How to Get Paint off Hardwood Floors: Best Ways & Tips

By Fortino Rosas / July 15, 2022 / 0 Comments

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    How to Get Paint off Hardwood Floors

    Hardwood floors can last over 100 years when cared for and maintained properly, but what if you accidentally got paint on your floor? No worries as we’re here to give you pro tips on how to get paint off hardwood floors that you can do on your own!

    We’ve included step-by-step guides on how to clean paint off hardwood floors based on the type of paint using different methods here.

    First Things First: Testing Lead Content on Old Paints

    If your house was constructed before 1970, test the paint first for lead content before attempting to remove it. You will find testing kits for lead and if the paint does contain lead, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises that you consult a certified lead professional. Lead dust produced during paint removal is toxic and can lead to health complications.

    If you’re not sure, we recommend hiring a professional instead to help you remove the paint off your floor.

    Steps on How to Get Paint Off Hardwood Floors

    To ensure that you minimize damage to your floor as you remove the paint off of it, here are the basic steps that you should follow:

    Step 1. Preparing the Needed Materials

    Depending on the type of paint and the method you are going to use, below are the key things that you might need:

    • Microfiber cloths and rags
    • Cleansing pads or cotton balls
    • Paper towels
    • Nylon-bristle scrub brush or old toothbrush
    • Plastic paint scraper
    • Heat gun or hairdryer
    • Rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol
    • Mild dishwashing soap
    • Lemon juice
    • Water
    • Paint thinner (mineral spirits or acetone)
    • Paint remover or stripper
    • Electric sander
    • Palm sander
    • Sandpapers (60, 80, and 120-grit)

    Step 2. Floor Preparation For Paint Removal

    Clean your hardwood floor first before starting with the paint removal process. If you are dealing with old, dried paint, thoroughly clean the area to get rid of dust, dirt, or any residue. If it’s wet, blot the paint with a paper towel first. Make sure not to smear the paint further. 

    Step 3. Determining the Type of Paint

    Different types of paints will have different removal methods as some types may be more difficult to deal with. There are also some methods that you can’t use on specific types of paint, so make sure that you know what the paint is.

    For the two main types of paints, water-based and oil-based, determine which type you are dealing with by following this trick:

    1. Dip a rag or cotton ball in rubbing alcohol or acetone.
    2. Rub the cotton/rag over the paint.
    3. If the paint easily softens up or comes off, it’s water-based. Otherwise, it’s oil-based.

    Step 4. Removing Paint From Wood Floor

    After determining the type of paint, it’s time to remove it. We’ve listed the different methods on how to remove paint from hardwood floors based on the type in the next section.

    How to Remove Paint From Wood Floors Based on the Type of Paint

    Water-based paints are easier to remove compared to oil-based paints that need harsher solvents to successfully remove the paint. These solvents can damage the floor’s finish. So before you use chemicals, try out the other safer methods we’ve listed here first.

    DIY ways of removing different types of paint from hardwood floors

    Take note that the methods below are not one-stop solutions for getting off paint from your floor. You might need to combine multiple methods to do the job.

    How to Remove Water-Based Paint from Wood Floors

    Water-based paints dry quickly due to the evaporation of the moisture in them. And since they are not as durable as oil-based paints, they are easier to clean.

    The best method for water-based paints is by scraping the dried paint off or using soapy water which should easily dissolve the paint. But if this doesn’t work, try other methods like using a heat gun, steam stripper, rubbing alcohol plus lemon juice mixture, or denatured alcohol.

    If nothing of these still works, try sanding or using mild paint strippers and paint thinners that are designed for water-based paints.

    How to Get Oil Based Paint off Hardwood Floor

    Oil-based paints have additives that make them last longer than water-based paint. However, these additives also make them harder to remove. You can’t use DIY solutions for this. Instead, try using a heat gun or sand the paint off. Stronger paint removers like paint strippers or paint thinners should also do the trick.

    How to Remove Latex Paint From Wood Floor

    Also known as acrylic latex, latex paints are usually water-based so the methods on how to get latex paint off hardwood floors are the same as those we mentioned for water-based paints.

    How to Get Acrylic Paint off Hardwood Floors

    Acrylic paints are water-resistant chemical-based paints, so you can’t remove them as easily as latex paints. But if the paint is still fresh and wet, you can effectively remove it by using soap and water.

    Once it dries, you’ll need more powerful methods like using a lemon juice and rubbing alcohol mixture, denatured alcohol, a heat gun, and a steamer. Your last options would be sanding and using paint strippers and thinners if nothing else works.

    How to Remove Dried Paint From Hardwood Floors

    Again, determine what kind of paint you want to remove before proceeding with the removal methods suggested on how to get dry paint off wood floors here. These methods will also work if you’re wondering how to remove spray paint from wood.

    Depending on the severity of the paint splatter and type, you might need to use stronger solvents like paint strippers and thinners. However, make sure to follow safety precautions when using these toxic and highly combustible substances.

    How to Remove Old Paint From Hardwood Floors

    For old and dull paint that you want to replace with a fresh one, mild paint removal methods won’t work. You can only remove them by sanding or by using paint thinners or strippers.

    NOTE: Paint on houses built before 1970 may contain lead which should be handled using the right paint remover by professionals as toxic lead dust can lead to health complications.

    How to Remove Paint Drips From Wood

    If you are removing wet paint, try using paint removal pads. For partially dried paint drips, you can use rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol, paint strippers, mineral spirits, a steamer, soapy water, alcohol-based cleansing pads, or a hand sanitizer.

    When using a hand sanitizer, soak the paint for around 30 seconds until it softens before wiping it off with a damp rag. If all fails, sanding the paint might be necessary.

    You can also follow these methods if you are looking for ways on how to get paint splatter off hardwood floors or how to remove paint overspray from wood floors.

    How to Get Paint off Hardwood Floors Without Sanding

    If you don’t want to resort to sanding your floor, below are the paint removal methods you can follow:

    • Scraping the paint off
    • Warm soapy water
    • Rubbing alcohol and lemon juice
    • Denatured alcohol
    • Paint thinners
    • Paint strippers
    • Heat machine
    • Steamer

    9 Paint Removal Methods: What Is the Best Way to Remove Paint From Hardwood Floors?

    Paint on finished hardwood floors is best removed using hot soapy water first to avoid discoloration, dulling, and destroying the finish. Stronger paint removal methods should be safe on unfinished wood.

    Best ways to remove paint from hardwood floors

    Below are step-by-step guides on how to remove paint off wood flooring using different methods:

    Method 1. How to Get Paint off Wood Without Damaging Your Floor Using a Plastic Scraper

    This is the most basic method that you should do first before proceeding to the next methods here. A plastic putty knife is all you need to avoid scratching the finish.

    Materials

    • Plastic putty knife
    • Hammer
    • Pull Scraper
    • Microfiber cloth

    Steps

    1. Just scrape off the paint in the direction of the wood grain for easier removal.
    2. For paint spots that can’t be removed by simply pushing the putty knife, you might need to tap it using a hammer.
    3. For dried paint between the joints of the floorboards, use a pull scraper.
    4. Wipe any residue with a damp microfiber cloth.

    NOTE: Don’t use sharp objects such as straight-edge razors to avoid cutting or scratching your floor.

    Method 2. Getting Paint off Woodwork and Wood Floors Using Dishwashing Soap and Water

    The second safest method that you can try if scraping doesn’t work is by using warm soapy water to melt the paint.

    Materials

    • Cotton rags
    • Microfiber cloth
    • Plastic putty knife
    • Laundry detergent or dishwashing soap
    • Warm water

    Steps

    1. Add one tablespoon of dishwashing soap to one cup of warm water.
    2. Dampen the microfiber cloth using the solution. Make sure to wring out excess water to avoid saturating and damaging your floor.
    3. Rub the cloth over the dried paint by working inwards until the paint comes off.
    4. If the paint isn’t coming off, using a plastic putty knife can scrape the paint away.
    5. Once done, wipe the area with a dry cotton rag.

    Method 3. How to Remove Dried Paint From Floor Using Rubbing Alcohol and Lemon Juice

    Another safe and environmentally friendly method is by using rubbing alcohol mixed with lemon juice which should loosen the dried paint.

    Materials

    • Plastic putty knife
    • Microfiber cloth
    • Cotton rag
    • 1 part of lemon juice
    • 3 parts of rubbing or isopropyl alcohol
    • Nylon-bristle scrub brush or old toothbrush

    Steps

    1. Grab your putty knife and gently scrape off the dried paint. Remove as much as you can.
    2. Mix the rubbing/isopropyl alcohol and the lemon. Feel free to make adjustments depending on how large the painted area is but make sure to follow the ratio.
    3. Dip a microfiber cloth into the mixture to saturate it before rubbing it over the paint.
    4. Let the paint soak for around five minutes.
    5. Rub the cloth over the paint in circular motions.
    6. If the microfiber cloth isn’t doing the job, use an old toothbrush or a scrub brush to remove the remaining paint.
    7. Rinse the area with a water-dampened microfiber cloth.

    Tips

    • Another alternative to rubbing alcohol and lemon juice is cleaning vinegar. This can also help soften the paint so you can scrape it off easily.

    Check out this video on how to clean paint from a wood floor using distilled white vinegar and rubbing alcohol:

    Method 4. Removing Paint From Floor Using Denatured Alcohol

    Another option is by using denatured alcohol, which is stronger than rubbing alcohol, for removing tougher paints.

    Materials

    • Cleansing pads or cotton ball
    • Scrub brush
    • Clean rag
    • Denatured alcohol
    • Plastic putty knife

    Steps

    1. Saturate a cleansing pad or cotton ball with the denatured alcohol.
    2. Soak the dry paint using the saturated cotton ball/cleansing pad for around 20-30 minutes.
    3. Gently scrape off the dissolved paint using a putty knife or a scrub brush if a putty knife doesn’t work before wiping out excess paint.
    4. Dampen the rag with water and wipe off the remaining stains.
    5. Let the area dry.

    NOTE: Denatured alcohol is poisonous and highly flammable, so make sure the area is well-ventilated and that you have a fire extinguisher nearby.

    Method 5. How to Strip off Paint Using a Steamer

    This is another environmentally friendly but efficient paint removal method that you can try for removing heavy buildups of paint. It uses the heat from the steamer to soften the dried paint for easy removal.

    Materials

    • Fabric steamer
    • Plastic putty knife
    • Mineral spirits
    • Protective face mask

    Steps

    1. Turn on your steamer and hold it about three inches away from the paint for around 20 seconds or until you see bubbles forming on the paint’s surface.
    2. Scrape off the softened paint using the putty knife.
    3. Some residue will remain after scraping which you need to remove using other methods like using mineral spirits.

    In addition, below is a video using a steamer and a wet rag to remove dried paint splatters from wood floors when scrubbing didn’t work:

    Method 6. Removing Paint From Wood Using a Heat Gun or Hair Dryer

    Another similar method (but harsher) to using a steamer is to use a hair dryer or a heat gun. However, heat guns can damage your floor’s finish or even burn your floor so make sure that you have a fire extinguisher ready. A hairdryer is a safer alternative to prevent overheating your floor. 

    Materials

    • Heat gun or hair dryer
    • Plastic putty knife
    • Heatproof gloves
    • Face mask

    Steps

    1. Ensure proper ventilation in the room and put on your gloves and face mask.
    2. Hover the machine over the paint in circular motions until the paint starts to form bubbles and wrinkles. It should be 8-10 inches away from your floor to prevent scorching.
    3. Use your putty knife to scrape off the melted paint as you go along.
    4. Clean the remaining paint residue using acetone or mineral spirits.

    You can refer to the video below on stripping off paint from wood furniture using a heat gun:

    Method 7. How to Get Paint off Using Paint Thinner on Hardwood Floors

    Paint thinner evaporates and vapours can build up in a room with little to no ventilation. Proper personal protection equipment must be used to ensure minimising the risks associated with inhaling or coming into contact with paint thinner.

    Envirofluid

    Paint thinners also do a great job at dissolving paint for easy removal. These can be acetone, mineral spirits, or turpentine. However, they produce an unpleasant odor because of the harmful VOCs they contain and they are highly combustible. So better try other safer methods first before going for paint thinners.

    Materials

    • Cotton rags
    • Paint thinner
    • Gloves
    • A respirator or face mask

    Steps

    1. Turn on your fan, open your windows, and put on your protective equipment.
    2. Soak a rag in the paint thinner before rubbing it gently on the dried paint.
    3. Remove any residue by wiping your floor using a damp rag.

    Tips

    • Better choose odorless paint thinners for cleaning.
    • Don’t rub too harshly on the paint to avoid stripping off all of the finish on your floor.
    • Never use paint thinners on water-based paints including latex paints. Paint thinners are oil-based products and can’t work together with water-based and latex paints. 

    Method 8. Sanding Paint Off Wood Floors

    For more challenging paint removal tasks that involve large amounts of paint, sanding them off might be the fastest option. Sanding can also remove any type of paint regardless if it is old including paint applied in multiple layers that would be difficult to remove using the previous methods.

    Materials

    • Sandpapers (60, 80, and 120-grit)
    • Electric sander
    • Palm sander
    • Vacuum cleaner
    • Goggles and face mask

    Steps

    1. Open your windows for proper ventilation and seal off vents including other things that dust can accumulate in. Wear your goggles and face mask to avoid inhaling the dust.
    2. Turn on your sander and start with the 60-grit sandpaper. Make sure to work along the wood’s grain to break down the layers of paint easier.
    3. Vacuum the sanded area thoroughly.
    4. Switch with 80-grit sandpaper to sand further to remove paint left previously. Vacuum again and clean the area after sanding.
    5. Replace the sandpaper with a 120-grit one. Your floor will become lighter, softer, and look more even after the third round of sanding. After than, clean the area.
    6. For areas that are hard to reach, use a palm sander to clean paint from crevices and corners.
    7. Wipe your floor with a damp microfiber cloth to remove any residue.

    Tips

    • If any stubborn paint is still left after sanding, clean it using warm soapy water.
    • Only sand hardwood floors that are thick enough. Otherwise, go for the simpler alternatives we’ve mentioned here.

    Method 9. How to Strip Paint From Wood Using Paint Remover for Wood (Paint Stripper)

    Acetone, toluene, and methanol are chemicals that are commonly used together in paint strippers, and they evaporate quickly and are very flammable. Breathing high levels of these chemicals can cause a variety of effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, and headache.

    U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

    Among the most effective ways to get paint off wood floors is by using commercial paint removers or also known as paint strippers. However, they are hazardous, so you need to wear protective equipment and handle them with caution.

    Materials Needed

    • Rags
    • Paint stripper
    • Odorless mineral spirits
    • 2 plastic bowls
    • Steel wool or brass-bristled brush
    • Paintbrush
    • Plastic putty knife
    • Goggles
    • Protective gloves
    • Respirator or face mask

    Steps

    1. Make sure you have a well-ventilated area. Wear your mask, gloves, and goggles.
    2. Pour some paint stripper into a bowl and use the paintbrush to apply it to the dried paint.
    3. Leave it for 20-30 minutes or until you notice bubbles forming on the painted areas.
    4. Get your paint scraper and push it in the wood grain’s direction to peel off the paint.
    5. For paint that has been trapped between the floorboards, scrub them off using a brass-bristled brush, steel wool, or mineral spirits.
    6. Dampen a clean rag and wipe the residue off.
    7. Allow your floor to dry completely.

    Here’s a video showing the removal of multiple layers of old latex floor paint using a paint stripper:

    You can also use Goof Off, a paint remover that immediately removes paint splatters upon contact whether it’s oil or water-based paint. Just let the product sit on the dried paint for around 5 minutes before scraping it off.

    Tips

    • Always read the instructions and follow the safety precautions that came with your paint stripper.
    • Make sure that you buy a paint stripper that is designed for the type of paint you are removing. Better buy a non-toxic option.

    One Final Step When Using Harsh Paint Removers

    Lastly, for methods that stripped the finish of your flooring like using paint strippers and thinners, you can sand that certain area and then apply a new coat of finish. Make sure that you are using the same finish that you use previously on your floor to make it look as good as new again.

    FAQ

    What is the Best Way How to Remove Paint From Wood Floor Without Damaging Finish?

    The simplest way to remove the paint from your hardwood floor without damaging the finish is to use a plastic scraper to avoid scratching your floor. But if this doesn’t work, you need to soften the paint first so you can easily wipe it off. For this, you can use a hand sanitizer, cleansing pads, or a soap and water solution. You can also use acetone or mineral spirits.

    However, take note that these methods may not be effective on oil-based paints as they are harder to remove. In these cases, you might need to use a heat gun. If a heat gun doesn’t do the job, sanding the paint off or using paint thinners or strippers would be your best move.


    Will Vinegar Remove Paint From Wood Floors?

    Yes, you can use diluted vinegar to soften the paint so that you can scrape it off much easier and faster using a paint scraper. It is a great alternative to harmful paint strippers when removing paint splatters and drips.

    Follow these steps to remove the paint using vinegar:

    1. Heat ½ cup of distilled white vinegar. Don’t make it boil to ensure its effectiveness.
    2. Mix the vinegar with water in a 1:3 ratio.
    3. Get a clean microfiber cloth and soak it in the solution. Wring out excess water.
    4. Rub the cloth over the paint.
    5. Leave it for 10-15 minutes.
    6. Scrape off the paint with a plastic paint scraper. You can also use a wire brush if the paint scraper can’t do the job.
    7. Rinse the vinegar residue using a damp sponge.

    NOTE: If not properly diluted, vinegar can still damage your floor’s finish and make it dull. Using dedicated hardwood cleaners or soapy water is safer.


    What Home Remedy Removes Paint From Wood?

    You can use diluted vinegar, baking soda, soapy water, rubbing alcohol and lemon juice solution, denatured alcohol, or a heat machine like a heat gun or hair dryer.


    Will Rubbing Alcohol Damage Hardwood Floors?

    Rubbing alcohol is effective in cleaning paint off hardwood floors, but they don’t mix well with finished wood. Pure rubbing alcohol can leave permanent stains on wood.


    Can Baking Soda Remove Paint From Wood?

    This is another effective DIY paint removal method that you can use. However, take note that it can damage your wooden floor just like vinegar. Here are the steps:

    1. Boil some water and then add ½ cup of baking soda.
    2. Use a sponge to apply the solution to the paint for around 15 minutes.
    3. Start brushing or scraping the paint off once it softens.

    Final Thoughts

    In summary, make sure that you know what type of paint you are removing first to ensure that you follow the right removal method. This prevents you from damaging your floor.

    Feel free to combine the methods we mentioned in this guide on how to get paint off hardwood floors, but make sure to always follow safety precautions. Better yet, contact a professional to help you clean the paint if unsure.

    About Fortino Rosas

    Chief Floor Critic, 32 years of experience in flooring installation and sales

    Fortino Rosas is an independent flooring contractor with 32 years of experience in residential and commercial flooring installation and sales. He joined the Floor Critics team to share his expertise with our readers. Fortino has acquired vast knowledge and skills in the areas of product selection, space planning, and installation. He has installed flooring in residential, government, and commercial office projects in the Midwest. Visit Website.

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