Does Paint Thinner Remove Paint (or Wood Stain)?

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

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

However, certain surfaces will get damaged if exposed to the thinning compund. Such surfaces are usually porous and sensitive to it.

Dried Paint

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

But, not all thinners can strip oil-based dried paints. To remove them, the thinning compound must have acetone in it, or you must use a lacquer thinner.  

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

However, the thinning compound soaks into the coating and breaks the bond between the surface and the coating. When the coating is separated from the surface, the thinner will dissolve it and turn it from a solid to a semi-solid or wet state.

How Long Does Paint Thinner Take to Work?

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

On average, paint thinner dissolves and removes paint from a surface in about 20 minutes. However, the removing time depends on the type of thinner, the type of finish, and the number of coats. 

The thinning compound has to soak into the coating and separate the bond between the particles. Once the particles are separated, the coating can be wiped off. This process can take anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes. 

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

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

The type of thinner also matters. Some types are stronger than others and will remove coatings more quicker. For instance, lacquer thinner will remove paint faster than any other type of thinner. This is because it is designed to dissolve tough finishes like lacquer and varnish.

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 Finish

Wipe and Clean The Paint

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

To clean the surface, use a rag. If there is grease or stubborn stains, use a degreaser.

2. Apply The Paint Thinner

Apply The Paint Thinner

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

You shouldn’t pour it 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

Wait 25 minutes. This gives the paint thinner enough time to soak into and dissolve the particles, pigment, and polymer of the coating.

Once the coating starts to form bubbles, the particles have started to dissolve. When the coating is fully dissolved, it will turn liquid or semi-solid.

4. Wipe or Scrape It Off

Wipe or Scrape The Paint Off

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

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

5. Remove Residue On The Surface

Remove Residue On The Surface

Paint thinner leaves residue behind. So, after using it, you need to remove any residue from the surface. If you don’t remove it, the residue can damage the surface.

To remove the residue, mix dish soap with warm water and use the mixture to wash the surface.

Does Paint Thinner Remove Wood Stain?

Paint thinner can strip wood stains. Wood stains have a similar formula as regular paints, so the thinner can also dissolve them.

However, removing wood stains is different from removing paint. This is because they penetrate deeply into the wood. So, you must get the thinner inside the wood so it can dissolve the stain.

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

Types of Surfaces


Paint thinner can remove paint from some types of clothes. Not every type of cloth or fabric can accept it.

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 solvent or not. This helps to prevent discoloration and damage to the cloth.

To use it:

  1. Scrape the paint off as much as possible, using a scaper.
  2. You don’t have to scrape the entire finish off, just the loose parts.
  3. Use a rag and a small amount of paint thinner to massage the affected spot.
  4. Wait a few minutes.
  5. Wash the cloth twice and rinse in warm water


You can use paint thinner to remove paint from wood. But, it’s not recommended to use it on very porous or open wood. This is because wooden surfaces will soak and absorb the thinner excessively. This can cause rotting and discoloration in 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 thinner. So, you must test it on one small part of the carpet before using it fully.

Also, must blot or dab the carpet with it. 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 spot on the carpet. This helps to prevent excess thinner on the carpet.


Paint thinner can remove paint from concrete. It is also safe to use it because concrete surfaces are tough enough to handle the thinner.

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

Paint Brushes

Paint thinners can remove paint from paintbrushes. To do this, soak the brushes (and panting equipment) in a bucket filled with thinner for a few minutes, then remove the brush and wash it.


Paint thinner can remove paint from hard plastics like chairs and tables. Soft plastic or plastic with a rubber-like texture shouldn’t be exposed to the thinner as it can damage it. 

Alternative Products

Here are some alternative products to use:

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

Tip: Always check if the product can be used on the 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. You also need to check if the thinner can be used on the surface as some surfaces are too sensitive.

Remember to leave enough time to allow the thinner to soak into and dissolve the particle before scraping it off.

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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