How to Use Xylene to Remove Paint

Warning sign about flammable substances
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-100
What You'll Need
Fire extinguisher

It is a good idea to have xylene on hand, as it can serve several different purposes. It smells sweet and is colorless and clear. This solution is man-made, but also occurs naturally. The best place to find xylene is at hardware stores or places that sell paint. Make sure you tell the associates what you are using it for, as they will be able to let you know if there is a better method, as well as how much you should purchase. When mixed properly, it can be used as paint thinner. It can also be used as a paint remover.

Have a well-ventilated area to work with. Fans will also help you to be able to breathe a little easier, but it’s recommended that you wear a respirator. Be aware that xylene is a highly flammable substance, and keep away from open flame, sparks, or pilot lights.

Step 1 - Fill Container

Fill your designated container with the xylene. Make sure you have your gloves on so you have as little contact with the skin as possible. Long sleeve shirts are a good idea as well.

Step 2 - Remove Paint


It is always a good idea to read the directions thoroughly before you begin to use the xylene. Some products will vary slightly with the methods listed, so to be safe always follow the manufacturer's directions if they differ from these. The container it comes in will tell you of all the necessary warnings you should be aware of as well as how much to use.

Once you have read through the instructions and warnings, you are ready to remove your paint. Dip your rag into the xylene. Do not over saturate the rag to the point that it drips. Take it to the area where the paint you are removing is. Rub it on and give the xylene time to do its job. If it seems to be working as it should, then continue on with the rest of the area.

TIP: Doityourself’s painting consultant Edward Kimble, author of Interior House Painting Blog, suggests, “We should use the Xylene on a small area first to make sure the surface of the item we are working on will not be damaged.”

Step 3 - Finish Up

Once you have all of the paint removed from the surface, make sure you properly dispose of the xylene. There may be EPA or local regulations regarding disposing of rags and paint waste. Soak the rags in water overnight before you throw them away and keep the windows open and the fan going for at least a few hours after the job is finished.