It is always tempting to think you can just “paint over” existing layers of lacquer or paint. For some projects, a little light sanding and another coat of paint may work. However, when you really have to cut through dozens of layers of paint or remove a layer of chipped, cracked, or blistered lacquer, you want the best paint stripper for your specific project.
That is where knowing exactly what types of paint stripper are available and what will make a project the best paint stripper for your specific needs comes into play. Truly effective handymen and women get beautiful, consistent results by understanding the materials they are working with, the paints and other coatings that may have been applied, and the best paint stripper for the job.
Best Paint Stripper FAQ
To really make a good prediction about what will be the best paint stripper for your specific job, take a few minutes to make certain you understand the basics of the paint stripping process. We have itemized a few paint stripper frequently asked questions here.
What Is Paint Stripper?
Paint stripper is also often referred to as paint remover. It is a product designed to remove paint and other finishes from various surfaces. In some cases, a paint stripper will also include components to help clean the surface underneath the finish. Paint strippers are usually solvents, and they work by creating a situation in which the paint or other finish is no longer chemically bound to the surface beneath. In some cases, this involves chemical reactions and, in others, it involves creating a situation in which a finish is more easily removed physically, such as with a scraper, than it was prior to treatment.
What Makes a Paint Stripper the Best Paint Stripper?
Not every paint stripper is the best paint stripper for every project. You must know what type of finish you are dealing with and, if possible, what type of surface is underneath the finish. This is important since some products work perfectly for certain types of finish but will destroy the underlying surface or will create dangerous fumes when combined with the wrong types of paint.
There are four types of paint stripper available. They may be a solvent, which dissolves paint, a caustic product, which causes the paint to loosen from the surface, a biochemical product, which generally is plant-based, or “zero-VOC,” meaning they do not contain ingredients like lye. Zero-VOC products tend to be more expensive than other products and may not work on epoxy finishes or polyurethane finishes. They are generally considered to be safe for skin contact and inhalation, but prolonged exposure can still cause irritation.
Do All Paint Strippers Remove All Surface Treatments?
Not all paint strippers apply equally to every surface treatment. For example, a caustic paint remover works by breaking down chemical bonds in paint. They are great for removing worn varnishes but can prevent your new finish from sticking. Solvents cause paint to peel away from the surface below but are less likely to work with lacquers. Other types of paint stripper include a variety of components intended to eliminate metal stains from the underlying surface but may not, on their own, completely remove the paint. Knowing as much as you can about what you are stripping away and what is underneath each layer will help you pick the best paint stripper or the best combination of products for the job.
Will I Damage the Underlying Material If I Use Paint Stripper?
You are most likely to damage the underlying material in most cases when you are scraping the paint away from the surface than with the paint stripper itself, but because some paint strippers are corrosive, you should consider the resilience of the item you are working with. If you use the wrong paint stripper for the finish you are removing, you will be more likely to scrape or tear the underlying material trying to get the paint off. The best paint stripper for the job should make the scraping part of the task relatively simple. One of the most common effects of using the wrong paint remover is that a plastic surface may end up etched or a glass surface may be clouded after you have applied and removed the product.
What Safety Precautions Should I Take with Paint Stripper?
The most important thing you can do when working with paint stripper is to make sure you are not trying to remove lead paint. If the property in question was built before 1978, then use a lead paint test kit to determine if there is lead in the paint. If so, a product designed specifically for removing lead paint will be the best paint stripper and your only safe choice. Usually, they are a gel or paste so that the lead particles cannot become airborne.
Paint stripper products may irritate eyes, skin, and lungs if you touch them or inhale them. You should always check the safety directions on your specific product, but also protect yourself with some basic safety precautions, such as wearing chemical-resistant gloves, safety glasses, long pants and long sleeves, and even a respirator.
How We Reviewed the Best Paint Stripper Products on the Market
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The following products were reviewed based on the following parameters:
The best paint stripper products are easily accessible, easy to use, affordable, and work with the projects, finishes, and materials for which they were designed. We evaluated all of the products in the list with an eye toward what might make a product the best paint stripper for the job in a unique circumstance as well as for a more general handyman or woman’s needs.
Overall Price Range
Paint stripper products range from $5 to about $180, depending on the level of specialty the product delivers, how quickly it works, and whether it can be used in an area that is not particularly well-ventilated. Lead paint stripping products are much more expensive than “conventional” paint removal systems. This is due, in part, to these products including kits to test for lead paint.
The application process also plays a role in cost, since many products may be purchased in forms that require hand application of the paint stripper or that permit spraying or spreading, which may be easier and more attractive to the consumer but also require additional, specialized packaging.
What We Reviewed
- This product adds a great value
- Safe for user, substrate and environment
- Removes multiple layers
- Does not contain methylene chloride, any caustics, or toxic chemicals. It is odor-free and safe for the environment
- This paint stripper is exceptional for the safe removal of lead-based paint and is excellent for intricate, carved, or molded surfaces
This product focuses on safety and ease of use, boasting a “no gloves required” promise and “excellent vertical cling” for removing paint from walls as well as items of furniture. The Dumond Chemicals Smart Strip is non-toxic, biodegradable, and can be washed down the drain and used indoors with perfect peace of mind.
- STRONG: The strongest paint remover available without methylene chloride, NMP, or any other highly toxic chemicals.
- SAFER: This revolutionary, patent pending, new stripper works similar to products containing methylene chloride, but uses only safer ingredients. Safe for wood, metal and concrete. Brings a natural finish to your furniture. Gentle on antiques. Water cleanable.
- FAST: Ultra fast action. Works in 15 minutes for most stripping projects. Removes multiple layers in one application (up to 5 layers).
- VERSATILE: Removes oil paints, latex paints, varnishes, epoxies, shellacs, lacquers and polyurethanes. As effective as an industrial stripper, and is ideal for heavy-duty projects, finishing work, or any other stripping job.
- EXPERTISE: Super Remover has been manufacturing high quality paint stripping products for over 40 years.
This powerful paint stripper will likely be among the best paint stripper options if you are looking to remove varnish, lacquer, shellac, epoxy, latex, urethane, other synthetic coatings, or just plain old paint. It can also be used on wood, metal, concrete, or masonry and is applied in a “semi-paste” that clings to vertical surfaces.
- CITRISTRIP Safer Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel is easy to use.
- Stays wet and active for up to 24 hours allowing stripping of multiple layers in one step.
- Removes dried latex and oil-based paint, varnish, lacquer, polyurethane and shellac.
- Strips multiple layers from wood, metal and masonry surfaces.
- No methylene chloride or NMP.
Citri-Strip’s paint and varnish come in an aerosol container for easy delivery. The product is biodegradable and non-caustic. The product will remove up to seven layers of latex paint in just one application and will usually remove more than one layer of oil-based coatings in one application. It can be used on wood, metal, and masonry.
If you like the predictability of sanding for paint removal but are not quite so fond of the elbow grease involved in the process, then Klean-Strip’s “liquid sander” product may be right for you. It is designed to replace the sanding process, so you can use it not only to take off sealants from cabinets, for example, but also to remove grimy build-up. This product is also popular for furniture projects where the piece has a lot of nooks and crannies that might be difficult or impossible to sand by hand.
This product is designed to be environmentally safe and assist in lead abatement and lead encapsulation while removing paint and other finishes. The product comes not only with the paint remover itself, which can remove as many as 30 layers of oil-based lead paints in a single application, but also a neutralizer, pH test kit, peel-away paper to help keep the lead particles contained, and simple instructions. The product is non-flammable and does not release harmful odors or toxic fumes. It can also be used on carved and molded surfaces.
Remember if you are dealing with a product that was finished, at any point in time, prior to 1978, then you may have an issue with lead paint at some point during the restoration or paint-stripping process. It is very important you follow all safety regulations for working with lead paint and test regularly to ascertain if higher, harmless layers are being peeled away to reveal more problematic finishes that might contain lead. If you have the slightest suspicion you are working with a lead-based finish, you must test responsibly and repeatedly in order to make sure you are protecting yourself and the others around you.
FAST ACTING – Crown STRP MAX Paint Stripper effectively removes paint, enamel, lacquer, varnish, polyurethane and epoxy from wood, metal, masonry and marine surfaces in as little as 5 minutes.
LESS TOXIC – Methylene and NMP free, making this paint stripper safer, less flammable, and less toxic while working just as effectively as paint removers using these harmful chemicals.
SURFACE – The liquid formation covers up to 25 square feet and is excellent for detailed surfaces. This professional-grade paint stripper clings to vertical surfaces.
HANDLING & STORAGE – Avoid contact with eyes, skin, and clothing. Avoid breathing vapors. Use with adequate ventilation and wash exposed skin thoroughly with soap and water after use. Store in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area away from oxidizing agents. Protect from physical damage.
HOME IMPROVEMENT – While Crown STRP Paint Stripper is professional grade, this product is ideal for home-improvement projects. Anyone from a master painter to casual DIYer can use this paint stripper.
This product is based on soybeans and other natural elements, which makes it 100% biodegradable. SoyGel has no known health hazards. The company boasts you can “put the respirator away,” although they still recommend wearing old clothes to do your project. This paint stripper has a gel formula, can remove multiple layers of paint in one treatment, and is made with 100% American-Grown Soybeans. The product is designed for use on paints, urethanes, enamels, sealers, and some epoxy products.
- Capable of removing up to 3 layers of oil or water based coating
- No-drip formula makes removing paint convenient and easy
- Clings to vertical surfaces; stays wet longer
- Starts to work in about 30 minutes
- Easily cleaned up with water
If you have been wanting to remove 15 layers of paint, varnish, stain, lacquer, or urethane product, then Sunnyside may be your answer. A light coat will remove between one and four layers, while a heavier coat frees up many more for you to finish off with a stripping tool The company estimates you will be able to cover between 60 and 100 square feet with each gallon.
- EZ Strip is the professional strength safe alternative for stripping paint and varnish
- Gentile on most substrates including antique woods (may etch some plastics)
- No harsh fumes with a pleasant fragrance
- Safe for all year round indoor use with no special ventilation required
- Skin safe formula for easy home and professional use
This product will remove paint or varnish, is non-flammable, and comes with a chemical-resistant sprayer for each container. The product has a very low odor, stays wet for a prolonged period of time, and may be applied in such a away as to create an unbroken film across the surface in question.
- Safer paint and varnish remover; formulated with no methylene chloride or NMP
- Removes paints, varnishes, stains, lacquers & urethanes
- Begins working in 60 minutes
- Removes up to 7 layers of coatings
This is a non-flammable paint remover for extra-tough jobs. The formula is designed to cling to vertical, curved, and rounded surfaces while it penetrates everything from enamel to marine finishes and epoxies. This product can be removed using water to wash it off the surface, but it should be used in outdoor and well-ventilated areas.
- Manicurist Solvent Pure Acetone Nail Polish Remover is a professional salon formula for removal of sculptured nails (gel) and acrylic nail tips
- Removes tips, wraps and sculptured nails quickly and gently
- Allows base coat to adhere better
This powerful solvent is designed to remove paint, polish, wax, and even glue adhesives. The product has a specially designed tank that is insulated. This is the same type of product used to remove nail polish and clean laboratory equipment, but it is a powerful solvent. The acetone is colorless, flammable, and comes in a protective container designed to keep the contents separate from the outside world until you are ready to use them to remove some tough finish.
This product is intended to remove latex and oil-based products, both paint and varnish, from wood, metal, and masonry. It works fast, garnering results in about 30 minutes and, in some cases, less. Klean-Strip may be used to remove pigmented wood stains to restore natural color and comes in a thick paste formula that clings to vertical surfaces without dripping off.
The Verdict on the Best Paint Stripper Products Available
As we mentioned at the outset, the best paint stripper for one person or project will not necessarily be the best paint stripper for another person or project. All of these products stood out in unique ways that make them particularly suited for certain individuals and certain project goals.
However, a few products really rose above the rest for a variety of reasons. For example, the EZ Strip Paint and Varnish Stripper were highly flexible, offering more paint removal options than nearly any other product. On the other hand, the Savogran Super Strip paint remover is the ideal fit if you have serious epoxies to remove or you have a tough marine finish clinging to a surface. For delicate and intricate items that you would like to sand but simply cannot, the Sansher Corp. Easy Spray Paint and Varnish Remover may serve you the best.
Of course, if you are dealing with a project that may have a finish containing lead particles, you must use a paint remover product that will suit you and the air around you, not to mention all the other people living in that air! Dumond Chemicals’ lead paint removal kits are ideal in this instance. On the other hand, if 100% natural products are your priority, then SoyGel’s paint remover may be the best paint stripper for you regardless of any other factors.