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How to Remove Paint From Wooden Floors

How to Remove Paint From Wooden Floors

Removing paint from wooden floors depends heavily on the paint used or spilled on the floor. 

The general process is to mix some soapy/detergent-filled warm water and apply it to the paint stain. You can use a soft-bristled brush to get the paint off. Soapy water is most effective for water-based paints.

This process may not be enough all the time. Harder or dried paint stain will most likely need a paint thinner remover solvents to break up the bonds of paint. You can use harsher chemical solutions like Turpentine or Acetone for oil-based paint.

There are plenty of methods to be used. We recommend using a combination of at least two of the methods stated below. For Extreme situations, it is best to get the help of commercial cleaning services.

How to Get Paint Off Wooden Floors

Follow the steps & alternatives below to get the job done in no time.

Understand the Type of Paint

Understand the Type of Paint

You will most likely encounter three types of paint. The spill or coating that you try to get off will be either water-based or oil-based paint. 

What does this mean? Paints are made with a binder agent, pigment, and a solvent base. The solvent base is the deciding factor for cleaning paint.

Water-based paints are generally easier to take off compared to oil-based paints. In most cases, soapy water will do the trick. 

Oil-based paints are stickier and thicker. They will probably require a commercial paint remover or harsher chemical solutions to remove oil-based paint.

Never Remove Lead Base Paint

This type of paint base isn’t used anymore due to the risks associated. However, some old buildings may still have it. Always test a portion of the paint before the removal process. 

You can find plenty of Lead paint test kits at our local hardware stores. The price generally ranges from $10 to $30 depending upon the number of packs.

If the test is positive, do not remove the paint. Call a professional lead abatement contractor and discuss. 

Items and Possible Method Specific Requirements

Items Required Possible Method Specific Requirements
Water  Heat Gun 
Soap/ Detergent / Dishwashing liquid Sandpaper
Nylon bristled scrubberElectric  Sander
Plastic Scrapper or Putty KnifeTurpentine or Acetone
Needle / toothpick Vinegar
Clean Rags/ Cloths/ Paper Towels Rubbing Alcohol / Isopropyl Alcohol
 Mask & GlovesLemon Juice
Commercial Paint Remover solvents
Linseed Oil
Pressure Washer 
Mineral Spirits

Preliminary Steps to Remove Paints From Wooden Floors

Preliminary Steps to Remove Paints From Wooden Floors

Follow the steps and alternatives below for an effective paint removal job.

Did you spill the paint

The time you let the paint sit on the wooden floor will directly correspond to the effort required to clean it up.

Wet Paint

We recommend getting a bunch of paper towels and start scooping off as much paint as you can. You can also use a rag for this process. Your wooden floor generally is sealed with a finish so, the paint isn’t making full contact with the surface yet. 

Scooping it while the paint is wet will be far easier than when it’s dried off. Once you have scooped off the excess, you can finally remove the residue with the steps below.

Dry Paint

Take a small toothpick or needle and prick the paint spill. It should start breaking up, and chunks should form. 

Take your plastic scraper and scrape the dried residue as much as possible. Be gentle with this process; you do not want to damage the floor. If residues are left, you will most likely have to saturate it first.

Opt for Soapy Water Initially

Opt for Soapy Water Initially

Get a bit of warm water and mix some mild detergent in it. You can also use dishwashing liquid or soap for it. Make sure these products do not have bleach in them. Ball parking the dilution of detergent is fine. Try to get around one teaspoon per liter of water. 

Apply this solution through spray or through dipping a rag and applying that. Do not pour directly over the wooden floor. Water is the natural enemy of wood. Dripping water will get into the seam of the wooden floor and create moldings from the inside.

For water-based paints, this should make a considerable difference. The paint should start slowly coming off. Repeat the process according to the residue left.

For Oil Base paints that have dried off, soapy water will help saturate the spills and soften the paint. This process, however, may not be enough for them.

Paint Removal Alternatives

Here is the list of alternatives that you can use to remove paint off the wooden floor. Use any one of them or combine a few for maximum results.

The list is made mainly for spills and paint stains. Suppose the whole floor is painted. Do not waste time with solvents; sand the floor more effectively clean the paint off.

Apply Rubbing Alcohol 

Apply Rubbing Alcohol

Take a clean cloth, put some rubbing alcohol and apply it to the water-based paint stain. The residue should start breaking off.

Ensure you do this after the paint stain has dried from the soapy water used before. 

After this is done, make sure you wipe off the substance from the floor with another clean rag. Rubbing alcohol is not good for wood and will damage it if left on too long.

Alternatively, we recommend using 1 part lemon juice and 3 parts rubbing alcohol. Scrape as much paint as possible beforehand, dip a rag in this solution, and apply it to the paint spill of stain. You can also leave the dipped rag on the spill for a few minutes depending upon the size of the paint stain created.

Use circular and back and forth motion while rubbing the solution on the stain and let the stain soak for 5 to 10 minutes. The paint will start to loosen up. Use a soft-bristled scrubber or plastic scraper if necessary to gently take the paint off. Wipe down the floor when done. Repeat the process according to the situation.

This solution is particularly effective for water-based paint. You can also find alcohol cleansing pads at local hardware stores. They cost around $6 to $10 for the box. You can try the lemon juice with rubbing alcohol for oil-based paints; the cleansing pad may not be enough.

Apply Boiled Linseed 

Apply Boiled Linseed

Boiled Linseed can also be used to soften dry water-based paint. Mix some boiled linseed oil with rotten stone in a bowl. As you mix, you will make a paste. 

Apply the paste to the paint stain. Make sure you apply the paste along the grain of the wood and leave it in for about 5 to 10 minutes. Use a rag or scrubber to get the paint pieces off gently.

Use a Paint Stripper/ Commercial Paint Removal Solvents

Paint Stripper is an excellent alternative to remove paint from any surface. Make sure you follow manufacturing instructions while using these products as excess will damage the surface of the wood.

The beauty of using these products is that you can buy paint strippers according to your paint. The label on these commercial products will specify the compatible surfaces and base of paint where you can use it. You also get the option of toxic, nontoxic versions along with aroma specifications. 

Generally, Strippers with hard chemicals like methylene chloride will remove the paint faster, but the fumes are toxic, so open ventilation and masks are necessary. Get a non or low VOC stripper from the market.

These products generally range from $9 to $50, depending upon the volume of products and the brands. Some of the brands in the market are Confined Space, Sunnyside, Safe n Easy, Smart Strip, Max Strip, Motsenbocker, etc.

You have options of buying powder, spray, laminate strips embedded with solvent and liquid solution. The general steps to use these products are:

  • Put the stripper on a bowl use a paintbrush to apply the product to the stain. Apply a laminate strip or transparent warping paper on top of the stain
  • Let the solution sit on the stain for around 15 to 20 minutes.
  • You will start to see bubbles on the paint stain or see it lift off a bit.
  • Use your scraper at an angle and gently scrape with the grain of the wood. 
  • Apply stripper with cloth or rag for smaller residue and wipe it away. 
  • Repeat the process as necessary.
  • For nooks and corners of the wood floors, use a brush with a bit of the stripper, mineral spirits, or denatured alcohol.

 Use a Heat Gun

 Use a Heat Gun

Get a heat gun or hairdryer and plug in the machine. Hover the device at least 8 to 10 inches from the paint stain.

Be extra careful with this step as improper distance or use will scorch the wood surface or create a small fire. The heat may also cause harmful fumes, especially with oil-based paint. Masks and open ventilation are compulsory.

Always hover the machine in circular motions over the paint. Once you start to see wrinkles or bubbles, gently scrape the paint off with your scraper. Repeat process. 

Use a bit of mineral spirit on a cloth for small leftover residue and wipe it down with a rag.

There are also infrared devices found in the market that does a heat gun’s work but doesn’t let the temperature increase for a fire Hazzard issue. Check your hardware store if available.

Strip Paint With Steam

Strip Paint With Steam

You can rent out a handheld steamer from the local hardware store or use a clothing iron in the worst-case scenario. Steam will help saturate the dried-off paint. 

Once it’s saturated, hold the steamer at about 2 to 5 inches from the surface. Let it steam for 20 seconds or so. Winkled, and bubbles will start to form. Use a plastic putty knife to scrape the paint off gently.

Repeat the process as necessary. Wipe off small residue with mineral spirits on a clean cloth. Make sure you clean the surface later with a dry clean cloth. Moisture is very bad for wood.

Sand the floor

sand the floor

Sanding is the best option for huge projects. Suppose you have multiple floors to remove paint; sanding will get it done faster and more efficiently than any other method.

The tool to use is a walk-behind or handheld orbital sander. There are drum sanders available, but these machines require a bit of experience and finesse. Improper use of the drum sander will take off extra layers of the wooden floors.

To remove paint only, you can use grit paper of 60, 80, and 100/120. These grits represent finishing coarseness in the sanding industry, excellent for removing the layer of paint.

Do three to four passes with these grits changing from low to high in every stage. You can get a handheld paper for nooks and corners and do it manually.

Please note that you may have to apply a new finish once the whole floor sanding is done. So, opt for this method for big projects, multiple rooms, or an entire house.

Make sure you know what type of flooring you have. Hardwood floors can be sanded 7 to 10 times in their lifetime. Other synthetic options to mimic wood-like engineered hardwood can only be done once or twice, depending upon the thickness of its layer.

You can spot clean with rubbing alcohol and detergent-water spray for laminate or vinyl, but we recommend changing the planks for big spills.

 Call a Professional

When it doubts, call a professional. Professional Cleaning or sanding services should always be kept as a viable option. Our DIY machines solvents will not match their industrial-level equipment and experience. 

For big spills, seeking assistance from a cleaning service will be the best. Hiring a sanding professional for large projects with multiple floors will be better.

Use Turpentine or Acetone Solutions

Turpentine and Acetone solutions are great for oil-based paints. For water-based ones, you don’t need this degree of harsh solutions.

Apply the solution on a clean rag and rub it in the stain. Wait about 5 minutes or so and gently scrape it off. Wipe down any residue with the same solutions or mineral spirits. It’s best for small stains or spills. 

Make sure you clean off the solution with some water and dry cloth or rag later. These chemicals are too hard on the wooden floors.

Homemade Solution

home made solution

Are you looking for a homemade solution? Try heating a bit of vinegar on a pan; no need to get it boiling.

Apply the vinegar with a brush and let the solution sit for around 15 minutes on the paint stain. Gently scrub it with a brush or scrape it with a putty knife.

This process will take a bit of time, and it is recommended for small stains. Repeat application will be necessary. Any vinegar will do except vinegar with fruit components like apple cider as they contain pectin, which attracts pests.