a result of scrubbing. Make sure to check that there is no chalk paint on the surface.

sanding table after removing paint

Wipe the surface with a damp cloth. You can now proceed to apply your preferred finish such as Danish oil. 

Pros and Cons of Using Paint Strippers

Using strippers to remove chalk paint is easy and does not damage the wood. However, given that these strippers can release harmful fumes, I urge you to wear the right safety gear when handling them.

Method #2: Sanding

Another method to removing chalk paint is by sanding, one of the natural methods to remove chalk paint especially if you have the luxury of time. 

Things to Consider in Removing Chalk Paint by Sanding

Here are a few considerations when using this method to remove chalk paint through sanding:

belt sander
  1. Always wear protective equipment and clothing
  2. Make sure to seal off all the vents from other items you do not now want to be covered with saw dust. 
  3. Work in a well-spaced and aerated area
  4. Replace the coarse grit sandpaper to get a fresh one every time you use it to remove chalk paint. 

Materials

  1. Face mask
  2. Gloves
  3. Turpentine or odorless mineral spirits
  4. Sandpaper with different grit levels
  5. Power sander
  6. Vacuum cleaner
  7. Clean paper towels

Removal Instructions

Here’s a detailed guide to remove chalk paint from wooden surfaces. 

dresser with chalk paint

Step #1:

Collect all of your tools and do not forget to wear protective garment. Also, make sure that you are working in a well-spaced and aerated area. Make sure to remove any items that are found on the floor that can stand in your way. 

Step #2:

Place some turpentine in a container. Get a clean cloth and dip it in turpentine. Using this cloth rub it on the surface with chalk paint. Make sure to remove the paste wax from the wood surface before you begin sanding using coarse sandpaper. 

Make sure to get rid of as much old paint as you can then allow the wood surface to air dry. 

Step #3:

Using an electric sander set up with coarse grit sandpaper proceed to sand along the grain of the wood. Make sure to remove as much of the remaining paint as you can. 

DeWalt orbital sander

Vacuum any loose dust residue that is left from the process. 

Step #4:

Replace the sandpaper with a new one once it gets clogged up with paint. Once the sandpaper has been replaced you can continue to eliminate paint from the wooden surface. 

Step #5:

Replace the sandpaper from coarse grit sandpaper with a finer grade one. Use finer grade sandpaper when the thicker layers of paint are thinner and you can now see the wood underneath. 

Use fine-grade paper to remove most of the paint from the wood. Sand off as many of the paint as you can. 

Step #6:

Remove all the dust as a result of power sanding using a vacuum. Wipe the surface of the wood using a wet towel.

vacuuming sanded floor

Step #7:

A hand held sandpaper can scrape and remove any paint that has not been removed from hard to reach areas. You can also use soapy water together with wire gauze to remove the paint from these areas.

Step #8:

Proceed to wipe off the wood using a paper towel to reveal areas with more paint that needs attention. Repeat the steps until you have achieved the desired results. 

Step #9:

Use another finer-grade sandpaper to sand the entire surface of the wood. Make sure that you achieve an even and smooth surface. 

Step #10:

Clean the wood by wiping it with a damp towel to remove any debris. Let the wood to dry after. 

Step #11:

You can now apply your preferred finish on the surface. 

staining wooden shelf

Pros and Cons of Sanding Wood to Remove Chalk Paint

You can remove the paint easily, especially with the use of an electric sander. However, it can leave behind grooves on the surface if you are not careful. But as an alternative to the traditional sandpapers and electric sanders, you may consider using liquid sandpaper

Method #3: Elbow Grease and Paint Solvent

Another method that uses labor to eliminate paint is some solvent and elbow grease. This kind of paint is water soluble so you can also use warm water for this method. 

Materials You’ll Need

  1. Warm water
  2. Scrubbing sponge
  3. Steel wool
  4. Remover solvent
  5. Danish oil
  6. Mineral spirits
  7. Clean paper towels

Removal Instructions

Here are the step-by-step removal instructions for paint from wood surfaces. 

elbow grease

Step #1:

Moisten the paint with some warm water. Soak the wood surface with water to loosen the paint. 

Step #2:

When working on the surface, use a scrubbing sponge and tackle one section at a time. It’s crucial to keep the sponge damp throughout the process, as this helps in effectively loosening the paint.

Step #3:

Clean the area with a damp cloth to reveal paint that needs attention.

Step #4:

Utilizing mineral spirits, apply them to the surface using steel wool. This helps removing any residual paint that hasn’t been fully stripped.

Step #5:

Remove the excess paint on the surface using a damp cloth.

person holding cloth

Step #6:

Wait until the surface has dried completely. 

Step #7:

Sand the surface using fine grade sandpaper to achieve an even and smooth finish. 

Step #8:

Clean the surface using a damp rag and allow the surface to dry.

Step #9:

Apply three coats of your preferred finish on the surface. 

Method #4: Heat Gun

Using heat in this process is a logical option for eliminating paint from other surfaces and even on wood. Using heat will not lead to sand dust and also you are saved from inhaling fumes you normally get from a paint stripper. 

heat gun

Precautions: Dos and Don'ts

  1. Do not forget to wear protective gloves made from leather
  2. Wear goggles or a face cover to protect your face and eyes to avoid toxic dust
  3. Do not apply heat to the paint for a long period of time to avoid scorching the wood
  4. Have a fire extinguisher ready

Supplies You’ll Need

  1. Face shield or goggles
  2. Gloves
  3. Heat gun or hairdryer
  4. Fine sandpaper
  5. Mild liquid dish detergent
  6. Clean paper towels or cloth
  7. Metal puttyknife
  8. Lint-free cloth

Steps to Follow

Here are the step-by-step removal instructions of paint from wood surfaces.

painting cabinet with chalk paint

Step #1:

Hold the heat gun at a distance of approximately 10 inches away from the wood at a 45 degree angle. 

Step #2:

Once the paint begins to wrinkle, use a small putty knife scrape the painted surface. Do this along the wood grain. 

Step #3:

Repeat the process until you have removed the majority of the paint. 

Step #4:

Sand the surface to remove any paint left on it. Sanding will leave your piece with a smooth and even finish.

sanding wood surface

Step #5:

Remove the paint residues using a clean and damp cloth. Let the wood dry completely. 

Step #6:

Apply your preferred finish.

Step #7:

Throw away any excess paint from the process and clean your workplace. 

Alternative Ways to Strip Chalk Paint From Wooden Surfaces

Here are some alternative ways on how you can remove chalk paint from wood

Citristrip

Apply Citristrip like the regular paint stripper. The good thing about this product is that it does not exude harsh odors. Here’s how to use Citristrip stripping gels

Citristrip Stripping Gel on wooden table

Nitromors

Nirtomors is a paint and varnish stripper. Thus, it can also be used to remove this specific paint off wood.

Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits can be used to eliminate paint from the wood. It is as strong and effective as strippers. 

Vinegar

You can also use warm vinegar to eliminate paint from the wooden surface. Use a scraper to peel off as much paint after. 

white vinegar

When Do You Need to Strip Chalk Paint Off the Wood?

  1. The furniture is in very poor condition
  2. When you want to revitalize the cracked layers of the surface
  3. When the color on the surface starts to fade or peel

Can You Strip Chalk Paint Off Wood Without Sanding?

Yes, it’s possible to strip chalk paint from wood without the need for sanding. Utilizing solvents, heat, or strippers proved to be viable methods for me. 

However, it’s paramount you adhere to safety guidelines and the manufacturer’s instructions, especially when dealing with chemical strippers or heat guns. Always conduct a test on a small, inconspicuous area and ensure you’re working in a space with adequate ventilation to safeguard your well-being.

More Tips for You: 

Is it Possible to Get Rid of Chalk Paint Without Leaving Residues?

Completely removing paint without traces can be quite a challenge. If you employ the methods I’ve discussed, there’s a likelihood you’ll encounter some residue by the end of the process.

FAQ

How do you clean chalk paint off furniture?

You can clean this specific paint off furniture by sanding it off. This method can effectively eliminate paint from the surface. 

Can chalk paint be erased?

A magic eraser can be used to eliminate paint. This is a strong cleaning agent that can effectively eliminate paint from surfaces. 

Conclusion

Learning how to remove chalk paint from wood properly will help you salvage your furniture. Make sure to follow the aforementioned steps diligently to prevent accidents and mishaps. 

As shown, removing paint from the wood surface is not rocket science. You will be surprised how stripping chalk paint from the surface can revitalize your pieces! 

robert headshot

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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