15 Non-Toxic Ways to Remove Paint


Have you recently decided to repaint your house? You might be wondering if there are any non-toxic ways to remove paint then. Or maybe you want to strip some paint off of an old, antique piece of furniture. There happen to be plenty of non-toxic ways to remove paint.

So what kinds of non-toxic ways to remove paint are there?

  1. Citrus Based
  2. Pressure Wash
  3. Soap and Water
  4. Hot vinegar
  5. Scraping
  6. Sanding
  7. Soy Gel Paint Removers
  8. Hot Water and Baking Soda
  9. Sandblasting
  10. Soda Blasting
  11. Bead Blasting
  12. Heat Gun
  13. Steel Wool
  14. Home Recipies
  15. Hydrogen Peroxide

1.  Citrus Based Gel

Citrus based cleaners are a fabulous way to strip paint. They are non-toxic, and they have a wax base in them to keep your project from drying out. Be sure that you strip the wax from the cleaner off before repainting or doing any other treatment to the surface, or you can find some cleaners that do not have wax in them. Be sure to read the label.

Most citrus-based stripping gels allow you to strip multiple layers of paint at a time. The reason why is because it stays wet for a long period of time. This is a perfect solution for someone who is looking for something to strip heavy paint, but not wanting to suffer the consequences of harsh paint thinners or removers.

The other advantage of citrus-based paint removers is a pleasant aroma. Instead of smelling the harsh aroma of the paint thinners, citrus-based gels and removers have a citrus smell, which is much better than the heavy chemical aromas.

When choosing what kind of citrus-based gel to use, think about what it is you’re trying to remove paint from. If you’re removing paint from furniture, maybe you’ll want one with wax in it, to preserve the furniture ad you’re stripping the paint.

There are different kinds of citrus-based paint removers for different kinds of jobs. If you’re not sure what you need, ask the store clerk who specializes in that department.

2. Pressure Wash

Pressure washing is a great way to remove paint if you have paint that needs to be stripped from outdoor surfaces such as wood, concrete, or metal.

Most people choose to use a pressure washer because it is a major time-saver, non-toxic, and it doesn’t require as much elbow grease as some of the methods on this list.

The downfall with using a pressure wash is it can leave gouges and splinters in old untreated wood. Before you consider using a pressure washer, you should consider how old the wood is, and treat it with some wood treater first.

Choosing a Pressure Washer for Paint Removal

Choosing the right pressure washer is going to make your job easier. You want to choose a pressure washer with two thousand to four thousand PSI to get the job done right. If you choose a pressure washer that doesn’t have a strong enough pressure level, you could be there for days stripping the pant.

If you’re renting a pressure washer, make sure to ask what the PSI levels are for each pressure washer before you select one to rent. Here’s how to safely use a pressure washer to remove paint:

  1. Clean the Area: Remove all items from around the area. If anything is left around the area you’re working at, it will get damaged. Replace any damaged or rotting wood as well. The high-pressure level will damage it more.
  1. Adjust Nozzle: Adjust the nozzle to the spray setting of your choosing.
  1. Correct Tip: You’re going to want to use a 25 or 45-degree tip.
  1. Spraying in Downward Motion: works in one section at a time. Spray in a downward motion with the sprayer. 
  1. Scrape Leftover Paint: Scrape off any leftover paint the pressure washer did not get.

3. Soap and Water

If you want to remove paint from your hands, this tried, and true old-time recipe works just as good as it ever has. To use this method follow these steps.

  • Apply a generous amount of soap to your hands. Make sure you rub the soap all over the hand covered in paint.
  • Next turn on the water. You’re going to want the water warm but not so hot that it burns your hand. Run your hand under the water. You may have to let it soak in the warm for a short amount of time.
  • Next, you’re going to scrub your hands. Use your fingernails if you have to and scrape away the soap the has become soft from the warm water.

If you have some paint that still won’t come off, you may use a scrub brush or a loofah to get the rest of it off. This method of paint removal also works on most clothing as well. You may have to let the clothes soak in warm water and soap for a little bit longer than you soak your hands, but it will work.

4.  Hot Vinegar

This method is perfect for those of you who want to remove old, stubborn paint that has been here since before father time. Vinegar has been used to remove tough paint for a very long time and has proven time and time again to work.

  • Heat a small amount of white, distilled vinegar in a small saucepan on and wait for it to boil.
  • Next, dip a paintbrush in the pan and use the paintbrush to apply the vinegar to the paint.
  • Hold it on the paint for about ten minutes and allow it to make the paint soft.
  • After you do this, you should be able to remove the paint with a scraper. If you can’t, then you most likely didn’t hold it on the spot long enough. Repeat the process.

You may not want to use this method for big areas unless you have a paint roller and a big pot you can dip the paint roller into. If you do, then you’re all set!

This method has also been known to remove paint from metal and paintbrushes as well. Follow the steps above to remove any type of paint from any metal surface.

To remove paint from paintbrushes heat the vinegar in a saucepan. Then dip the brush into the hot vinegar, hold it in the pan for ten minutes, then use a scrub brush to remove the paint from the bristles.

5.  Sanding

Using sandpaper is a great alternative to chemical-based paint removers for getting paint off of wood without ruining it. It can require a little bit of elbow grease, but if you know what you’re doing this method works perfectly. Here are some tips on how to do it effectively.

  • Use a Sander Rather Than Sand Paper: Using a sander will not only save you a lot of time, but it will also make the job a whole lot easier for you. Use the sander like you would use sandpaper. 
  • Don’t be Forceful: Do not work the sander or sandpaper so hard that you ruin the wood underneath the paint. Instead, glide the sander or sandpaper smoothly over the paint. 
  • Find the Right Grain: 180-grain sandpaper is what you would use for most jobs like this. However, for tougher, thicker paint (or globs of paint) you might consider using 80-grain sandpaper for the job. 
  • Go With the Grain of the Wood: Have you looked closely at two-by-fours? If you do, you will see that there are little rivets I’m the wood, all going the same way. When you’re sanding, you want to make sure that you’re moving the sandpaper in the same direction as those lines are moving. This is called “going with the grain” and ensures you will not damage the wood.

It should be noted that when you are sanding, you may be throwing out lead dust particles. These fumes can be toxic, especially to pregnant women and children. Removal of lead-based paint should be considered very dangerous as they can cause cancer. You may consider opening a window and wearing face masks when using this method.

6.  Scraping

Scraping away old paint is not for the faint of heart. It does take some elbow grease to get it done, but it is a very effective way to remove paint from any wood without damaging the wood as well. The benefit of scraping over sanding is that scraping does not produce the amount of dust that sanding creates.

Here’s are some tips to make scraping paint a little bit easier for you.

  • Keep a Sharpening Tool Close by: While you’re scraping, you’re going to be dulling your blade. Keeping a hand sharpener close by will save you time. 
  • Scrape in the Same Direction as the Grain: Just like with sanding, go with the grain of the wood, rather than against it so that you don’t cause any damage. 
  • Find the Right Blade: Carbide blades hold a sharp edge longer than steel blades. However, they are harder to sharpen. The steel blade dulls quickly, but it is easier to sharpen. Choose your tool wisely. 
  • Use Plastic Push Scrapers: When you’re using a push scraper, opt for plastic over metal. The reason is to avoid gouging the wood. You wouldn’t want to do all of the work you are doing only to ruin the wood.

If you follow these simple tips, you will have an easier time fo scraping paint off of the surface you’re preparing.

7.  Soy Gel Paint Removers

Soy Gel paint removers are versatile, consumer-friendly paint removers that are made from soybeans.

Soy gel removers can be used indoors as well as outdoors and can be used on brick, stone, metal, concrete, wood, and a few other surfaces. You may not use soy gel paint removers on rubber, PVC pipe, or drywall.

The slow evaporation of soy gel paint removers also allows it to remove multiple layers of paint.

To use:

  • Apply thick amount using amount brush or air sprayer. Do not paint up and down like you normally paint. Go in the same direction.
  • Wait for it to soften the paint. It will stay wet and work for several hours. So it may take a little while.
  • Next, test it. Scrape a little bit off to see if it has had enough time to soften the paint. If it hasn’t, let it sit longer.
  • If you have to, let it sit outside and cover it.

Soy gel remover is easy to clean up. You can clean what you have left with water. You’ll want to let the surface dry when you’re done removing the paint before you continue with your next step.

8.  Hot Water and Baking Soda

It never fails. Every time you paint, you tend to get paint on the handle of your paint rollers and brushes. This method is perfect for removing stubborn paint that won’t come off of the tools you use while painting, including paint rollers and the tray. Here’s how to do it:

  • Fill a big pot that you don’t use anymore with water then place it on the drive and turn the burner on.
  • Add ¼ cup of baking soda to the water. Do not stir it. Let it settle to the bottom of the pot.
  • Bring it to a simmer. Keep a close eye on it, so that it does not reach a boil
  • Once it’s come to a simmer, you may now add each piece to the pot. Do not let the pieces touch one another or the side of the pot. If you have to, add one piece in at a time.
  • After about fifteen minutes, check each item. If the paint has fallen off, you may remove each piece and let it out to dry.

9.  Sandblasting

Sandblasting is a great way to remove paint from any sturdy object such as the side of a building. Whatever object you want to sandblast must be capable of withstanding the intense pressure from sandblasting.

Surfaces like brick or concrete should be able to handle a sandblasting, but wood is not a very good candidate. It can withstand the pressure, but sandblasting could cause gouges on the surface of wood.

You’ll need to pick up a sandblaster and a compressor. The compressor is needed to tune the sandblaster properly.

The size of the compressor is going to depend on the size of the nozzle you’re going to be using. The size of nozzle you are using depends on the substance you are blasting with. In this case, you are using sand. You would need a size 4 nozzle. For larger substances, you may need a size 8 or 9.

You’ll also need mineral sand to use for sandblasting. It is not recommended to use normal, outdoor sand.

When you are blasting anything, remember to use a different compressor size for the project. The larger the item, the more compression it is going to take to blast the substance out.

10. Soda Blasting

You may also consider soda blasting instead of sandblasting. Soda blasting is relatively new. However, professionals believe soda blasting is far less harsh. It will not leave gouges in things like wood.

Soda blasting works like sandblasting, but it uses sodium bicarbonate instead of sand. It comes out with enough power to chip paint off, not enough power to put or leave gouges in the surface.

The good thing about this method is that it’s very easy to clean up. You can clean the blaster with water as well as the surface.

This method also exposes cracks in surfaces much easier because it is fine enough to get into tiny cracks and clean them out. If you’re looking to detect small cracks under the paint you’ve removed, then this method would be perfect for you.

11. Bead Blasting

Bead blasting is best used for metal surfaces. Bead blasting involves using tiny glass beads that chip at the surface, leaving a shiny, smooth surface behind. Bead blasting is a much gentler form of sandblasting.

It comes out with just enough force to remove paint, but not enough force to chip or gouge any surfaces. Surprisingly, bead blasting is also considered safer than sandblasting. The reason is that when you bead blast, the beads come out without the same amount of force.

You can use glass beads in a regular sandblast cabinet with a sandblast pot. If you already have a sandblaster, all you need is the glass beads, which you can pick up at your hardware store. You’ll also need a bigger nozzle for the beads.

12.  Heat Gun

Using a heat gun is not only environmentally friendly, but it’s also consumer-friendly. You don’t have to inhale the fumes from chemical paint thinners. A heat gun is very different from a blowgun, which also emits heat. It is much more powerful and puts off more heat than a blowgun. Let’s check out how to use a heat gun to remove paint.

  • Clean the wood before you even start the paint removing process. If you leave just a little bit of dirt or grime on the surface, you’re just making more work for yourself in the long run. Regular water will do just fine.
  • Plug the gun in and wait for it to heat up. Make sure you don’t leave the gun next to anything that could melt or start on fire. You’re trying to fix the house, not burn it down.
  • Here is where the fun begins. You get to start heating the paint. Hold the gun close to, but not directly on the paint. Do not hold it in one place, rather move it up and down, just like you’re painting.
  • Once you begin to see the paint bubble and melt, it’s ready to be scraped off. Start scraping off the paint that is melting. This should be a cakewalk. If you’re left with small spots of paint, you may heat those once you’re finished with the large amounts of paint or wait until later.

13. Steel Wool

If you’ve ever done a paint removal project before, then you may have noticed tiny specks of paint that are left behind after the initial paint removal. Steel wool is fantastic for scrubbing off little bits of paint that are left behind after original paint removal.

You do need to be careful when you use steel wool because it can scratch the surface that you are removing paint from. Use a gentle, circular motion while scrubbing. You do not want to press so hard on the steel wool that it damages the surface.

After you’re finished removing the last of the paint, rinse everything off with some tap water really well. You do not want to leave any material from the steel wool behind as it can rust easily.

14. Homemade Paint Remover Recipes

If you’re an extreme do-it-yourself kind of person or a penny pincher then making your very own paint remover recipe might be right up your alley. Here is one paint removal recipe that you can make with ingredients that you most likely already have in your home.

Washing Soda Mix

This mixture forms a paste that you can use to scrub accidental spills that may have dried out, or you can use the paste to clean up little bits of old leftover paint. This recipe is very simple to make, and it doesn’t take much time to make as well.

  • Dissolve: Dissolve seven ounces of washing soda in cold water.
  • Mix Flour: Then pour in ⅔ cup of flour in just a little bit of warm water. Slowly add more until you get a thick gel-like paste.
  • Combine the Two: After you have done this, then you are going to add the dissolved washing soda mixture to the flour mixture. Mix the two together until it has formed a paste

How to Use:

Now that you have the mixture made the washing soda mixture, it is time to put it to the test. Here’s how to do that.

  • Spread the mixture over the paint. You’re going to use a putty knife to spread the paste you’ve just made over the surfaces in which you’d like to remove paint. At this point, you can take a break, or go make yourself a well-deserved sandwich and let it sit for at least thirty minutes. 

Ideally, we want this to sit on the paint for a couple of hours, but if you’re running short on time, half an hour should suffice.

  • Mist: It is important to keep the paste damp. Every half an hour, you should spray it with a spray bottle. You do not want to pour water over it or use a washcloth to dampen it, as this will cause the paste to drip down the wall or wash off completely.
  • Rise and Scrub: After you have returned from your break, you may begin to rinse it off, making sure to get all of it off, while simultaneously scrubbing it with a stiff brush. This paste should have softened the paint enough for it to easily be peeled off.
  • Wash it Off: After you’re done, you will want to wash it one more time with a mixture of vinegar and water. This will neutralize the soda. You may have to repeat the process one more time after you have finished. Do not get discouraged when all of the paint does not come off at one time. For the best results, you should let the paste sit on the paint for at least two hours.

15. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is well known for its many household uses for many moms. It can get fingernail polish off of your walls as well as permanent marker. Across the globe, moms have turned this little brown bottle for just about everything their little bundles of joy make messes with. Paint removal can now be added to that list.

The reason hydrogen peroxide is so versatile is that it has an oxidizing agent in it that is similar to that of bleach. Unlike bleach, hydrogen peroxide will not stain your carpets. This is why many mothers resort to a hydrogen peroxide mixture when their little angels have decided to use their sofa as a canvas.  Here’s how to use it for paint.

  • Water: Pour some water on the paint spot on your carpet first. Wipe up any wet paint and clean up the water. You don’t want to smear more paint on other parts of your carpet. 
  • Pour Hydrogen Peroxide on It: Pour a little bit of hydrogen peroxide on the paint stain and scrub it with an old scrub brush. 
  • Wait: Let the peroxide sit for about an hour. 
  • Check it: After about an hour, check the progress. Wipe the spot clean. If there is still some paint on the carpet pour a little more on the spot and let it sit for another hour.

You can repeat this process as many times as you would like to until the paint is all gone. Again, this will not damage your carpet. This is one hundred percent mother approved. You may have to smell hydrogen peroxide for the next hour, but that is much better than having to smell paint thinning fumes.

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