6 Handy Paint Stripper Tools for Different Surfaces

Out with the old paint, in with the new

Oscillating Multitool

Martin Prescott / Getty Images

Stripping paint is rarely a task that any homeowner enjoys. Initially intended to stick firmly, layers of paint are now expected to do the exact opposite: lift off easily immediately.

Mechanical tools, such as a scraper, wire brush, or painter's tool, usually work in tandem with chemical paint strippers, all-natural paint strippers, a heat gun, sander, or vinegar.

Tip

Remember that even if a surface has old paint, you don't have to scrape away all the old paint. Only remove areas where the paint has failed or is peeling. If the old paint still looks in good shape, but you want to cover it, lift away or sand spots with old crumbly paint and use primer to cover the rest.

Some devices, like a heat gun, work best in situations like removing paint from weatherboards and wood. Depending on the condition of your boards, chemical strippers and sanding might also be necessary. When removing paint from aluminum, you might want to use a chemical or natural stripper recommended for metal and a paint scraper to complete the task.

Take a look at six paint stripping tools used to remove paint from exteriors, making your paint stripping task go smoother and more efficiently.

  • 01 of 06

    Heat Gun

    DeWalt Heat Gun

    Amazon.com

    Exterior latex house paint is incredibly sturdy and durable against rain, snow, UV rays, and even the expected expansion and contraction of a home's external layer. Paint eventually breaks down when temperatures are high enough. Heat guns are an excellent tool for removing old paint, varnish, and other finishes. 

    The theory behind heat guns is to subject the exterior paint to temperatures that will cause the paint to wilt away. Temperatures should be calibrated to remain short of damaging or burning the house.

    Warning

    Your house can catch fire with a heat gun. Heat guns can be intimidating tools. For a safer experience, dial down the temperature and keep the nozzle of the heat gun away from the house. Carefully read the product instructions before plugging in the tool.

    A heat gun will not cause all of the paint to fall away by itself. Instead, consider a heat gun to supplement manual paint stripping. Imagine a high-quality manual hairdryer, then multiply the heat several times more. Much safer than the traditional butane torch, a heat gun has no open flame.

    Heat guns are relatively inexpensive and have many other uses around the house, such as drying wet building materials or softening vinyl or leather.

  • 02 of 06

    Putty Knife or Paint Scraper

    Putty knife scraping paint
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    A putty knife is one of those home improvement tools often used for more than its intended use. While you may eventually use the knife for applying putty or wood filler, it is indispensable for stripping paint because of its dull edge.

    A paint scraper looks a lot like a putty knife, except a paint scraper is stiffer and less flexible than a putty knife. Sometimes, a putty knife is preferred for removing old paint from a surface because it's so bendable, allowing you to strip paint while holding the knife at a lower angle. Paint scrapers usually cost a few bucks more than putty knives.

    Using a tool that is too sharp to strip paint works against you. Instead of lifting away paint, it gouges into the work surface. Even though a putty knife is not intended for stripping paint, it does an excellent job. Don't let the edge be too dull. The dull edge is less likely to gouge the siding, allowing you to press harder on the knife. To maintain the perfect edge for your putty knife or paint scraper, run it over a whetstone a few times. If you have a grinding wheel, use that.

  • 03 of 06

    Oscillating Multi-Tool

    Oscillating Multitool

    Martin Prescott / Getty Images

    An oscillating multi-tool is a corded or battery-powered cordless device that moves its head in tight, rapid circles. You can outfit the head with several implements.

    In the case of paint stripping, the smooth blade implement works best since it is thin enough to get under the paint layer you intend to remove. While the oscillating paint scraper is thorough and fast, you risk gouging the house siding when using this type of blade to remove paint.

    Oscillating multi-tool scrapers are great in areas where there will be no close examination of the surface. Use this tool when you have a layer of paint already coming up at the edge. To create an open edge, briefly run a heat gun over the paint, then lift with the putty knife or painter's tool.

  • 04 of 06

    Utility Knife

    Stanley FatMax

    Amazon.com

    A utility knife is an indispensable addition to every toolbox, not just for paint stripping but for various uses.

    A utility knife is valuable for stripping paint, but it's not used for scraping paint off flat surfaces. A utility knife doesn't have the correct shape and angle for reaching under and lifting off paint layers.

    Warning

    Utility knife blades are incredibly sharp and dangerous if removed and used by themselves as a scraper.

    Use the utility knife for pulling up loose chips of paint or scoring paint along the edges of items that need to be removed, such as electrical or utility boxes, cords, door trim, and window casing.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    8-in-1 Painters Tool

    8-in-1 painter's tool

    Amazon.com

    An 8-in-1 tool (sometimes called a 5-in-1) is a standard tool carried by many professional painters. This tool opens paint cans, cleans paint rollers, and pulls thin nails. As if that weren't enough, an 8-in-1 tool can strip paint and clean out cracks.

    Like the putty knife, occasionally ground down its sharper edge. The 8-in-1 tool's edge is far sharper than the putty knife, so it should last for a few working hours before it needs sharpening.

    The sharp point is great at digging into cracks and removing old paint or caulk. Its point is far better than the utility knife because it is less prone to cutting into the surface.

    Unlike the putty knife, do not bend the 8-in-1 tool. Push at a low angle, keeping the tool straight.

  • 06 of 06

    Wire Brush

    Wire brush

    Amazon.com

    A wire brush is the last stage of stripping paint, such as removing small flecks or chips from the surface. Do not expect the wire brush to strip away stubborn paint. Be careful about brushing over existing paint layers with a wire brush; you may embed the paint farther into the surface.

    A wire brush is great for sloughing away remaining paint chips after you have already used the other tools. Wet wire brushes can develop rust. Keep one on hand at all times and keep it dry.