Buyer's Guides Paint Strippers

Best Paint Stripper for Wood, Metal, and Masonry: Buyer’s Guide for 2020

renovation furniture

Prepping furniture to paint it can be a difficult task, especially if you’re dealing with a piece that has been painted many times and has areas that are blistering, cracking, and chipping. Before you can make any real progress in your refinishing project, you need to use the best paint stripper, which can make even the most challenging project easier. While you can always manually sand down furniture, it can be very time-consuming and will definitely take plenty of elbow work. With the right paint stripper, your work will be cut in half, and will require far less effort on your part.

But before you run out and purchase some paint stripper for your project, it’s important to learn about the different types available and how it works. That’s where I come in. I’ve created a buyer’s guide that will discuss the different types to choose from, what to look for in a product to ensure it actually works, and works quickly, and what type of paint stripper will work for your project, based on the type of paint that you’re trying to remove. I’ve also tested many of the leading products currently on the market and have narrowed it down to four powerful paint strippers that every DIYer should have in their paint prepping arsenal.

Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each product, important features, and how each product rated.

Paint Stripper Comparison Chart

Products Type Must Be Left
on For
Works for What
Type of Paint
Rating
Dumond Chemicals Paint Remover

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VOC45 Mins All
Citristrip Stripping Gel

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VOC24 Hours Oil-Based
Dumond Chemicals
Peel Away Paint Remover

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Biochemical1 Hour Lead-Based
Sunnyside Paint
& Varnish Remover 

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VOC2 Minutes All

Dumond Chemicals Smart Strip Paint Remover


Our Rating: (5/5)

This paint stripper doesn’t contain any toxic or caustic chemicals and doesn’t contain methylene chloride. It’s also tough enough to remove multiple layers, so there’s no repeat application needed. This product is safe to use on paint that’s lead-based and is a great choice for molded, carved, and intricate surfaces. It also works well on marine paints and will not damage the gel coat. Since it’s a paste, it can be applied easily by rollers, brushes, and airless sprayers.

Pros

  • Nontoxic
  • Removes multiple layers with a single application
  • Removes lead-based paint
  • Paste form

Cons

  • Can leave behind chalky residue

Conclusion

The paste easily sticks to all types of surfaces and will not drip or run, like traditional paint stripper, so there’s less mess. Since it’s also able to remove multiple layers, you won’t have to repeat the treatment.

Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This is a citrus scented paint stripper, with no harsh fumes. This product doesn’t contain methylene chloride so it’s perfect for indoor use and is non-caustic. The gel formula helps to keep the product in place, preventing drips and runs, for easier application and cleanup. The product remains active for a period of twenty-four hours, during which time it will work to remove multiple layers with just a single application. It can be used on masonry, metal, and wood surfaces.

Pros

  • Citrus scent
  • Can be used on masonry, metal, and wood surfaces
  • Can be used indoors
  • Gel formula

Cons

  • Must be left on for twenty-four hours

Conclusion

This is an industrial strength stripper that’s easy to use and apply. It can be used indoors, which is a huge plus for most buyers, and it won’t leave behind a harsh chemical smell. While it must be left on for a period of twenty-four hours, it works well to remove layer after layer of oil-based paints and varnishes, with just one application.

Dumond Chemicals, Inc.1160N Peel Away Paint Remover


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The manufacturer claims that this product can remove up to thirty coats of paint in a single application. This is a biodegradable paint stripping system that’s tough enough to remove paint from all types of surfaces. This kit comes with laminated paper, application tool, and neutralizer. Unfortunately, this stripper is very limited in terms of the types of materials you can use it on. This product is not recommended for use on rubber, plastics, plexiglass, glass laminates, fiberglass, limestone, sandstone, brownstone, aluminum, drywall, plywood, and veneer.

Pros

  • Comes with many free extras
  • Easy to apply
  • Biodegradable
  • Can remove up to thirty coats per application

Cons

  • Very limited in terms of what types of materials it can be used on

Conclusion

This stripper is easy to apply, can remove up to thirty coats of paint per application, and is designed to remove lead-based paint safely. The biggest drawback is that it’s not very versatile in terms of what types of materials it can be used on. However, you’ll still find that it does a great job of removing paint from a variety of surfaces including steel, masonry, and wood.

Sunnyside 63432 Advanced Paint & Varnish Remover


Our Rating: (4/5)

This formula is methylene chloride free. This stripping gel is able to remove several layers of varnish or paint in a single application. It’s also approved for application on horizontal and vertical surfaces and can be used on masonry, metal, and wood surfaces. The biggest selling point for this powerful varnish is that it only needs to be left on for two minutes.

Pros

  • Safe to use on horizontal and vertical surfaces
  • Works in two minutes
  • Gel formula
  • Low price

Cons

  • Runs off vertical surfaces

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a fast and easy to use paint stripper that’s tough and safe to use, then this newer safer formula by Sunnyside is a perfect choice.

This product can cover up to one hundred square feet per gallon, can remove multiple layers of paint per application, and can be used on wood, metal, and masonry surfaces. This stripper is very versatile, safe, and a good choice for beginners.

Paint Stripper Buyer’s Guide

Not all paint strippers will be suitable for all types of surfaces and paint. Some products contain harsh chemical ingredients that will require the user to follow special safety precautions. But there are many benefits that come with using paint strippers, especially if you have a challenging project on your hands, and not much free time to work on it.

Benefits of Paint Strippers

cleaning surface

  • Some types of paint strippers can work in as little as ten minutes, so you can quickly tackle even the most challenging furniture projects.
  • Solvents work well even on vertical surfaces and will not drip or make a mess
  • Green strippers are available and can be a great choice for the eco-conscious buyer since they’re very environmentally friendly.
  • Stripping paint using a chemical stripper is much easier and faster than using steam or heat
  • Because these products are so easy to use, it’s very beginner-friendly, so no experience is required.
  • Paint strippers are more affordable than using an expensive sander, pressure washer, or heat gun.

There are many benefits that come with using a paint stripper, especially if you’re a beginner or you’re on a tight budget. Now, I’ll go over the different types of strippers to choose from and how they work.

Types of Paint Strippers

Now, let’s check out the different types of paint strippers to choose from, how they work, and how to choose.

Currently, there are four types of paint strippers to choose from, each of which possess unique properties that make each one suitable for removing certain types of finishes from different kinds of surfaces. Some types of strippers will be more effective at removing polyurethane and epoxy, both of which are synthetic coatings that are long-lasting and difficult to remove using other methods.

Solvent

Solvents are considered the most versatile type of paint stripper and it relies on chemicals to weaken the bond between the surface and the paint. These products can effectively strip oil and water-based paint, in addition to polyurethane and epoxy from metal surfaces, masonry, and wood, without causing discoloration. Many of the leading solvents contain methylene chloride. This chemical contains a very high volatile organic compound content, while other types of solvents will include a combination of methanol, toluene, and alcohol.

High volatile organic compounds have very strong fumes and are more dangerous to use compared to other types of strippers. If you inhale the fumes indirectly, the chemicals can damage the reproductive system and brain, which is why it’s crucial that you wear a respirator and some gloves when using this type of chemical. When using this product, you will only need to apply a very thin layer. Once applied, the paint will lift off easily, with the help of a paint scraper. Once the surface has been stripped it must be washed down with mineral spirits or water before it can be repainted or finished. However, for solvents, you won’t have to use any type of neutralizing agent.

Caustic

This type of stripper contains the active ingredient lye and works by partially converting dried paint into soap, which causes it to loosen from the surface. These strippers are not effective on polyurethane and epoxy finishes. Instead, it should be used to remove paint that’s oil-based. While this type of stripper is commonly used on masonry surfaces, they can blacken hardwoods and erode certain metals, such as aluminum. To use correctly, a caustic stripper must be applied in a ¼ inch layer and must sit on the surface for at least half an hour before using a paint scraper. Since these strippers are high alkaline, the surface must be neutralized via wiping it down using a vinegar and water solution. Keep in mind that this chemical can irritate the lungs, skin, and eyes if inhaled or touched.

Biochemical

Biochemical paint strippers are a much safer alternative to caustic and solvent products, because they are made up of a combination of plant-based solvents such as terpenes and other organic compounds. However, this type of stripper can still adversely affect the reproductive and respiratory system, so a respirator and gloves should be used. These products can remove oil or water-based paint from wood, metal, and masonry, but they are not very effective when it comes to removing polyurethane or epoxy coatings and tend to leave loose wood fibers on stripped wood surfaces. It must be applied ¼ inch thick and left on the surface for a period of two to four hours before using a scraper. The treated surface should be washed with water, but no neutralizer will be needed.

Zero VOC Products

If you’re worried about using chemical strippers then try using a VOC paint remover, which is made without the harsh chemicals I mentioned above. These products are almost odorless and made out of naturally occurring solvents such as benzyl alcohol, which will help to break down resins of oil and water-based paint in order to loosen it from the surface. Keep in mind, this type of stripper is less effective when it comes to removing polyurethane and epoxy. While these are by far the safest types of strippers to use, directly exposing yourself to it can cause skin and lung irritation, so the use of a respirator is still recommended. These products should be applied in a ¼ inch thick layer and left on for a period of twenty-four hours before you can begin going to work with a paint scraper.

Other Considerations

Aside from the type of stripper you purchase, there are some other factors you’ll need to take into consideration, which I’ll go over below.

Volume

Do you need paint stripper for more than one project, or are you simply looking for a product to tackle an old piece of furniture that you’ve been intending to repaint for years? These products are available in a wide range of volumes, so you can purchase just enough to complete one piece of furniture or buy a larger can to keep on hand for your other DIY projects. Before you buy, take a look at the size of the container and determine whether or not it’s worth it to purchase a larger can so you can always be prepared for another project. Of course, if you’re short on space or don’t have a garage to store it, then buying a small one-use can may be a better option.

Price

Fortunately, most of these products are reasonably priced, and a little will go a long way. Buying a paint stripper is a much more affordable option than investing in a sander, heat gun, or steamer. So, if you’re on a tight budget, these products can be the most affordable and effective option if you have furniture that needs to be repainted or refinished.

Additional Supplies Needed

If you use a paint stripper you will need to consider the added cost of purchasing a respirator, gloves, protective clothing, and a paint scraper. You can rent a respirator from a home improvement store, if you don’t want to purchase your own. Even if you wear a respirator, these products should always be applied in a well-ventilated area.

Frequently Asked Questions

Heat gun and scraper on old door

What is the Best Way to Strip Paint from Doors?

The product should be liberally spread on the side of the door that’s facing up, with the use of a paintbrush. The product should be left to sit for thirty minutes. Once the paint softens and begins to peel and bubble, you can scrape it off using a paint scraper.

How Long Does it Take to Strip Paint?

This will depend on the type of paint, the type of stripper you use, and whether or not the surface in question has been painted more than once. Some strippers can work in a matter of a ten minutes, while others must be left on for twenty-four hours. Make sure you read the product’s instructions carefully and follow the manufacturer’s usage instructions to ensure you use the product properly.

Do I Need to Strip Old Paint Before Repainting?

Before you paint over old paint on a wood surface, make sure you scrape off any peeling, chipping, cracking, or loose paint. After this is done, you may still need to use a paint stripper if you notice that the paint is very thick, there are other layers of paint underneath, or the surface is very uneven.

Is It Better to Sand or Strip Furniture?

Try to avoid sanding furniture and opt to strip it instead. Stripping wood is much safer and faster. It will also prevent you from overdoing it with a sander, which can damage the wood’s surface. Additionally, sanding is a much more time-consuming process.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, you can’t just use any type of paint stripper, you need to make your choice based on the type of surface and the type of paint you’ll be removing. Some paint strippers are more effective than others, so it’s important that you find out what type of paint you’ll be removing, whether the paint stripper must be neutralized, and how long it should remain on the surface before you can begin scrapping. This guide is designed to help you make the best choice, based on those factors, while helping you choose the best paint stripper, one that’s budget-friendly, powerful, and effective.