You may have to combine a few different methods to get the job done right. Review the methods explained here and see which ones best suit your project.
Scraping is most effective on flat surfaces, from smooth masonry and hardboard to wood and ferrous metal. Make sure the scraper is sharp and apply even pressure as you scrape in one direction; then scrape at 90 degrees. Shaped scrapers like triangles and ovals make it easier to get into corners and to scrape rounded profiles. Be sure NOT to apply pressure when scraping hardboard. For the really tough jobs, like hard or metal surfaces, try a two-hand scraper.
When the scraping is done, feather sand rough edges of remaining paint with a medium grit sandpaper such as #100 grit.
Wear goggles or face mask for eye protection. Wear leather or work gloves to protect the skin. Use a protective mask or respirator to limit dust intake.
Use a stiff metal hand brush on brick, stucco and other masonry and on wood shakes (in a vertical motion). Power wire brushing is for stubborn areas only and must be used with extreme care. Wear goggles or face mask for eye protection. Wear leather or work gloves to protect the skin. Use a protective mask or respirator to limit dust intake.
Areas that have been scraped should be smoothed with sanding. A power sanding tool like an electric belt sander is an option when the substrate is wood or steel. Do not attempt to power sand masonry, hardboard, aluminum or plastic materials.
A high-pressure plain water stream held 6" to 8" from the surface will lift old, loose paint. Never use harsh cleansers or bleach! Always spray at a horizontal or downward angle. An upward angle can damage siding. Be careful around doors & windows since the spray may have enough force to shatter glass and damage seals. Do not use power washing on soft woods like cedar and redwood. Wear goggles and water-repellant clothing and footwear.
Strong solvent-based removers work well on most oil-based and latex paints, primers, stains, and varnishes. Chemical removers should be used only on small face-up areas such as trim and moldings. Make sure to select a chemical remover that is intended for your application. Use with extreme care and follow these directions:
Before you begin, clear the area of children and pets and extinguish any fire sources.
Cover floors and steps and remove plants, rugs and furniture.
Apply a heavy coat to a small area (2–3 sq. ft) with a low-end natural bristle paint brush.
Allow plenty of time for it to work (see manufacturer’s recommendations).
Carefully remove the softened coatings using a putty knife or wooden blade and scrape the materials into a cardboard carton.
Reapply more stripper if needed.
Clean the surface with wadded up paper towels. Do not use steel wool; it can discolor the surface.
Dispose of all refuse after the job, carefully following manufacturer’s instructions.
IMPORTANT: Wear goggles or face mask and long sleeve shirt and long pants. Use chemical-resistant gloves and a respirator designed for use with chemical solvents. Follow all direction and safety precautions. Some products are highly flammable and all fire sources must be extinguished prior to use.
There are low odor solvent removers, but since they are not as strong, they may take much longer to work.
A heat gun designed for paint removal – NOT a propane torch or blow torch – can be a good way remove old exterior paint and varnish. Follow these steps for a safe, effective job:
- Place a drop cloth under the entire work area.
- Keep the drop cloth damp by spraying regularly with a garden hose.
- Spray a light coating of water on the area where the paint is to be removed.
- As the old coating bubbles and softens, carefully remove it with a putty knife and place it in a metal container for disposal.
IMPORTANT: Wear goggles or face mask and long sleeve shirt and long pants. Use chemical-resistant gloves and a respirator designed for use with a heat gun.
Do not remove old paint with a heat gun if you suspect it contains lead! The heat can vaporize the lead and cause a health hazard. Contact the EPA lead paint hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD.