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How To Remove Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is versatile and packed with style, but lots of people want to know “How do I remove chalk paint?” If you’re anything like the rest of the DIY world, you’ve probably done a few chalk paint projects around the house and you’ve asked this question yourself.

Overhead view of open paint cans (2 large and 4 small), a paint brush, and a paint roller sitting on a whitewashed wooden surface.
Painting supplies.

The Chalk Paint Trend

Chalk paint has become more popular than ever. As more people are looking for that reclaimed and rustic look, chalk paint has become the go-to.

Whether you’re flipping furniture or coming up with new and exciting decorations for around the house, chalk paint is all over the place. However, some people are looking to change things up. 

Removing chalk paint couldn’t be easier. All that you need to do to remove chalk paint in most situations is just scrape or sand it off.

You can use chemical solvents and paint removers for a faster and more thorough job.

You can also paint directly on top of a chalk paint coating as the matte texture makes it an ideal surface to be painted on. If you’re looking for a crash course on removing chalk paint, you found it.

What Is Chalk Paint?

Chalk paint is all the rage for DIY projects and getting that farmhouse feel for all of your furniture but what, exactly, is chalk paint? 

Chalk paint is a specific brand designed by Annie Sloan. You’ll see countless other brands of “chalk paint,” but you’ll also notice that they describe themselves as “chalk-like” paint or “chalk style” paint.

Can of Annie Sloan brand Chalk Paint on distressed blue painted table with striped pillows in the background.
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

Some of these other brands are just as good as the real deal, so feel free to experiment with off-brand chalk paint products. They all have the same matte texture and very similar color palettes.

Chalk paint leaves your project with a with matte texture on whatever surface you apply it to. Chalk paint comes in a variety of colors, but is usually found in more rustic farmhouse colors. One of the biggest selling points of chalk paint is that you do not need to sand and prime the surface you are painting. You can just paint right over the top and the chalk paint will be just fine.

This means that there are plenty of applications for chalk paint as well as plenty of occasions where people need to cover up their older chalk paint job. These are just a few of the reasons why chalk paint is one of the best paints for DIY crafters. 

The first step for covering up your chalk paint is deciding if you actually need to remove it.  

Do You Need To Remove Chalk Paint? 

Learning how to remove chalk paint also includes figuring out if you need to remove it. Sometimes the fastest way to getting rid of chalk paint is just slapping another coat of paint right over it. 

Keep in mind, this doesn’t work for everything. This solution is ideal for quick projects and furniture that only has one coat of paint on it. If you’ve ever rented an apartment, you know what it looks like when someone has quickly painted over several layers of paint already. It doesn’t look good. 

Chalk paint makes a great foundation for another coat of paint. The matte texture of chalk paint is the ideal surface for a cover up job. So, if you’ve got a small surface or you have a pretty basic project, this could be the most time-saving tip on this list. 

But if you do need to remove chalk paint, you’re going to need these following tips. 

Painting Over Chalk Paint

We’ve been talking about how painting over existing chalk paint is one of the easiest ways to get rid of it. Here’s a quick primer on how you can get that done.

Blue chalk paint being painted over white paint -- an example of when applying a new coat of paint makes it unnecessary to remove chalk paint.
Rather than remove chalk paint, sometimes a new coat of paint will do the trick.

We already mentioned that chalk paint is an ideal service for painting on because of how well other paints adhere to the matte texture of chalk paint. Whether you’re using another coat of chalk paint in a different color, or you’re using a different type of paint, the old chalk paint makes an ideal surface to paint on.

All you need to do is take out your paints and get to work. Trust us, it really is this easy. The only thing that you need to keep in mind is that it can be obvious that there are two different coats of paint because the old color may not be completely covered.

The Risk of Bleed Through

When you paint a lighter color over a darker color it can be difficult to hide the underlying color. This is especially true when the darker color has a strong tone. For instance, using white paint to cover a red wall can leave you with pink spots as the red bleeds through the white paint.

If you’re painting a lighter color over a darker color, you might want to remove the original coat of paint for the best results.

Paint Buildup

Another thing to keep in mind is that paint can build up. After multiple coats of paint, things can start to look a little blotchy. Fine Details in carvings, bevels, and other locations can disappear and get lost in multiple coats of paint.

If you’re thinking about painting over an intricate piece of furniture, it’s probably better to just remove the paint and start fresh.

So, if you decided that removing the chalk paint is right for you, then this is what you need to do. 

Let’s Go Over How to Remove Chalk Paint

We’ve gotten into a couple of the quickest ways to remove chalk paint, but now’s the time that we get into the thick of it. Here’s the ins-and-outs of removing chalk paint from virtually any project.

With the Power of Science

We’re starting our how to remove chalk paint tutorial with the quickest and most powerful method — paint removers.

Paint removers use chemical power to loosen up the bonds that hold paint to whatever surface they’ve been applied to. This is also the fastest and least work intensive way to remove paint. However, when working with paint removers you need to ensure that the room is adequately ventilated. Paint removers release potentially dangerous fumes the can be harmful if they are breathed in.

When you’re working with paint removers, you need to make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Your average paint remover will have you apply it directly to the painted surface and then wait somewhere between twenty to thirty minutes for the paint remover to start working.

You’ll know that the paint remover has started to work when you see bubbles on the surface of the paint and the paint is beginning to flake away. Once that starts happening, you can get in there with a paint scraper and just quickly peel it away. The paint should fall quickly off of whatever surface it was painted on with little to no effort.

Using paint remover is an ideal solution if you’re working with a surface that can’t stand up to being sanded or you want to get the job done much quicker than you could be using one of our other methods. 

Sand Away Your Chalk Paint Troubles

Closeup of man using the sanding technique to remove chalk paint.
Sanding technique to remove chalk paint.

One of the downsides of chalk paint is that a can flake off very easily. While it’s strong enough to use on furniture and other types of projects, it’s not uncommon for people to have to redo chalk paint or embrace that salvaged flaky look.

 This also means that removing chalk paint often comes down to just a little bit of sanding and scraping.

Solvents and Elbow Grease

This is the best of both worlds “how to remove chalk paint” approach. This method will leave you free to decide between using paint or stains for a new look. 

Solvents are a lot like paint remover, but they aren’t nearly as powerful. This means they’re also a little bit less dangerous to work with. This can be the right choice if you’re working with a wood project that you don’t want to risk with harsh chemicals.

All you need to do for this strategy is to apply the solvent to an old rag or a sponge and then rub it on to the chalk paint. The chalk paint should start to come off pretty quickly. Don’t forget to wear your personal protective equipment like goggles and a pair of rubber gloves to prevent the solvent from getting onto you. 

Removing Chalk Paint Can Depend on the Surface You are Working On

Learning how to remove chalk paint means understanding the surface it’s painted on. Let’s take a look at three common surfaces and how they can each be treated differently. 

Removing Chalk Paint From Wood

Closeup of scraper removing bright blue paint from a wooden surface -- a demonstration of one method to remove chalk paint.

If you want to remove chalk paint from wood you’ve got a few options.

You can sand, use paint remover, or use a solvent to remove the chalk paint. You could even just paint over the coating of chalk paint if you wanted. The method that you pick depends on the goals you have for your final project as well as the specifics of the wood project you’re working on.

If your piece of wood has a lot of intricate detail, like a nice piece of furniture, you shouldn’t sand or scrape too heavily. Also, if you’re planning on staining the wood underneath, you want to minimize the amount of damage you do to it while removing the paint. The goal is to preserve as much of the wood as possible and deal as little damage when changing styles.

Any of these methods will work, you just need to pick the one that’s right for your project. 

How About Metal?

Closeup of hands painting purple chalk paint onto a metal can.
Chalk paint on metal can

Chalk paint is a great choice for painting on metal. In fact, chalk paint is a great choice for pretty much any material. One of the reasons why chalk paint has gotten so popular in the DIY and crafting community is that could be used for pretty much any application. However, when it comes time to remove chalk paint from metal you could be in for a surprise.

The surprise here is just how easy it is to remove chalk paint from metal! Actually, metal is the easiest surface to remove chalk paint from. While there are more options for removing it from wood and technically it is easier to get it off of glass, metal is a tough material that can withstand more than its fair share of handling. This means that when it comes time to remove chalk paint from metal, all you need to do is a little scraping.

Chalk paint will stick to metal just fine. However, when it’s time to get rid of the chalk paint all you need to do is scrape it off. You can do this with whatever scraper that you think would be best for the particular metal piece you’re working with. You can use anything from a paint scraper to a kitchen scrubbing pad. All you need to remove the chalk paint in this situation is elbow grease and a little bit of time. The paint will scrub right off even though it might take some work.

If you don’t feel like doing all that scrubbing or you are afraid of damaging some intricate metal work, there are alternatives that you can do.

What you need to keep in mind here is a different types of metal react differently. The solvent that you choose for one particular metal might not work on another. You want to consider the type of metal you’re trying to remove paint from and find a solvent that’s not going to react with it or cause it to rust. Once you pick the right kind of solvent just apply that to an old rag and rub it on the paint and it’ll come right off.

Closeup of vinyl-gloved hand wiping a white painted wall with an orange cloth dipped in solvent -- an example of using solvents to remove chalk paint.

The Best for Last: Glass

We mentioned just a bit ago that glass is the easiest surface to remove chalk paint from. In fact, it’s the easiest “how to remove chalk paint” case you can come across! Now let’s discover just how easy. 

Glass is a non-porous surface. This means that the surface of glass is incredibly smooth. While chalk paint can stick to, and dry on, the surface of glass, it also flakes off of glass incredibly easy. This means that all you need to do to remove chalk paint from glass is to flake it off.

The only hard part here is trying not to damage the underlying glass. You don’t want to bust out the paint scrapers and sandpaper for this kind of work. That could easily damage the underlying glass. In order to keep the glass intact and remove the chalk paint, you want to use a lighter touch.

A few of the tools that you can use to get chalk paint off of glass include kitchen sponges, rags with light amounts of weaker solvents, and you might even be able to flake off the chalk paint with your bare hands. For flat glass surfaces, a razor blade will work as a small scraper tool.

At the end of the day, removing chalk paint from glass is about keeping the glass safe first and foremost.

That’s How to Remove Chalk Paint

That’s it. Now you know how to remove chalk paint from just about any surface. Whether you’re redoing that chalk paint wall or you’re paint washing some furniture, you’ve now got all the skills you need to be a chalk paint champion! 

For more DIY inspiration, check out “The Complete Guide to Flipping Furniture” on our website.