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DIY Paint Remover for Metal and Wood – Using Chemical, Heat Gun & Vegetable Oil

DIY Paint Remover Tips for Metal and Wood

Paint is an incredible substance that can change the way something looks. Paint can turn a tired old table into a fresh looking work of art. If you get paint on something that you do not want it on then paint can also turn something that is beautiful into something unattractive.

Another great thing about paint is that it is almost always removable. If you get paint on something and you want the paint to be gone, then there is usually a way to make that paint disappear.

The following expert tips and suggestions will help you remove any paint that you want removed, and make your life a little easier.

Types of DIY Paint Removers

Caustic Paint Removers

Paint removers can be lumped into a couple of categories. You will have removers that contain harsh chemicals to dissolve the paint, and there are removers that contain no harsh chemicals.

Some paint is water based so removing water based paints is much easier to do than it is to remove an oil-based product. Before you can determine what paint remover to buy to remove the paint you have to know if the paint is a water based or an oil-based product.

Most water based paint can be removed with nothing more than water, or sometimes soapy water. Home remedies like baking soda scrubs, are frequently used on this type of paint because all you really have to do is get the paint wet and it will come off of the item it is on.

You would never need chemical based paint removers to take off water based paints.

Types of Chemical Paint Removers

When you have tough to remove paint, like paint that has an oil base, or paint that has been in place for some time, you will likely need to enlist the aid of a chemical based remover. The chemical based removers come in two distinct varieties. There are caustic removers and there are solvent based removers.

Solvent Based Paint Remover


A solvent based paint remover uses chemicals that break the bond that has established between the paint and the object the paint is on. Not all solvent based paint removers contain harmful chemicals.

Be careful with solvent based paint removers because they can be very flammable. Use these products with caution.

One of the most popular ingredients in solvent based removers used to be “methylene chloride”. Methylene chloride was banned by the European Union back in 2010 because this ingredient has been linked to many health conditions.

Usages of a solvent paint remover

  • You need to wear protective gear for your own safety
  • Work in a well-ventilated area
  • You need to place a drop cloth or covering over the floor where you are working
  • Using a paint brush that you can throw away apply an even coating of remover on a portion of the object. Do not saturate a large area with solvent because you will need to remove the solvent before it can damage the object. Strip the paint from small areas at a time
  • After the solvent has been on the object for the manufacturer’s specified amount of time use a plastic scraping tool and start to remove the loosened paint and the excess solvent. You should be able to see the paint bubbling up or turning loose. This process takes a different amount of time with each different remover, but the normal amount of time will be twenty minutes
  • After you scrape away all of the paint that you can you might see that you have to apply another coat of solvent to remove all of the paint
  • Clean the object using mild soap and water to remove any solvent residue
  • Wipe the object with clean dry cloths after you have removed the paint

Caustic Paint Removers

Caustic Paint Removers

Caustic removers work by breaking down the paint instead of breaking the bond between paint and object. The majority of all caustic paint removers contain sodium hydroxide. This ingredient creates a reaction in the oils in the paint and causes the paint to start to break down and dissolve.

Caustic paint removers can harm your skin and it cannot be used on everything. You should never use this kind of paint remover on hardwood because the caustic ingredients can cause permanent damages to the wood. Never apply a chemical remover to plastic because the chemicals in the remover may damage the plastic.

If you use chemical based paint removers then you MUST follow precautions to keep yourself safe.

Using a Caustic Removers

  • The area you are working in MUST have proper ventilation. These chemicals can be very damaging to your lungs
  • You MUST wear protective eyewear
  • You MUST wear protective gloves
  • You MUST wear a respirator or breathing mask to reduce the amount of harsh chemicals you breathe in
  • Use disposable brushes and do not try to clean the paint remover from the brushes when you are finished
  • Be generous when you apply solvent removers

Paint Removers that are Safer to Use and are Free of Harsh Chemicals

There are methods of removing paint that are safer for you and the environment. Such as:

No Methylene Chloride Paint Removers

These paint removers work on the same general principle as the older methylene removers, but the chemicals they contain are not as harsh as methylene.

Non-methylene removers do still contain chemicals that require you to use basic precautions when you use the products.


  • Wear protective eyewear
  • Wear gloves
  • Work in ventilated areas
  • Do not combine chemicals
  • Apply generous amounts of the remover and be prepared to possibly have to repeat the process several times on each section of the object.These removers are strong but they do not immediately remove all paint from every surface. You must have patience when doing this type of work

Soy Gel Paint Remover

Soy gel removers are created from soybeans. The Soy gel has the following benefits:

  • It evaporates very slowly so it can remove more layers of paint at a time
  • The remover residue can be cleaned up using only soap and water
  • It can be used indoors or outdoors and has a low odor so it is less likely to irritateIt can be used for removal of latex or enamel paint

The best thing about the soy gel removers is that when you are using it to remove paints that have lead bases the lead will be encapsulated so that it cannot become airborne.

Heat Gun Paint Remover

Heat Gun Paint Remover

Heat is an effective method of damaging paint so that the bond the paint has formed with the object that it is on is interrupted. Once the heat breaks the bond the paint can be safely scraped away from the object surface using a plastic scraper.

Heat guns are safe to use both indoors and outdoors. They do not create harmful or foul odors so you can work without a respirator mask and most of the time you can work without goggles but heat resistant gloves are very helpful when using this method of paint removal.

Tips for using a heat gun to remove paint

  • Hold the gun about four inches away from the painted surface
  • Move the gun in a side to side, circular, or up and down motion. Do not just hold the gun in one position pointed at one portion of the object. These appliances do provide enough heat to char or burn the object that is painted
  • Hold the heat gun in one hand and your plastic scraper in the other. Keep trying to remove paint sections with the scraper
  • The paint becomes sticky and damp as the heat causes it to turn loose from the object, when that paint dries it can adhere to anything it has landed on. For this reason make sure you have a drop cloth beneath the object to protect your floor and make cleaning up easier

Paint Stripping Pads

You use a stripping pad like you would use sandpaper. The rough texture of the pad, when applied with your elbow grease, will rub away the paint. Stripping pads are very beneficial on furniture and delicate items because they do not harm the object the paint is on.

Using Vegetable Oil to Remove Paint

How to remove paint with cooking oil

You can use vegetable oil to soften the paint so that it can be safely removed using a plastic scraper, or stripping pad. Vegetable oil is one of the first things to try when you have paint on a plastic surface because the oil will not harm the plastic.

  • Apply a generous coating of oil to the paint and allow the oil to have some time to start softening the paint
  • Then use a plastic scraper or scrubbing pad that will not damage the object and start to gently push the paint off of the object
  • Clean up using warm soapy water

If the oil does not soften the paint you can try using denatured alcohol or fingernail polish remover. You want to try these items in a spot that is not highly visible because they can cause some damages to the plastic item, and can even remove the original plastic color.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you remove paint without paint remover?

On small metal objects you can try boiling the item in water and loosening the paint. You can also scape metal and wood and use sandpaper to remove paint on either metal or wood.

Can I use paint remover on wood?

You can use most paint remover substances on wood. You should verify what materials the remover can be used on by reading the label on your paint remover. If it is okay to use it on wood the label will say so.

What household items can remove paint from wood?

Denatured alcohol and a lot of elbow grease can often remove latex or water base paint products from wooden surfaces. It requires you to saturate a cloth with alcohol and let that cloth sit on the painted surface for several minutes, then use a dry cloth to rub away any paint that has been loosened. Repeat this process until the paint is removed.

How to remove paint from wood?

The easiest ways to remove paint from wood is to use a paint stripper or paint remover. Most of these products are applied to the wood in a thick coating, allowed to sit for a few minutes, then wiped away using a cloth and possibly a plastic scraper so you do not gouge the wood.

Does vinegar remove paint from metal?

Vinegar can remove paint from many surfaces. You will need to use a cloth that is saturated in the vinegar and allow the cloth to lie on the painted surface long enough to let the vinegar begin to break the adhesive properties of the paint up. Then you use a scraper and a rag to scrape away the loose paint, and re-apply a vinegar soaked rag. Repeat this process until the paint is gone.

What is the easiest way to remove paint from metal?

The easiest way to remove paint from metal is to use a paint remover that is metal friendly. Small metal items can be soaked in hot soapy water in a crock pot for several hours to loosen paint. You can also sand the paint off of the metal using an electric sander.

Final Word

Removing old paint is one of the fastest ways to breathe new life into old things. You can change the color, the texture, and the look of an object by getting old paint off and applying a new finish coating.

You always need to know what type of paint you are trying to remove and you need to carefully read the manufacturers instructions on the removers you are considering to make sure that they can be safely used on the object.

Removing paint can be a slow process, but the final results will be worth the time and effort.

About Lisa Bohrer

Lisa is a native Texan who says she wears many hats. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, animal lover, fisherwoman, gardener, and college student. Lisa is a sophomore at Liberty University where she is taking classes to earn her Associates Degree in Creative Writing. She and her husband of 35 years fill their days with life on the farm raising goats and chickens, and then most evenings she can be found at the computer writing, or researching a topic that has piqued her interest.

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