How to Remove Oil-based Paint

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What You'll Need
Methyl hydrate
Drop cloth
Rubber gloves
Paint remover/stripper
Plastic paint scraper
Garbage bag
Paper towels

Skill Level: Novice

Time: About a day (depending on the size of the job)

Oil-based paint is very durable, which makes it the best option for many projects. Unless it is in really bad shape, you usually do not need to remove paint to repaint that same surface. You can scrape and sand the surface and paint over it for a nice looking finish. However, if it is in such bad shape that it all needs to be removed, you will need to know the proper tools and steps for the job. Removing oil-based paint can be easy, without harming the surface underneath, with the right method.

Oil-based or Water-based

Before you start to strip whatever you'll be working with, you should be sure you know what paint you're dealing with. Many strippers on the market will work well on both latex and oil-based paints, but it is still best to know so you can get the right product for the job.

The easiest and most definitive way to test for latex or oil paint is to use a tiny bit of methyl hydrate on an old rag. Pick up a small container at your local paint or home improvement store, place the rag over the opening, and just turn the container for a quick second to get as much as you need. If the paint starts to come away and the color transfers easily to your rag when it's rubbed, you have a water-based paint on your object. Oil-based paint will remain largely unaffected by methyl hydrate.

Step 1 - Prepare Before Removal

Plan to work outside or in a well-ventilated garage, as you will be working with paint remover which releases toxic fumes. Even if your workspace has sufficient airflow, to be safe, a respirator is still required. I have seen people be overcome with fumes to the point of unconsciousness in a ventilated space.

Wherever you're working, lay out a drop cloth on a flat surface for your workspace. This will protect the area from any potential chemical drips or excess.

Step 2 - Apply Remover

Wearing the rubber gloves, apply the paint remover in a medium coat over the paint. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for how long you need to let it sit, which is normally 30 minutes to an hour. You will see the paint start to bubble up, which means it is letting go of the surface beneath.

Step 3 - Strip Paint

When time is up, strip the old paint off with a plastic paint scraper and discard it in a garbage bag. When all of the paint is removed, wipe down the surface with paper towels to remove residue. Be thorough with this cleaning; otherwise, the paint stripper can interfere with any new coats of sealant, stain, or paint you might put on the object.

Wet with remover, paint is technically hazardous waste and needs to be disposed of properly. Let it dry, and then locate a place where your scrapings can be taken.

Edward Kimble, a professional painter and the author of Interior House Painting Blog, contributed to this article.