How to Remove Paint From Brick With Paint Stripper

Restoring brick fireplaces, walls, and pavers to their natural look

Painted Brick Fireplace

Дмитрий Ларичев / Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 - 4 days
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 wks
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $100 to $200

Hidden behind that paint might be a lovely brick fireplace, wall, or pavers. Though the paint was someone else's vision (or your own prior project), you can learn how to remove paint from the brick to expose its beauty. With the right materials and a little concerted effort, it's possible to remove paint from brick indoors in small applications such as interior walls or fireplaces—or outdoors, such as refreshing an area of brick pavers—by restoring them to near-original condition.

Before You Begin

Common Problems With Painted Brick

Before removing paint from brick, it's important to determine when it was painted. Painted brick in older homes may contain lead paint. Gently remove a small section of paint and test it with a lead testing kit. If the paint contains lead, avoid sanding or chipping the paint during removal, which can cause the lead particles to become airborne. In this case, it may be easier to paint a new color over the brick rather than taking extensive safety precautions to remove it.

Brick may also be painted to seal moisture or conceal imperfections like cracked and damaged brick. If you want to restore it to its original look, be prepared for additional projects after removing the paint, like repointing or addressing moisture issues.

Paint Removal Methods

There are a few methods for removing paint from brick, some more effective than others:

  • When it comes to interiors, the best paint remover for brick is a non-caustic paint stripper applied before scraping and brushing. It's a manual job that takes time—and this is why removing dried paint from brick on the exterior of a whole house or building is much easier said than done—but it's made somewhat easier with an effective paint stripper.
  • Pressure washing and sandblasting can damage your house's interior. Either method, too, can pit or chip the brick beyond repair.
  • No paint stripper will do it all for you, but some strippers will do it better (and more safely) than others. Make sure your paint stripper does not contain harmful ingredients such as methylene chloride (also known as dichloromethane or DCM) or N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP).
  • When removing paint from a vertical surface such as a brick fireplace surround or a wall, purchase a gel-based paint stripper. Gel strippers stick better to vertical surfaces and they apply in thick coats.


For vertical applications, plan on purchasing about one gallon of gel-based paint stripper for every 75 square feet. You will apply two and sometimes even three layers of paint stripper. An average-size fireplace is about 25 square feet. Six linear feet of an interior brick wall is about 48 square feet.

Codes and Permits

If you do choose to strip paint with a paint stripper containing methylene chloride, you may need to obtain a permit to use the product or follow certain emissions management practices. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the usage of such products to reduce emissions, and requirements vary based on where, how, and to what extent the stripper is being used.

Safety Considerations

Though there are options for paint strippers that don't contain methylene chloride, most products can still be hazardous. Always follow manufacturer instructions, wear chemical-resistant gloves, eyewear, and protective clothing, and work in a well-ventilated space.


Pure acetone is an aggressive option for removing paint from brick. Handle it with extreme care if you use it because the vapors are highly flammable and can cause physical issues such as irritated eyes and lungs.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Paintbrush
  • Putty knife
  • Five-in-one tool
  • Wire brush
  • Steel wool
  • Plastic bags
  • Kitchen gloves
  • Clean bucket


  • Paint stripper
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Painter's tape
  • Lead paint test kit
  • TSP



  1. Test Paint

    Use the lead paint test kit to slice off a small amount of paint and send the sample to the laboratory. If the sample tests negative for lead, proceed with removing the paint from the brick. If lead is detected in the paint, a lead abatement contractor will be required to perform the job.

  2. Add Plastic Sheeting

    Tightly tape down plastic sheeting on the floor in front of the brick and around the brick on the wall. Extend the sheeting on the ground by at least 6 feet and on the walls by 3 feet. Cover all nearby furniture or other items that cannot be removed.

  3. Clean Brick

    Add the TSP and warm water to the clean bucket. Wearing kitchen gloves, clean off heavy deposits of soot on fireplaces. The goal is to remove any kind of dirt or soot that may be an obstacle to stripping the paint.


    Only clean the brick if it is particularly dirty. For minor dirt and dust, skip the cleaning step and proceed with stripping the paint.

  4. Apply Paint Stripper

    Using a paint stripper is the easiest way to remove paint from brick. Wearing protective gear, brush the paint stripper onto the brick. Apply the stripper in thick layers, as thin layers dry too quickly.


    Vinegar can also be used to remove paint from brick. However, vinegar must have time to soak into the paint, so this can be more time-consuming on vertical surfaces like fireplace surrounds that require multiple applications with a spray bottle.

  5. Scrape Paint

    Test the paint with the putty knife to assess its degree of solidity. The paint should be a thick, goopy layer, soft all the way down to the surface and easily removable with the putty knife. Scrape away the paint and deposit the remains in the trash bag.

  6. Apply Second Coat of Stripper

    Some paint will remain after stripping off the initial layer of paint. Apply a second coat of stripper and let it sit for about four hours, or for the amount of time suggested on the product label.

  7. Remove Remaining Paint

    Scrape off the second coat of paint with the putty knife. Immediately rub the brick with the steel wool or the steel-bristle brush to remove the rest of the paint.

Tips for Removing Paint From Brick

  • If the paint stripper is drying too fast, tape a sheet of plastic over the area to slow down the drying process.
  • Don't skimp when applying the paint stripper: Thicker layers are better than thin layers.
  • Stripping paint is hard work, so budget your time, and avoid working too long during each session.
  • Keep an eye on paint stripper set times. Waiting too little time doesn't allow enough time for the stripper to work, and waiting too long means that the paint may solidify again.
  • Work in small sections. When finished with a section, move onto the next one.

When to Call a Professional

For a large-scale painted brick removal project, such as home exteriors, it's often best to call a contractor for the job. Call a professional abatement company if the paint on the brick tests positive for lead.

  • Can you restore brick after it's been painted?

    Brick can be restored to its original condition after painting, but this can be a time-consuming process that requires multiple applications of paint stripper, scrubbing, and cleaning.

  • Does paint thinner ruin brick?

    A paint stripper is a better option than paint thinner for brick. Paint thinner can be used when adding paint to brick—rather than removing it—to touch up spots while the paint is still drying or freshly dried.

  • Does painting brick devalue a home?

    Painting brick, especially on a home's exterior, can be an expensive process. If your home's exterior brick is painted, this can increase its resale value.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Get The Facts: Methylene Chloride. Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, Toxic-Free Future.

  2. Air Quality Requirements For Paint Stripping And Surface Coating Operations. Air Quality Division Business Assistance Program, State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

  3. What You Should Know About Using Paint Strippers. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 2013.

  4. Acetone. National Library of Medicine.