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For all the work that’s required to paint, removing it can be an even more challenging task. That makes it tempting to simply apply another coat, but eventually, you may find that all those layers of paint get thick and bumpy. In that scenario, stripping the paint is your best option.
Chemical-based paint strippers can be hugely helpful with this task. While they may involve noxious fumes and use powerful chemical formulations, they cut down on the labor and elbow grease required to remove decades of layers of paint.
Read on for the best paint strippers to help you with your project.
Best Overall: Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel
Our top recommendation for removing paint is Citristrip. This paint remover is effective at removing several types of paint and varnish, including both latex and oil-based paint as well as shellac, varnish and polyurethane. Plus, it can be used on several types of surfaces, removing several layers of paint in one go.
One of the most appealing aspects of this paint remover is its scent: instead of the typical odor of most products in this line, it offers a fresh citrus scent. And, while it may be lacking in some harsh chemicals (like NMP and methylene chloride), Critristrip is highly effective at removing paint from surfaces. Just be patient: While the paint will likely begin to bubble as soon as you apply the product, the paint remover may need to be on the surface for several hours to fully remove the paint.
Best Value: Motsenbocker's Lift Off Latex Paint Remover
If you have a small project, you might not want a giant supply of paint remover. This Motsenbocker’s Latex Paint Remover fits the bill nicely: It’s highly effective at removing latex paint and latex enamel from a variety of surfaces but isn’t very costly.
While this product contains VOCs, it's almost half the regulated VOC limit, per the manufacturer. It works very well at removing paint without causing any damage to the surface below.
Best for Indoors: Dumond Chemicals, Inc. 3301 Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover
Many of the projects that require paint removal occur within your home—like getting rid of the paint on a banister, around a fireplace, and so on. That means you’ll need to be working inside, and there’s a limit to how well open windows and running fans can ventilate the area. That’s why for indoor projects, we recommend using this paint remover from Dumond Chemicals, which is odor-free and doesn't contain methylene chloride or caustic and toxic chemicals.
This product is a paste, and works well at removing paint from carved surfaces, moldings, or any surface with many crevices. As well as using it inside your home, you can also use it in outdoor areas—it’s suitable for many types of surfaces.
Best for Wood: Max Strip Paint and Varnish Stripper
All sorts of painted-over wooden surfaces may need stripping, from bureaus to walls. This option from Max Strip is free from methylene chloride, NMP, and other caustic chemicals but can still successfully remove paint—or even layers of paint—from wooden items. It also works on other, non-wood surfaces, such as metal, tile, glass, stone, and masonry.
Unlike some other paint strippers, Max Strip's stripper does not have a strong smell. It’s very easy to apply, and does a great job at removing paint or varnish from wood.
Best for Metal: Klean-Strip Premium Paint Remover and Stripper
Brush Klean-Strip on a metal surface, and you’ll be able to easily strip off paint, epoxy, or polyurethane. This product is ideal for metal, as well as working on masonry and wood. After just 15 minutes, it can remove multiple layers of paint or other products—but in some cases, you’ll need to let the product sit on the surface for longer. For especially old or thick paint, you might need to do a few rounds of application.
Best for Concrete: D Super Remover Paint Stripper New Generation
Removing paint from concrete floors—like, say, the ones in your garage—can be challenging. But this paint stripper from the brand Super Remover is up to the task. It’s ideal for metal and wood, as well as concrete.
In many cases, this paint stripper will work in just 15 minutes, but don’t hesitate to leave it on longer for tougher jobs. It’s effective at removing many types of paints.
Best for Aluminum: Rust-Oleum 323172 Aircraft Remover
This product from Rust-Oleum is ideal for removing all sorts of finishes from metal surfaces. That makes it particularly well suited if you’re looking to remove paint from aluminium.
The product will take up to 45 minutes to work, and should not be used on fiberglass or plastic surfaces. Since it’s a gel—not a liquid—you won’t have to worry about drips or the product straying from its original. Make sure to use this paint remover outside for maximum ventilation.
Best for Cars: D Super Remover Automotive Stripper
There are several options when it comes to removing paint from your car—for instance, for smaller jobs, sanding can be effective. But if you’ve got a bigger area that needs paint removal, a chemical agent can be highly effective.
This paint remover, from Canadian company Super Remover, is formulated without highly toxic chemicals but is still capable of removing multiple layers of paint with a single application. That said, expect a strong, unpleasant odor when you use this product.
The Automotive Stripper Super Remover works fast: Just 15 minutes after application should be sufficient to remove the paint from your vehicle. And, since this stripper has a gel formulation, you don’t need to worry about it dripping down and not being attacking the area where you want the paint removed.
Best Fast-Acting: 2 Minute Remover 63532 Advanced Detailing Liquid Paint & Varnish Remover
In many cases, paint removers require a great deal of time to take action—you have to apply, then wait, then remove. And that waiting time in the middle can eat up a big chunk of your day. If you’re looking to speed up the process, try this fast-acting paint and varnish remover from Sunnyside Corporation.
It works in mere minutes to remove several layers of paint. It’s particularly adept at dealing with paint that’s in nooks and crannies or on textured surfaces. For more complicated jobs, you’ll want to leave the paint on for a longer period of time, but most situations will be resolved in two minutes.
This paint remover can be used on several different types of surfaces—both wood and metal, for instance—and can also be used to remove a wide variety of paints, including oil-based and latex paints, as well as varnish and finishes.
For tough jobs, you may find that you’ll need multiple coats, but in most cases, this paint remover will complete the job in just two minutes.
Best for Latex Paint: Krud Kutter Latex Paint Remover
Latex paint is commonly used to paint the interior of homes. If the paint has dripped from the walls onto the floor, or if you need to remove several layers, a spray bottle of Krud Kutter can be really helpful.
This versatile spray can be used on hard, soft, and porous surfaces—it’s just as adept at removing paint from carpets as it is from harder surfaces like brick and tile. It’s effective at removing both fresh and dried paint.
Krud Kutter’s spray bottle makes it convenient to use—just spray on the paint, let sit for several moments, and then wipe off, following up with soap and water. This paint remover can be used both indoors and outside. You’ll find that Krud Kutter is both easy to use and effective. There is an odor to it, but the manufacturer notes that the product is both biodegradable and low in VOC.
For nearly all paint stripping jobs, we recommend Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel (view at Lowe's). It can be used inside and outside, and lacks the noxious odors of other paint strippers, yet is still highly effective. If you're specifically working on an indoor job, check out Dumond's Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover (view at Amazon).
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Madeleine Burry has been writing for the Spruce since 2019, covering pets, crafting, and helpful home and kitchen products. You’ll find her writing on a wide array of sites, including Apartment Therapy, the Kitchn, Women’s Health, Livestrong, and others.