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how to remove oil-based paint

How to Remove Oil Based Paint

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Unfortunately, the paint that you use for wall touch-ups, furniture and even art projects won’t always stay exactly where you intend for it to go. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to remove oil based paint from wood, leather and even skin. Before you start rearranging you furniture to cover up a paint stain on the hardwood floor, be sure to review these methods for the removal of oil based paint.

Chemical Removers

Various turpentines and paint thinners are out on the market that can be used when it comes to removing oil based paint. Depending on the size of the stain, you also may be able to use acetone (nail polish remover) or kerosene. These materials are highly toxic, and you should try to use gentler methods first before going this route.

If you do opt for chemical removers, be sure to use proper protection of the eyes, mouth, and nose. Chemical removers are sold in pastes, liquids, sprays, and peel-off fabrics. A common mistake with using chemical paint strippers is that people don’t let them soak on the paint long enough before removing. For multiple layers, this could be hours.

Power Tools

Scrapers and sanders also can be used when it comes to how to remove oil based paint. This is especially useful for large projects on exterior surfaces. Opt for coarse sandpaper over fine sandpaper, which will clog your power tool. Be sure to practice safety when using these tools, including following all manufacturer instructions and wearing protective gear at all times. Keep in mind when using this method that some of the original surface will come off with the oil based paint.

Other Remedies

Applying heat to your paint surface is another method for oil based paint removal. However, this method will emit toxic fumes so it is imperative that you wear a mask and goggles. Scraping knives, usually in conjunction with chemical removers on walls, may be used on their own to clean up spills as well. Just be sure to first remove any excess wet paint.


Any paint made prior to 1970 will contain lead, which can be extremely harmful if inhaled or ingested. Rather than trying to remove oil based paint of this type on your own, always be sure to call in a professional trained and certified to deal with this toxic substance. While you’ll spend a little more than if you handled the oil based paint removal yourself, there truly is no price tag for the safety of you or your family.

Also, remember that the way you remove oil based paint from wood will be much different than the way you remove oil based paint from skin. If you find that you still have paint on your hands after giving them a good washing with warm water and soap, there are a variety of household items you can rub on the affected area of your skin to remove oil based paint from hands. The most common household items that can work include:

  • Baby oil
  • Mayonnaise
  • Olive oil and salt
  • Sugar (used as a coarse scrub).

Of course, turpentine is also the old standby for removing oil based paint, but it’s not known for being particularly gentle on skin.

Learn more: 

Latex vs. Oil Based Paint

Tips for Latex Paint Removal

Paint Disposal: Do It Right

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