Vinegar is an effective stain-removing agent found in virtually every home. It removes anything from oils to grease. But, can vinegar remove paint?
Vinegar doesn’t remove paint completely. The solvent is a mild acid that softens both water and oil-based finishes making it easier to scrape off. It is classified as a paint remover because it has traces of ethanol which is a key ingredient in making paint-removing solvents.
However, vinegar is an acid and can be corrosive to sensitive materials like rubber, wool, and even metal. So, you should always dilute it before using it on such surfaces.
Vinegar will dissolve and soften dried oil-based or water-based undercoats, paint, or sealants. This is because it is an acetic acid produced from the oxidization of ethanol by acetic bacteria.
Ethanol is a key ingredient in manufacturing alcohol-based paint removers and solvents. The slight concentration of ethanol in the solvent and the acid nature means it can dissolve and remove dried finishes easily.
However, oil-based sealants especially the moisture-resistant types can be tough to remove when the sealant has cured. You can bypass this problem by using undiluted vinegar to kickstart the removal of such sealants.
Undiluted vinegar will soften the dried coating making it easier to scrape it off with a scraper or putty knife. However, it can be very corrosive and should be handled carefully.
How Long Does It Take?
Vinegar takes between 10-20 minutes to strip paint. The solvent needs to soak in the coating for a few minutes, then dissolve and soften the particles to make it easier to scrape off.
However, the time it takes to dissolve a finish depends on the type of finish, how dry the coating is, and the concentration of vinegar applied. For instance, it removes water-based finishes faster since they have a low level of oils and don’t repel liquid.
The more coats the surface has, the longer it takes vinegar to soak and dissolve it. It takes longer to remove cured finishes, but it removes fresh or wet paint within 1 minute.
How To Use Vinegar To Remove Paint?
Removing paint with vinegar isn’t difficult. But you should exercise caution and care because the wrong application can ruin the material or surface.
Here are the tools that you need:
- Bottle of distilled vinegar
- Pair of gloves
- Scraper or putty knife
- Bucket of warm water
- Clean rags
- A clock or timer
1. Mix Equal Parts of Vinegar With Water
Vinegar is an acid and it’s not advised to use it directly. So, mix equal parts of vinegar with water in a clean bucket (1:1 ratio) for oil-based paints and sealants. This is because oil-based paints are tougher to strip and you need a stronger solution.
For water-based paints, mix the vinegar and water in a ratio of 1:3 (one part vinegar to 3 parts water) since water-based paints are not difficult to remove.
Contrary to people’s beliefs, you shouldn’t boil vinegar before mixing it with water to increase its potency. That’s because the acetic acid in the vinegar will evaporate while being heated.
2. Dip A Clean Rag In The Solution
After mixing vinegar with water:
- Dip a rag in the mixture and let it soak.
- Use the rag to wipe the finish repeatedly.
- Wait 15 minutes:
3. Scrape The Paint
After 15 minutes, use a scraper or putty knife to strip the finish from the surface. The solvent will soften the coating, making it much easier to scrape off. Ensure to scrape off as much paint as you can from the surface.
If you are removing water-based paint, you don’t have to wait 15 minutes. If the coating starts to bubble, turn liquid, or discolor, you can start scraping the paint. These signs show that the solvent has dissolved the coating so you can scrape it.
4. Wipe The Surface
After you strip the paint, wipe the surface with a clean rag and soapy water. For porous surfaces like wood, don’t pour the water on the wood as it can soak into the wood. Instead, dampen a rag with soapy water and use it to wipe the surface.
This step helps clean the material so it’s ready for prep work and painting.
Vinegar can remove paint from concrete surfaces within 20 minuets. It is also safe to use it on concrete as there is a low risk of corrosion, etching, or discoloration of the concrete material.
To do so:
- Dilute the vinegar with water (1:1 ratio),
- Apply it to the concrete.
- Wait 15 minutes.
- Use a clean rag to wipe the coating off.
You shouldn’t use a scraper on concrete as they are usually uneven and rough so scraping can be tough as you won’t be able to get all the paint out.
You can use vinegar on wood to remove its finish, but its concentration must be heavily diluted. Also, you shouldn’t use it on porous wood like Maple, Buckeye, and Alder for long periods. This is because it can soak into the porous wood and cause discoloration.
To use it:
- Mix the vinegar with water in a ratio of 1:3 (1 part vinegar 3 parts water).
- Dip a rag in the mixture and use the rag to clean the wooden surface.
- Leave the mixture on the wooden surface for 10-15 minutes and then use a paint scraper to remove the paint.
Vinegar can strip paint from metal, but it’s not the best product to use as it is an acid and can corrode the metal.
Vinegar though a mild acid can still cause discoloration, etching, and corrosion of metal surfaces especially if its concentration is high. So it’s better not to use it.
Instead, you can use alcohol-based solvents or paint strippers.
You can strip paint from plastic using vinegar. To do so, pour it into a soft sponge and use it to wash the coating off.
However, vinegar isn’t the safest paint remover to use on plastic, especially soft plastic. This is because in high concentrations it can melt plastic or make it softer.
Vinegar can remove paint from rubber. To do it, pour some it into a soft sponge or rag and wash the paint off.
Different Types of Paint:
Yes, vinegar removes emulsion paint. It takes less than 10 minutes to remove it. The emulsion is a water-based paint, and as such, removing it is easier.
Vinegar can remove enamel paint, but it takes longer to do it. It takes up to 15 minutes because enamel is an oil-based paint.
You can use vinegar to de-gloss paint, but it’s not the best choice. You have to clean the surface with TSP before you use it as a de-glosser.
Vinegar can remove both water-based and oil-based stains from wood, plaster, or concrete. Its chemical makeup makes it able to soften and remove stains easily.
However, you shouldn’t use it to remove stains from porous materials or materials. This is because it can damage these materials causing discoloration and etching.
Overall, vinegar can remove paint from different surfaces. But, it’s always a good idea to dilute it before using it. Also, don’t let it sit on the surface for too long as it can cause corrosion.
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,