Does Bleach Remove Paint? (How-To)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

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

Bleach can remove paint because it is an oxidizing chemical that penetrates and breaks the bond between particles, 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 it faster and better. Plus, bleach is corrosive, and it can damage different surfaces. 

Can Bleach Damage Paint?

Bleach can damage paint, especially if left over it for too long. However, if you want to remove stains and not the paint underneath, you must dilute the bleach with water. Undiluted 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 it for too long over the surface. Bleach is an oxidizer that will penetrate the surface and remove the bond between paint particles. Once the particles aren’t bonded, the coating 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, it is not strong enough to remove paint, but strong enough to remove dirt. 

Does Bleach Remove Dried Paint?

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

How to Use Bleach to Remove Paint?

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

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. 

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

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

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 it directly over wood as it can damage it. 

After you use bleach, wait 5-10 minutes, and wipe it 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 its concentration by increasing its amount 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 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, it will damage and stain the material underneath. 

To remove the 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 it.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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