Does Bleach Remove Paint? (How-To)

Bleach can remove stains from different surfaces. But, can bleach remove paint?

Bleach can remove paint. That’s because bleach is an oxidizing chemical that penetrates and breaks the paint bond, making it easier to remove from a surface.

However, bleach isn’t the best option to remove paint. There are stronger solvents that will remove paint faster and better than bleach. Plus, bleach is corrosive, and it can damage different surfaces. 

But that’s not all. There is more to know about removing paint with bleach, and this post digs right into the topic. So let’s dive in.

Bleach Can Damage Paint

Bleach can damage paint, especially if left for too long over a surface. If you want to remove stains and not the paint underneath, you must dilute the bleach with water. Undiluted bleach or sodium hypochlorite bleach is too strong and will remove the paint underneath too. 

If you don’t want to remove the paint underneath; don’t leave the bleach for too long over the surface. Bleach is an oxidizer that will penetrate the surface (including paint) and remove the bond between paint particles. Once the paint particles aren’t bonded, the paint turns liquid and will drip off.

To use bleach for cleaning, mix it with water at a ratio of 1:5 ( 1 part bleach, 5 parts water). This way, bleach is not strong enough to remove paint, but strong enough to remove dirt. 

Removing Dried Paint With Bleach

Bleach can remove dried paint because it penetrates and separates the paint particles. However, laundry bleach can only remove dried water-based paints and not dried oil-based paints.

Water-based paints use water as their solvent and don’t have a glossy finish that repels moisture. So, bleach can penetrate latex paint easier and remove it. However, oil-based paints have a glossy finish that bleach can’t penetrate, so it can’t remove it. Bleach can’t also remove sealers or topcoats such as polyurethane, wax, or varnish. 

Bleach is an oxidizer, not a solvent, so it can’t remove oil-based paints. For dried oil-based paints, you must use a chemical-based paint remover, such as mineral spirits. Mineral spirits is made to remove oil-based paints.

How to Use Bleach to Remove Paint?

Removing paint with bleach shouldn’t be your first option. Before you use bleach to strip paint, you must try different paint strippers and alcohol-based solvents. But if other options aren’t available, you can use bleach.

Tip: Only use laundry bleach to strip paint. Don’t use sodium or calcium hypochlorite bleach.

Here are the tools you need:

  • Laundry Bleach
  • Face Mask
  • Paint Scrapper (or a Metallic Putty Knife)
  • Rags
  • Dish Soap
  • A Bucket of Water
  • Soft Brush
  • Paint Bucket (Optional)

1. Provide Proper Room Ventilation

Provide Proper Room Ventilation

First, open all windows and doors to allow proper ventilation. If you can, move the object outdoors. 

Bleach, when exposed to paint particles, has a bad odor, so it’s best to do this process outside.

2. Scrape The Paint Off

Scrape The Paint Off

Before applying bleach, you must scrape as much paint as possible first. 

To scape paint, use a paint scraper or putty knife. For sensitive materials such as fresh wood, use a plastic putty knife. Position the tip of the paint scraper under the base and lift the paint scraper. Repeat this process until all loose paint is scraped. 

Scraping will remove the top layer of wood. This makes bleach more effective on the bottom layer of paint (basecoat). Once the base paint is removed, the entire paint will come off. 

3. Mix The Bleach

Mix The Bleach

You must mix the bleach with water to decrease its concentration. Undiluted bleach can damage the surface underneath the paint. 

For water-based paints (or acrylic), mix 1/4 cup of laundry bleach with 10 liters of water. For oil-based paints, mix 1/4 cup of laundry bleach with 5 liters of water. Put the mixture into a clean bowl, and stir it. 

For easier application, pour the mixture into a spray bottle. 

4. Apply The Bleach

Apply The Bleach

Next, apply bleach to the paint. However, the application method varies on the surface type. 

For fabric or sensitive materials; soak the material inside a bucket that contains a mixture of laundry detergent and water for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, take the material off and clean it with water. 

For wooden surfaces, douse a rag with mixed bleach and water, and wipe the painted spots with the damp rag. You can also spray the mixture (using a spray bottle), but don’t pour bleach directly over wood as it can damage it. 

You can pour bleach directly onto non-porous surfaces such as concrete or plastic. However, don’t pour too much bleach as it can stain the concrete. 

After you use bleach over the painted surface (porous or non-porous), wait 5-10 minutes, and wipe the bleach off. Bleach is an oxidizer that will break the paint by removing the molecular structure. This causes the paint to turn liquid or semi-solid.

If bleach can’t strip the paint, increase the concentration of bleach. To do so, increase the amount of bleach you use in the mixture. 

5. Scrub The Affected Spot

Scrub The Affected Spot

Once the paint liquefies, scrub it with a soft brush. The soft brush will loosen any bond between the paint and the material underneath. Since the bleach removed the bond between paint particles, the paint will become loose, and you can wipe it off. 

For fabric materials, use a soft sponge to scrub the affected spot. Using a brush can pull the threads out.

6. Wash and Clean the Material

Wash and Clean the Material

After you remove the paint, you must remove the bleach residue. If you don’t, the bleach will damage and stain the material underneath. 

To remove bleach residue, use warm water and dish soap and scrub the surface with a soft sponge. For porous surfaces, soak a rag in warm soapy water and use the damp rag to remove bleach residue. 

7. Leave To Dry

Leave To Dry

Leave the affected spot or material to dry. This will take a few hours. 

Remove Paint With Bleach From Different Surfaces:

Wood

Regular household or laundry bleach will remove paint from wood without damaging the surface. However, sodium hypochlorite bleach can cause discoloration and permanent staining on wooden surfaces.

The term “bleach” refers to different cleaning and disinfecting products. However, each product (or brand) has different levels of concentration. For instance, the main ingredient in laundry bleach is chlorine, and the product isn’t heavily concentrated. Therefore, you can use laundry bleach on porous materials such as wood or fabric.

Laundry bleach can be used to remove paint from wood. Bleach will penetrate the paint coating, remove the bond of paint particles, and liquefy paint. Laundry bleach is safe to use on wood because it doesn’t stain the surface.

On the other hand, sodium hypochlorite bleach is stronger and more heavily concentrated than laundry bleach. In addition, except for chlorine, sodium hypochlorite formula contains oxygen and sodium. So, you shouldn’t use sodium hypochlorite bleach to remove paint because it will damage the wood. 

Metal

Bleach can remove paint from metal, but it can cause corrosion and rust on metal. So, it’s not recommended to use bleach over metal. Since bleach is an acid, it will eat away at the metal frame and cause discoloration and damage to the metal surface. 

The sodium hypochlorite ions in the bleach will react with the carbon dioxide in the air and release chlorine gas. The chlorine gas is an oxidizer that will damage metal surfaces, including aluminum. 

Even if you dilute bleach, it will still cause damage to the metal. That’s because bleach will always have chlorine, and chlorine will cause stains on the metal. So, don’t use bleach on metal. 

To remove paint from metal, use solvents with lower corrosion risks, such as white vinegar or baking soda.

Walls

You can use bleach on walls to remove small painted spots. But, it’s not recommended to use bleach to remove paint from a large wall surface. That’s because bleach can produce a bad odor if used on a large scale. 

Also, if left for too long, bleach can stain the walls. You should use bleach only to remove stains and dirt from the walls, not paint. To remove paint from walls, use a paint stripper. 

Final Words

Bleach is an effective cleaning agent that will remove paint, especially water-based paints. However, you should only use laundry bleach and not sodium hypochlorite bleach. 

Also, bleach isn’t the best option to remove paint. So, use bleach on paint only as a last resort. 

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