Does Paint Thinner Remove Paint (or Wood Stain)?

Paint thinner is used to thin paint. But, can paint thinner remove paint?

A paint thinner can remove paint. The paint thinner soaks into the paint coating and separates the paint particles turning paint from a dry to a liquid state. When this happens, you can wipe off the dissolved paint from the surface.

However, certain surfaces will get damaged if exposed to paint thinner. Such surfaces are usually porous and sensitive to chemicals.

So, what type of surface can you use paint thinner on? Also, how long does it take to remove paint using paint thinner? The answers to these questions and more will be revealed in this post. So, let’s dive in.

Does Paint Thinner Remove Dried Paint?

Paint thinner is strong enough to remove dried paint. The paint thinner soaks into the dried paint and dissolves the paint particles turning paint from solid to liquid. The paint can be wiped off in its liquid state with a rag.

But, not all types of paint thinners can remove dried paint, especially dried oil-based paints and sealants. To remove oil-based dried paint, you need an acetone-based paint thinner or lacquer thinner.

It’s hard to remove dried paint because the dried paint is hard, and its solvent has fully evaporated. If you try to scrape or remove dried paint without a paint thinner, you can damage the surface underneath. 

The paint thinner soaks into the paint and breaks the bond between the surface and the paint coating. When the paint coating is separated from the surface, the paint thinner will dissolve the dried paint and turn it from a solid to a semi-solid or wet state. When the paint is in a semi-solid state, you can wipe the paint off without damaging the surface.

Lacquer thinner or acetone-based paint thinner are your best choice to remove dried paint. These two products are more powerful than the other types of paint thinners. 

How Long Does Paint Thinner Take to Work?

How Long Does It Take For Paint Thinner To Remove Paint?

Paint thinner takes 15-30 minutes to remove paint. On average, paint thinner dissolves and removes paint from a surface in about 20 minutes. The time it takes for the paint thinner to remove the paint depends on the type of paint thinner, the type of paint, and the number of coats.

To remove paint, the paint thinner has to soak into the paint coating and separate the bond between the paint particles. Once the paint particles are separated, the paint can be wiped off. This process can take anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes. 

The type of paint you are removing determines how long does paint thinner take to remove paint. For example, paint thinner takes 30 minutes to remove oil-based paint. This is because oil-based paints have a thick and moisture-resistant layer. So, it takes longer for paint thinner to penetrate the moisture-resistant layer and dissolve the oil-based paint.

On the other hand, paint thinner removes water-based paints in less than 15 minutes. That’s because water-based paints don’t have a thick or hard finish as oil-based paint. 

The type of paint thinner also matters. Some paint thinners are stronger than others and will remove paint quicker. Lacquer thinner will remove paint quicker than any other type of paint thinner. This is because lacquer thinner is designed to dissolve tough paints like lacquer and varnish. As such, the lacquer thinner will work rapidly in removing paint.

How To Use Paint Thinner To Remove Paint?

Removing paint with paint thinner is not difficult, but the task can get messy if you don’t follow the right steps. Luckily, this guide will show you how to do this in 5 simple steps. But first, we need a few tools and supplies:

  • Rags
  • Paint thinner
  • Dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Degreaser
  • A soft scrubbing brush

1. Wipe and Clean The Paint

Wipe and Clean The Paint

First, you must wipe and clean the painted surface to remove the debris and filth. If the surface is filthy, the paint thinner won’t work properly because it will have to get through the filth to get to the paint.

To clean the surface, use a rag. If there is grease or stubborn stains on the paint, you can remove them using a degreaser.

2. Apply The Paint Thinner

Apply The Paint Thinner

When the painted surface is clean, apply the paint thinner. To do this, soak a rag in the paint thinner and use the damp rag to wipe the painted surface.

You shouldn’t pour the paint thinner directly onto the surface because the concentration of the paint thinner will be too high and can ruin the surface, especially a wooden surface. 

3. Wait 25 Minutes

Leave The Paint For About 25 Minutes

After applying the paint thinner, leave it for about 25 minutes. This gives the paint thinner enough time to soak into and dissolve the paint.

Once the paint starts to form bubbles, it means the paint thinner is dissolving the paint. When the paint is fully dissolved, the paint coating will turn liquid or semi-solid. This is when you can move to the next step.

4. Wipe or Scrape The Paint Off

Wipe or Scrape The Paint Off

When the paint turns liquid or semi-solid it means the paint thinner has dissolved the paint and you can wipe it off the surface. To wipe the paint, use a rag or a paint scraper. 

If you notice that some paint didn’t dissolve, you can re-apply the paint thinner and wait a few minutes before wiping the paint off.

5. Remove Residue On The Surface

Remove Residue On The Surface

Paint thinner does leave residue behind. So, after using paint thinner to remove paint, you need to remove any paint thinner residue on the surface. If you don’t remove the paint thinner residue after removing the paint, the paint thinner can damage the surface.

To remove paint thinner residue, mix dish soap with warm water and use the mixture to wash the surface. This gets rid of paint thinner residue and makes the surface clean.

Does Paint Thinner Remove Wood Stain?

Paint thinner can remove wood stain. Wood stains have a similar formula as regular paints, so the paint thinner can also dissolve the wood stain.

However, removing wood stain with paint thinner is different from removing paint. This is because wood stain penetrates deeply into the wood, while paints don’t. So, to remove wood stain with paint thinner, you must get the paint thinner inside the wood so it can dissolve the stain inside the wood. 

To do this, soak a cloth into the paint thinner, then use the soaked rag to wipe the surface in a repeated circular motion. While doing this, the paint thinner gradually soaks into the surface and removes the wood stain. It takes paint thinner 20 minutes to remove wood stain from a surface. 

Types of Surfaces You Can Remove Paint With Paint Thinner?

Next, let’s check out some common materials and surfaces to see if you can remove paint from them using paint thinner. The first on the list is your clothes and fabric.


Paint thinner can remove paint from clothes. But, not every type of cloth or fabric can accept paint thinner. 

For instance, you can damage clothes made from silk and wool if you use paint thinner. That’s because these materials are sensitive. So, you must always check the type of cloth or fabric to know if you can use the paint thinner or not. This helps to prevent discoloration and damage to the cloth.

To remove paint from clothes using a paint thinner, scrape the paint off as much as possible. To do this, use a plastic putty knife for this. However, you don’t have to scrape the entire paint off, just the loose paint.

After scraping the paint:

  1. Use a rag and a small amount of paint thinner to massage the paint.
  2. Leave the paint thinner on the clothes for a few minutes for the paint to come off. 
  3. When the paint is off the cloth, wash the cloth twice and rinse in warm water to remove excess paint thinner.


You can use paint thinner to remove paint from wood. But, it’s not recommended to use paint thinners on very porous or open wood. This is because wooden surfaces will soak and absorb the paint thinner excessively. This can cause rotting and discoloration in the wood. \

Also, you should only use mineral spirits (a type of paint thinner) on wood. Other types of paint thinner can damage the wood.


You can remove paint from some types of carpets using a paint thinner. 

Carpets made from fur, wool, and cotton can be damaged if exposed to a high amount of paint thinner. So, you must test the paint thinner on one small part of the carpet before using it fully.

Also, must blot or dab the carpet with paint thinner. To do this, dip a clean rag in paint thinner and then use the damp part of the rag to gently dab or touch the affected (or painted) spot on the carpet. This helps to prevent excess thinner on the carpet.


Paint thinner can remove paint from concrete. Paint thinner is safe to use on concrete because concrete surfaces are tough enough to handle paint thinner.

However, ensure to scrub the concrete after removing the paint to get rid of paint thinner residue. If you leave paint thinner on the concrete without scrubbing it off, the thinner may etch into the concrete material.

Paint Brushes

Paint thinners can remove paint from paintbrushes. It’s one of the best methods to remove paint from paintbrushes. 

To do this, soak the paintbrushes (and panting equipment) in a bucket filled with paint thinner. This removes the leftover paint.


Paint thinner can remove paint from plastics, but only for hard plastics like chairs and tables.

Soft plastic or plastic with a rubber-like texture shouldn’t be exposed to paint thinner as the paint thinner can damage it. Also, it’s best to use mineral spirits paint thinner on plastic.

What Other Product Can You Use To Remove Paint?

Here is a list of other products that you can use to remove paint asides from paint thinner:

  • Acetone – for oil removing and water-based paints
  • Baking soda – for removing water-based paints
  • Rubbing alcohol or isopropyl – for removing water-based paints and some oil-based paints
  • Paint stripper – for removing oil-based and water-based paints
  • Vinegar – for removing water-based paints.

Tip: Always check if the product can be used on the painted surface before applying it to prevent damage and discoloration.

Final Words

In summary, paint thinner can remove paint, but you must use the right type of paint thinner.

You also need to check if the paint thinner can be used on the painted surface as some surfaces are too sensitive for paint thinner and solvent.

Remember to leave enough time to allow the paint thinner to soak into and dissolve the paint. This will ensure that the thinner removes all the paint on the surface.

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