How to Remove Paint from Wood Trim? (3 Methods)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

While painting floors, paint can splatter into wood trims. So, how to remove paint from wood trims?

To strip fresh paint from wood trims, wipe it off with a damp rag. To remove dry (or old) stains from wood trim, use an alcohol-based solvent, or chemical-based paint stripper, or sand the finish off.

The method depends on the paint type. For instance, water-based paints can be removed with soapy water. But, to remove oil-based paint, you must use a solvent-based stripper.

Do You Need To Take Off The Wood Trim?

You don’t need to take off the wood trim. If you have the right tools and supplies, you can remove paint, stain, or sealer from it without removing it.

While removing paint, you must cover the floors with a drop sheet or a cloth to prevent solvent stains. This is because if you pour the solvent over the floor, you will strip the finish from the floor too.

However, if the stain is too large or you want to re-paint the surface, you must remove the trim. That’s because you can accidentally stain the floors.

Removing wood trim can be time-consuming because you must pull the nails out of it. Doing this can damage the floor, so it’s best to remove the paint without taking them off.

How To Remove Paint From Wood Trim?

The best way to strip paint from trims is to wipe it off immediately after it drops on the wood trim. However, if the coating is dry or old, you must use an alcohol-based solvent or sand it off.

1. Sand Off The Paint

Sand Off The Paint

Sanding will remove wet and old paint stains from the surfaces. Fine-grit sandpaper will gradually wear and remove the finish, leaving a smooth and clean surface behind.

For this method, you’ll need these tools and supplies:

  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • A pair of gloves
  • A face mask
  • A vacuum or duster
  • A cover cloth.

Here is a step-by-step guide for this method:

  1. Prep the Workspace – Cover the floor around the trim with a cloth. The cover cloth will prevent dust and paint from staining the floor. Also, you must wear safety goggles.
  2. Start Sanding – Using fine-grit sandpaper, sand the stained spot. While sanding, the finish will gradually wear off. Once it is removed, stop sanding, as you can damage the trim.
  3. Clean the Wood Trim – After sanding, clean the wood trim and remove dust. To clean it, use microfiber or polishing cloth to buff and polish it.

2. Dissolve And Wipe It Off

Dissolve And Wipe Off The Paint

Alcohol is a natural paint remover that will dissolve and remove stains. If the wood trim has an existing finish, you must be careful while applying the alcohol-based solvent as it can strip the other finish too.

The alcohol-based solvent will penetrate (soak) into the finish and dissolve the particles. Once the particles are dissolved, the paint will liquefy, and you can wipe it off.

For this method, you need these tools and supplies:

  • Rags
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Nylon bags
  • A pair of gloves

Here is the step-by-step guide:

  1. Clean the wood trim.
  2. Damp a clean rag with alcohol-based solvent.
  3. Use the dampened rag to wipe the coating off.
  4. Wait 10 minutes.
  5. After 10 minutes, use a dry rag to wipe off the paint.
  6. Clean the surface with clean water to remove alcohol-based solvent residue.

3. Strip It Off

Strip The Paint Off

You can use a stripping compound to strip paint off. However, you must only use it for large stains, if the stain is small use a different method.

The paint stripper will penetrate the coating and start to dry. While the stripping compound is drying, it removes the bond between the paint and the surface. Once the compound dries, you can scrape it off, and the paint will get removed too.

Here are the tools you need:

  • Paint stripper
  • Angled paintbrushes
  • Rags
  • A scrapper or putty knife

Here is a step-by-step guide for this method:

  1. Clean the surface to remove dust and filth.
  2. Using an angled brush, apply the stripping compound over the affected surface.
  3. Wait 20 minutes.
  4. After 20 minutes, the stripping compound will absorb and dry over the paint.
  5. Use a plastic scraper to scrape the stripping compound off (the paint will come off too).
  6. Use a damp rag to remove the leftovers from the surface.
  7. Remove the stripping compound residue from the surface.

Here are other products you can use:

  1. Goo Gone
  2. Diluted Vinegar
  3. Paint remover (liquid and spray types)
  4. Dish soap (for fresh stains)
  5. CitriStrip paint and stain remover.

How To Prevent Paint From Getting To Wood Trims?

Preventing splashes while painting the floors (or walls) is a good idea. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use Paint Shields – Paint shields act as a “shield” between the paint and the surface. You can use cardboard, plank, wood board, or plywood as a shield. To use it, cover the wood trim with the shield while painting. This prevents the splashes from going on the surface.
  2. Use Drop Sheets – You can place drop sheets or covers cloths over the surface to prevent stains. You must use a waterproof drop sheet made of nylon. The drop sheet will collect the splashes.
  3. Clean Immediately – If paint splashes into the wood trims, you must remove it immediately. The splashes take 30-60 minutes to dry on a wooden surface, so you must wipe them off immediately.
  4. Use The Right Applicator – The best way to apply paint on small surfaces is to use a brush. That’s because you can control where the paint goes. While using a roller or sprayer, you can’t control where the paint goes, so avoid using them.
  5. Use Masking Tape – Just like a shield and drop sheet, masking tape will also prevent paint from staining a surface. The masking tape will collect all the splashes that fall near the surface. Once you are done painting, you can remove the masking tape.

Final Words

In summary, removing paint from wood trim isn’t hard, but you must use the right method. For small and medium stains, use sanding or an alcohol-based solvent. For large stains, use sanding or a paint stripper.

The type of paint also matters; water-based paints can be removed with soapy water. However, to strip oil-based paints, you must use a solvent.

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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