How to Remove Paint from a Wood Floor? (Different Paint Types)

You can paint wooden floors to beautify and protect the wood. But, the paint starts to chip and peel off after a while. So, how to remove paint from wooden floors?

To remove paint from wooden floors, use a water-based or soy-based paint stripper. The paint stripper will remove the paint without damaging the wood floor underneath.

You can also sand the paint off the hardwood, but this works only for thin water-based paints. Also, using chemical-based paint strippers or paint scrapers is not advised as you can damage the wooden floor.

Finding What Paint Type The Wooden Floor Has

To know the type of paint you have on your wooden floors, use the water test:

  1. Pour a few water drops over the wooden floor. 
  2. Wait a few minutes.
  3. If the floor absorbs the water, the floor is painted with water-based paint. 
  4. If the floor doesn’t absorb the water, the floor is painted with oil-based paint or sealer. 

Water-based paints aren’t water-resistant, so the floor will absorb the water. On the other hand, oil-based paints have a glossy finish that is moisture-resistant (to a degree). So, the water won’t penetrate the floor if the floor is painted with oil-based paint.

You can also know the type of paint on your wooden floor by using the nail test:

  1. Try to scrape the paint off the wooden floor using your nail.
  2. If the paint comes off, it’s water-based.
  3. If the paint doesn’t come off, the paint is oil-based. 

You can also feel the texture of the paint to know the type. If the paint feels slick and glossy, it’s oil-based. If the paint feels dry and textured, it’s water-based. 

Using the light test also works:

  1. Shine your phone’s flashlight on the painted wood.
  2. If the surface looks shiny, the paint is oil-based.
  3. Water-based paints don’t reflect light or look shiny, so the paint will look dull.

However, if water-based paint is sealed with a topcoat (such as lacquer or polyurethane), the finish will have the same features as oil-based paint. So, sealed water-based paints must be removed the same way as oil-based paints. 

Removing Water-Based Paints From Wooden Floors

Water-based paints are easier to remove than oil-based paints. That’s because water-based paint has a dry, textured finish that isn’t resistant to water.

Method 1: Sanding Paint Off Wood Floors

By Sanding the Paint Off

You can remove water-based paints from wooden floors by sanding the paint off. To remove water-based paint, use fine-grit sandpaper. Fine-grit sandpaper will remove the paint but won’t damage the wooden floor underneath. Also, it leaves a smooth surface for the next paint to stick.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Remove the dust from the wood by cleaning the floor. 
  2. Attach the fine-grit sandpaper to a power sander.
  3. Use low or medium speed for the power sander. 
  4. Sand the water-based paint off the wooden floor. 
  5. Remove the dust using a vacuum.

Don’t apply pressure on the sander while sanding because you can put too much force, and the sander will create wood gouges.

For smaller surfaces, you can sand manually. 

Method 2: By Using a Water-based Paint Stripper

By Using a Water-based Paint Stripper

Water-based paint strippers are designed to remove water-based paints. The water-based paint stripper will soak (penetrate) into the paint and dissolve the paint particles. Once the paint particles are dissolved, the paint loses its rigid form, and you can wipe it off the floor. 

Also, paint strippers can absorb oils and tannins on wood, so this method helps to degrease wood too. 

Here is a guide on how to do this:

  1. Clean the wooden floor.
  2. Apply a few coats of water-based paint stripper over the painted wood. 
  3. Wait for the paint stripper to dry (30 minutes).
  4. Scrape off the paint stripper and absorbed paint with a paint scraper. 
  5. Re-apply the paint stripper over left-over paints.
  6. Remove the paint stripper residue with clean soapy water. 

You must remove the paint stripper residue from wood as it can prevent new paint from sticking. 

Method 3: By Using Alcohol-based Solvents

By Using Alcohol-based Solvents

Since alcohol is a natural paint remover, alcohol-based solvents can remove paint from wood floors. The alcohol solvent will break the bond between paint particles, the paint will liquefy, and you can wipe off the paint. 

Here is a guide on how to do this:

  1. Sweep and wipe the wooden floor.
  2. Apply the alcohol-based solvent (or rubbing alcohol) over the painted floor. 
  3. Wait until the paint starts to form bubbles and pores. This shows the paint particles have been dissolved. 
  4. Wipe the loose paint using a rag.
  5. Re-apply the solvent to left-over paints. 
  6. Remove the alcohol residue from wooden floors using warm soapy water. 

Removing Oil-Based Paint From Wood Floors

How To Remove Oil-Based Paints From Wooden Floor?

Oil-based paints are harder to remove than water-based paints. That’s because oil-based paints have a glossy finish that prevents moisture (or liquid) from penetrating their surface. So, it’s harder for paint-removing solvents to penetrate the oil-based finish and remove it.

However, here are two methods we recommend using:

Method 1: Using Solvent-Based Paint Stripper

A solvent-based paint stripper is stronger than a water-based paint stripper. So, you must use a solvent-based paint stripper for oil-based paint. 

The solvent-based paint stripper will dissolve the glossy sheen of the oil-based paint. Then, the stripping compound will soak into the oil-based paint and dissolve it. Once the paint stripper dries, you can remove the oil-based paint.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Remove the dust and nibs from the wooden floor.
  2. Prep the solvent-based paint stripper based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Apply two coats of solvent-based paint stripper over oil-based paint.
  4. Wait for the paint stripper to dry (30-45 minutes). 
  5. Remove the paint stripper and the oil-based paint with a paint scraper. 
  6. Re-apply the paint stripper over left-over paint. 
  7. Remove the paint stripper residue and clean the wood floor. 

Method 2: Using Lacquer Thinner

Lacquer thinner is used to thin lacquer paint but can also remove oil-based paint from wooden floors.

The lacquer thinner will penetrate the oil paint and break the bond between paint particles. This will liquefy (return to liquid state) the oil-based paint. With the oil-based paint in its liquid state, you can wipe it off with a rag.

Here is a guide on how to do this:

  1. Use a vacuum to clean the wooden floor.
  2. Apply lacquer thinner over the painted wood floor. 
  3. Wait 30 minutes.
  4. Once the paint starts to bubble and change its color, wipe it off with a rag. 
  5. Brush off the left-over oil-based paint with a toothbrush (or soft brush) and more solvent.
  6. Remove the lacquer thinner residue from the wooden floor.
  7. Clean the floor with warm soapy water and let it dry. 

Removing Spray Paint From Wooden Flooring

Spray paints are difficult to remove from wooden floors. That’s because spray paint is expelled with tremendous pressure onto the wood, penetrating the wooden surface deep. So, spray paint is bonded well to the wooden floor, and is hard to remove it without damaging the wood.

However, here are two methods you can use:

Method 1: Using A Grinder

Grinders are versatile tools that cut, polish, and remove spray paint from wood.

To remove paint with a grinder, use a wire brush disc. The grinder disc will spin fast over the wood and remove the paint. However, you must only graze the top layer of the wood with the grinder so that only the paint comes off.

Here is a guide on how to do this:

  1. Pick the right size of grinding disc, such as A 4×4½ disc.
  2. Attach the disc to the grinder.
  3. Graze the grinder over the painted wooden floor.
  4. Remove left-over spray paint.

The grinder will smoothen the surface as you grind. So, you will have a smooth and polished floor at the end. 

Method 2: Using Petroleum-Based Solvents

Solvents refined from crude oil or petroleum distillation will remove spray paints from wood because they are petroleum-based and won’t damage the wood. These solvents include Xylene, Mineral spirits, Toluene, and Turpentine.

The solvent will penetrate the spray paint and the wood grain and break the bond between paint particles. Once the paint particles aren’t bonded anymore, the paint will start to bubble, and you can wipe it off. These solvents will also remove the spray paint that has penetrated deep into the wood.

Here is a guide on how to do this:

  1. Sweep and wipe the wooden floor.
  2. Apply mineral spirits (or other petroleum-based solvents) over the painted area. 
  3. Wait 1 hour or until the spray paint starts to bubble.
  4. Remove the spray paint from the floor by scraping or wiping it off.
  5. Clean the wooden floor with warm soapy water to remove the residue.

Other Methods/Products You Can Use:

1. Baking Soda

You can use a baking soda mixture to get paint off the wood floor.

To do this:

  1. Mix a few tablespoons of baking soda with boiling water.
  2. Apply the mixture to the painted area.
  3. Wait 10 minutes.
  4. Scrape or use a soft brush to remove the paint. 

However, baking soda can discolor the wood if left for too long. 

2. WD-40

You can use WD-40 to remove water-based paints from wooden floors. But, you can only remove small paint splashes from wood using WD-40.

This product works best to remove paint from slick surfaces, such as glass and tiles. But, for porous surfaces, such as wood, WD-40 isn’t effective. 

3. Goo Gone

You can use Goo Gone to remove water-based paint. But, you must use Goo Gone Latex Paint Remover (or Clean Up Wipes) to get the best results. Also, Goo Gone won’t damage the wood.  

4. Scrape Paint Off

You can remove paint by scrapping it off, but you must dissolve (or soften) the paint first. If you scrape dry time from a wooden floor, you will leave marks and gouges behind on the floor. 

Final Words

Removing paint from wooden floors isn’t hard. You need to know the type of paint you are removing, and then use the adequate method/product to remove that type of paint. 

You must avoid aggressive or harsh methods, which can damage the wooden floor surface.

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