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Best Paint Stripper for Wood and How to Use It

If you are new to DIY wood restoration, you may feel daunted by the many paint-stripping options available. Whether you are tackling numerous layers of paint or intricately carved woodwork, you need the right tools for the job.

This article covers the best paint stripper for wood, plus when and how to use each option. Keep reading to learn about this and more, including important safety information.

Using a scraper, one of the best paint strippers for wood, to remove blue paint from a wooden table

Our Top Picks for the Best Paint Stripper for Wood

Overall Best Paint Stripper for Wood
Citristrip Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel

Best Budget Paint Stripper for Wood
Klean Strip Mineral Spirit Paint Thinner

Best Chemical-Free Paint Stripper for Wood

The Overall Best Paint Stripper for Wood

Citristrip Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel

Citristrip® Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel, 1 Quart

Citristrip Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel is a natural plant-derived paint stripper for wood, metal, and masonry. This formula is perfect for use indoors since it has a pleasant odor and lower toxicity.

Please bear in mind that this is not a non-toxic option. Always exercise caution when working with any paint thinner to minimize skin contact and inhalation.

Citrus-based solvents are chemically similar to turpentine. Historically, turpentine was the only type of paint thinner available to artists. Citristrip offers the same reliable performance with a better smell and lower volatility.


  • This solvent is gentle on wood
  • It emits no unpleasant odors
  • The eco-friendly formula is made from plants


  • May require multiple applications for thick paint layers
  • This product is less effective for stripping oil-based paint

The Best Budget Paint Stripper for Wood

Klean Strip Mineral Spirit Paint Thinner

Klean Strip Odorless Mineral Spirits 1 Quart

Mineral spirits are generally the most popular paint strippers for wood and the most widely used solvent in painting. This thinner can cut through thick layers of paint without breaking the bank or damaging wood surfaces.

Mineral spirits is an umbrella term for a few different petroleum distillates used to thin paint and clean oil and grease. These solvents are also known as white spirits, mineral turpentine, and petroleum spirits.

Most formulas have strong and often unpleasant odors that may cause nausea, headaches, and dizziness when used without adequate ventilation. Odorless mineral spirits (OMS) lack this aroma but are still classified as irritants that should be handled carefully.


  • Mineral spirits are the least expensive paint strippers for wood
  • This option has relatively low toxicity
  • It is strong enough to strip most types of paint


  • Mineral spirits, including odorless and naphtha varieties, are highly flammable
  • Prolonged exposure may cause central nervous system depression

The Best Chemical-Free Paint Stripper for Wood


SEEKONE Heat Gun 1800W 122℉~1202℉(50℃- 650℃) Fast Heating Heavy Duty Hot Air Gun Kit Variable Temperature Control Overload Protection with 4 Nozzles for Crafts, Shrinking PVC, Stripping Paint(5.2FT)

SEEKONE offers an inexpensive heat gun perfect for stripping paint from wood. This option works differently than a solvent. It simply heats the dry paint, making it malleable and easy to peel off.

You should use a heat gun when removing paint from intricately carved woodwork. Solvent paint strippers can be ineffective at lifting paint from crevices. The abrasive scrubbing motion could also damage fine carvings.

Heat guns apply even heat throughout the entire layer of paint. You can then gently pull softened paint layers from delicate wood surfaces.

You will need to use a paint scraper with a heat gun for thick layers of paint. Ensure you use a plastic scraper to avoid damaging the underlying wood.


  • It is effective on intricate ornamental carvings
  • The adjustable heat setting allows for precise temperature control
  • This is the least expensive heat gun available


  • This product is slightly less effective than more expensive heat guns

The Best Heavy-Duty Paint Stripper for Wood

Klean Strip VM&P Naphtha

Klean-Strip VM&P Naphtha Thins Enamels & Varnish Cleans Greasy, Waxy, Oily Surfaces & Machine Parts Faster Drying Now comes with chemical resistant gloves by Centaurus AZ, 1Gal (3.785L)

Are you trying to remove decades of built-up paint? Are other paint strippers not cutting it when it comes to oil-based paint? If this sounds like your predicament, you should check out VM&P Naphtha.

Naphtha is a refined form of mineral spirits, making it a stronger solvent that can clean almost anything. It works similarly to other mineral spirits but is faster and more effective.

The distillation process that makes naphtha so powerful comes with a few tradeoffs.

You might first notice the gasoline-like odor that can leave you feeling dizzy. These volatile aromatic compounds also make this paint stripper one of the more toxic solvents on the market.

Naphtha remains a relatively safe option as long as you work in a well-ventilated area and don the proper protective gear. Remember to always wear gloves and safety goggles when working with this solvent.


  • Naphtha is the best for stripping oil-based paint
  • This is the most effective universal solvent for home use
  • It is versatile and easy to use in any application


  • The volatile formula might dry too fast for large jobs
  • Naphtha has a higher toxicity than other paint strippers
  • Many find the gas-like odor to be unpleasant and nauseating

The Best Wood-Safe Paint Scraper

HELEMAN Plastic Paint Scraper

Plastic Razor Blades Scraper Tool - Wall Paint Remover with 16 Pcs Durable Plastic Blades Kit No Scratch Car Window Glass Wood Sticker Removal Floor Stove Kitchen Vinyl Adhesive Decal Tape Cleanings

Stubborn paint requires some elbow grease to remove. When wiping with a rag won’t suffice, you need a paint scraper.

Paint scrapers are often made of metal. This is great for scraping off paint, but it can damage wood when you aren’t careful.

If you are stripping paint from wood, use a plastic paint scraper. HELEMAN offers an excellent deal on a plastic paint scraper with 16 replacement blades.


  • The sturdy plastic blades won’t gouge wood
  • The ergonomic handle is comfortable to use
  • HELEMAN provides 16 replacement blades


  • This scraper won’t work alone and must be combined with a solvent or heat gun

Wood-Safe Paint Stripper Buyer’s Guide

Do you know what to look for in the best paint stripper for wood? The answer varies depending on your project.

Different paint thinners are more effective on certain types of paint. Furthermore, the size and durability of the painted surface you are stripping impact which option is best.

We compiled a brief buyer’s guide to help you choose the best paint stripper for your project.


Many popular paint thinners have noxious odors. The bad smell is more than just unpleasant—it can be harmful too. Inhaling these organic compounds can lead to nausea, dizziness, headaches, and more.

You should use a low-odor or odorless paint stripper for wood located in enclosed spaces. If you cannot provide adequate ventilation, consider removing paint manually with a heat gun.

You can also choose odorless mineral spirits, which have been distilled to remove malodorous compounds. Another great option is a citrus-based solvent which has a pleasant aroma.

Paint Type

Paint can be made from many different materials. Common types of paint include latex, oil, enamel, acrylic, and lacquer. The type of stripper you need depends on which paint you are removing.

Citrus-based solvents work well at breaking down latex paint, lacquer, and varnish. If you are stripping oil-based paint, you should use a mineral spirit paint thinner.

Surface Durability

Even the best paint strippers for wood require some effort to remove paint fully. After applying a solvent you will need to scrub the surface with a rag to wipe away the paint.

Some wooden structures, like ornamental carvings, may be too delicate for this process. In such cases, using a heat gun to soften the paint would be best so you can gently peel it off.

Liquid or Gel?

Is liquid or gel paint stripper better for wood? Generally, this depends on the size of the surface from which you are removing paint.

Large projects benefit from the slow drying time of gel paint strippers. This enables you to coat the entire area, let it sit, then wipe the paint away.

Liquid paint strippers tend to be more volatile than gel varieties. This means they dry much more quickly, which has benefits and drawbacks.

On one hand, this fast-drying lets you get small projects done swiftly. On the other hand, it will dry too soon for you to coat a large area before stripping.


How do you strip paint from wood?

Removing paint is a two-step process. First, you must apply the best paint stripper for wood according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Be mindful of the thickness and time required to break the bonds keeping the layers of paint secure.

Once the paint is broken down, manually remove it from the surface. This can be accomplished with a rag or wood-safe paint scraper.

Thick layers of dried paint may require you to repeat the process a few times until the surface is clean.

Most paint removal projects are easy and safe to do on your own. However, if your house was built before the 1980s, you must take extra precautions because of the dangers of lead dust.

Test dry paint to ensure it doesn’t contain lead. If you need to strip lead paint, consider hiring professionals to get the job done safely.

Which types of paint stripper should not be used on wood?

Paint strippers fall into one of three categories: solvent, caustic, and manual.

Solvents break down the chemical bonds in paint, making it easy to wipe away. Most solvents are safe to use on wood surfaces.

Caustic paint strippers break bonds between the paint and the surface. They achieve this through a very high pH—between 12 and 14. Caustic paint strippers damage wood and should never be used.

Manual paint strippers include heat guns, sanders, and sandblasters. Abrasive sanders and sandblasters shouldn’t be used on wood, as they can mar the surface.

Using a heat gun and scraper to remove white paint from a window frame

The Best Paint Stripper for Wood DIY Guide

After reading this guide, you now know different ways to remove layers of dried paint. You should feel confident choosing the best paint stripper for wood surfaces that you are tackling.

Do you want to learn the top DIY painting tips and advice? If so, check out our painting page for more in-depth articles.

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