Does Bleach Remove Paint? (How-To)

Bleach is an effective stain-removing chemical. But is bleach strong enough to remove paint? Here is the answer to that.

Bleach will remove paint from different surfaces. This is because bleach is an oxidizing chemical that will penetrate and break the paint bond making it easier to remove from a surface.

However, using bleach to remove paint isn’t the best option. Though the chemical will remove most paint types, it can also produce toxic fumes when it clashes with paint chemicals.

Bleach is also highly corrosive and can damage several surfaces if used carelessly.

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.

Does Bleach Remove Paint From Wood?

Regular household bleach or laundry bleach will remove paint from wooden surfaces with little or no impact at all on the wooden material. However, sodium hypochlorite can cause discoloration and permanent staining on wooden surfaces.

“Bleach” is what you call a household name. The term “bleach” is used to refer to different cleaning and disinfecting products. However, each product has a different level of concentration.

Laundry bleach for instance can be used to remove paint from wooden surfaces. The main ingredient in laundry bleach is chlorine and these products are not heavily concentrated. Laundry bleach is designed to be used on porous materials like fabric and can even come in contact with the skin without any problem.

This means that your regular laundry bleach can be used to remove paint from wood easily.

The bleach when applied will penetrate the paint particles and destroy them from the inside out. This will make the paint particles lose bond to the wooden material and come off easily with light scrubbing. Laundry bleach is also safer to use on wooden material because it has a lower risk of staining the wood.

Sodium hypochlorite bleach on the other hand is much stronger and heavily concentrated than laundry bleach. One reason for this is because sodium hypochlorite doesn’t just contain chlorine. Other compounds like oxygen and sodium are included in its formula.

This makes sodium hypochlorite very unstable. If used to remove paint from wood, the chemical will remove more than just paint. It will also cause permanent staining on the wood.

To be on the safer side, never use bleach to remove paint from wood. It’s better to use paint strippers or alcohol-based solvents. As explained earlier, using bleach to remove paint requires extreme caution. So how do you go about this task? Let’s find out.

How to Use Bleach to Remove Paint?

Removing paint with bleach shouldn’t be your first option. Before you use bleach to remove paint, you should have tried paint strippers and alcohol-based solvents.

But if other options aren’t available, then you can use bleach.

Tip: Only use laundry bleach to remove paint. Stay away from sodium or calcium hypochlorite bleach.

To remove paint using bleach, you’ll need these tools:

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

Here is a rundown of how to remove paint using bleach:

  • Provide Proper Room Ventilation
  • Scrape The Paint Off
  • Mix The Bleach
  • Apply Bleach on The Paint
  • Scrub The Affected Spot
  • Wash and Clean The Material
  • Leave to Dry

Let’s get to work.

1. Provide Proper Room Ventilation

Provide Proper Room Ventilation

The first step before using bleach on paint is to ensure there is proper ventilation. This is because bleach when exposed to paint particles produces an offensive odor and sometimes fumes that shouldn’t be inhaled.

So first, open all windows and doors in the room to allow air circulation.

Tip: When removing paint from any surface using bleach, it’s better to do so outside or outdoors.

If you can’t move the affected item outdoors, it’s advised to open all windows, doors, and turn on the fans for ventilation.

Next, you should…

2. Scrape The Paint Off

Scrape The Paint Off

Use a paint scraper to scrape the bulk of the paint off.

You can use a metallic putty knife or trowel for non-porous surfaces like concrete. For sensitive surfaces like fresh wood, use a plastic putty knife.

The purpose of scraping the paint off is to remove the top layer of the paint. This makes the bleach more effective on the bottom layer of the paint which serves as the base coat. When the bottom layer is removed, then the whole paint will come off.

To scrape the paint, position the tip of the scraper at the base of the paint. This allows you to scrape more paint.

You’ll need to use a bit of force to scrape paint off especially dried paint.

3. Mix The Bleach

Mix The Bleach

The next step is to mix the laundry bleach. Undiluted bleach can easily damage the paint and the object. So to use it, it needs to be mixed in water first.

Mix 1/4 cup of laundry bleach with 10 liters of water for latex and acrylic paint stains. For oil-based paints, mix 1/4 cup of laundry bleach in 5 liters of water.

Then stir and allow the water to settle.

For easier application, you can pour some of the mixed bleach into a spray bottle.

4. Apply The Bleach

Apply The Bleach

The next step is to apply the bleach to the paint. This task requires caution.

For fabrics and other sensitive materials, you should soak the material inside a bucket of mixed or diluted bleach for 5 minutes.

For porous surfaces like wood, do not pour bleach on the material. Instead, douse a rag with the mixed bleach and then wipe the paint with the damp rag. You can also spray the bleach but don’t pour directly.

For non-porous surfaces like concrete, you can pour the bleach but just a bit of it will do. Too much bleach can cause staining.

After applying the bleach, wait for 5 to 10 minutes for the bleach to soak into the paint stain.

After 10 minutes, you’ll see the paint stain changing in structure. This is because bleach is an oxidizer and as such, it breaks down the paint by attacking and destroying the molecular structure. This causes the paint to turn liquid or semi-solid.

When you notice that the paint has changed in form, you should…

5. Scrub The Affected Spot

Scrub The Affected Spot

Scrubbing with a soft brush helps to further loosen any bond that the paint has to the material. The bleach will break down the paint particles. Then scrubbing will remove the paint from the material.

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

As you scrub, you’ll notice the paint coming off and sometimes you’ll notice foaming. You shouldn’t panic if you notice foaming, it’s just a part of the chemical reaction and one of the reasons you need a face mask on during this process.

6. Wash and Clean the Material

Wash and Clean the Material

When all of the paint is off the affected spot, you should wash the material with dish soap and a soft sponge.

For wood and other water-prone materials don’t wash. Instead, soak a rag in warm soapy water. Then use the damp rag to wipe the wood.

Other non-porous materials like glass and concrete can be washed. The purpose of washing is to remove any paint residue left on the material. Also, you are washing to remove leftover bleach on the material.

If bleach is left on the material for too long without washing it off, it can cause staining and in extreme cases, corrosion.

7. Leave To Dry

Leave To Dry

Leave the affected spot or material to dry. This will take a few hours. But what if the paint doesn’t come off after all of these steps? In such cases, you should…

8. Increase The Concentration of The Bleach

Increase The Concentration of The Bleach

One of the good things about laundry bleach is it usually comes in powdered form. This makes it easier to increase concentration.

For this task, it makes it easier for us to increase the paint-removing power of the bleach. So if the first solution didn’t work, you can mix more bleach in water. Then use the new mixture to remove the paint.

You can also try using a paint stripper or any paint removing solvent if the bleach didn’t work. Common choices of paint-removing solvents include rubbing alcohol and acetone.

Does Bleach Remove Dried Paint?

Bleach will remove dried paint. This is because bleach will penetrate the dried paint coating and separate the paint particles. Regular household bleach or laundry bleach will remove dried latex and acrylic paints.

For multiple coats of tough oil-based stains like wax and polyurethane, you’ll need sodium hypochlorite bleach. But removing dried paint with bleach regardless of the type requires extreme caution.

This is because bleach is not designed as a paint remover. The chemical is not a solvent, it’s an oxidizer. Most products advertised as bleach contain sodium hypochlorite and or a high percentage of chlorine.

This means that bleach will not remove the dried paint as alcohol-based solvents will. Instead, bleach will react with the paint chemicals and oxidize or change the chemical structure of the paint particles.

Though this will remove the dried paint, it can also produce a clash of chemicals. Especially in oil paints that have a large volume of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). This clash of chemicals will produce toxic fumes and offensive odors.

Not just that, using strong bleach to remove dried paint from porous materials like wood will leave long-lasting damages on the material. This is because materials like wood have tiny pores that the bleach can sift and sink into causing discoloration and gradual deterioration of the wood fibers.

Will Bleach Remove Paint From Metal?

Bleach will remove paint from metal. But, the chemical should never be used on metal surfaces because it will cause corrosion and increase the chances of rust.

This is because bleach is an acid. Like all acids, when bleach comes in contact with bare metal, it will eat away at the metal frame causing discoloration and damages to the metal.

When you want to remove paint from metal, the last method you want to try is bleach. This is because the sodium hypochlorite ions in the bleach will react with carbon dioxide in the air to release chlorine gas. Chlorine gas is an oxidizer that will attack and eat away at most metal surfaces including aluminum.

Sorry to disappoint you but diluting the bleach will not prevent damages to Metal. Regardless of how well you dilute the bleach, there will still be chlorine in it. This low amount of chlorine in most cases is still enough to cause staining on metal. Not to mention the fact that diluting the bleach will render it useless on the paint.

So whatever you do, don’t use bleach on metal.

Tip: To remove paint from metal, try solvents with lower risks of corrosion like white vinegar and baking soda. 

Can Bleach Remove Paint From Walls?

Bleach can remove paint from walls but the fumes and offensive odor of bleach make it more ideal for small-scale tasks. For larger tasks like removing paint coatings from walls, go with a paint stripper.

Bleach, being an acid is strong enough to remove paint stains and coatings from walls. Sodium hypochlorite bleach for instance will work on latex, acrylic, enamel, and even oil-based paints.

However, using bleach to remove paint from walls isn’t a good idea. This is because bleach has a very strong scent that will pollute the air. If used on large-scale tasks like removing paint from walls, the fumes produced will make it very difficult to breathe.

Also, bleach has a high tendency of staining the walls. So if you are to use bleach on a wall, it should be for blotting out paint stains or removing grease and dirt.

Tip: To remove paint coating from walls, use a paint stripper.

Final Words

Overall, bleach is an effective cleaning agent that will remove paint stains. But the risks involved in using the chemical on paint don’t make it the best option.

If bleach is to be used to remove paint, proper caution should be exercised and the task should be left to a professional to handle.

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