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

You can paint wooden floors to beautify and protect them. But, the finish can start 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 stripper paste will remove the finish without damaging the wood floor underneath.

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

Finding The Paint Type

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

  1. Pour a few water drops over the surface. 
  2. Wait a few minutes.
  3. If the floor absorbs the water, the floor has water-based paint over it.
  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 water if the floor is finished with oil-based paint.

You can also know the type of paint by using the nail test:

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

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

Using the light test also works:

  1. Shine your phone’s flashlight on the floor.
  2. If the surface looks shiny, the paint is oil-based.
  3. Water-based paints don’t reflect light or look shiny, so the finish 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 are easier to remove than oil-based paint because they have a dry, textured finish that isn’t resistant to water.

Method 1: Sand The Paint Off

By Sanding the Paint Off

You can remove water-based paint by sanding it off using fine-grit sandpaper. Fine-grit sandpaper will remove the paint but won’t damage the 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 surface by cleaning it.
  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 specially remove water-based paints. The stripping paste will soak (penetrate) into the floor and dissolve the particles. Once the particles are dissolved, the paint loses its rigid form, and you can wipe it off the floor. 

Also, the stripping compound can absorb oils and tannins, so this method helps to degrease wood too. 

Here is a guide on how to do this:

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

You must remove the stripper residue paste from the floor 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. The alcohol solvent will break the bond between particles, the coating will liquefy, and you can wipe it off. 

Here is a guide on how to do this:

  1. Sweep and wipe the 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 particles have been dissolved. 
  4. Wipe the loose paint using a rag.
  5. Re-apply the solvent to leftovers.
  6. Remove the alcohol residue 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 because they 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 that we recommend using:

Method 1: Using a Solvent-Based Stripper

A solvent-based stripper is stronger than a water-based stripper, and can remove oil-based paints. The solvent-based stripper will dissolve the glossy sheen of the finish, then it will soak into the oil-based paint and dissolve it. Once the stripper compound dries, you can remove it with a scraper and the oil-based paint will come off too. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Remove the dust and nibs from the surface.
  2. Prep the solvent-based stripper based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Apply two coats of solvent-based stripper over the surface.
  4. Wait for the stripping compound to dry (30-45 minutes). 
  5. Remove the stripper and the oil-based paint with a scraper. 
  6. Re-apply the stripping compound over leftovers.
  7. Remove the stripping compound 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. The lacquer thinner will penetrate the oil paint and break the bond between particles. This will liquefy (return it to a liquid state) the oil-based paint. Once the finish is 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 floor.
  2. Apply lacquer thinner over the surface.
  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.
  7. Clean the floor with warm soapy water and let it dry. 

Removing Spray Paint From Wooden Flooring

Spray paints are difficult to remove because they are expelled with tremendous pressure onto the wood, penetrating the surface deeply. So, spray paint is bonded well to the surface, and is hard to remove it without damaging the it.

However, here are two methods that 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 surface and remove the finish. However, you must only graze the top layer of the wood with the grinder so that only its finish 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 surface.
  4. Remove leftover 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 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 particles. Once the paint particles aren’t bonded anymore, the coating will start to bubble, and you can wipe it off. These solvents will also remove the spray paint that has penetrated deep into a surface.

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 surface.
  3. Wait 1 hour or until the finish starts to bubble.
  4. Remove the finish by scraping or wiping it off.
  5. Clean the surface 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 surface.
  3. Wait 10 minutes.
  4. Scrape or use a soft brush to remove the finish. 

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

2. WD-40

You can use WD-40 to remove small splashes of water-based paint. This product works best for slick surfaces, such as glass and tiles. But, for porous surfaces, WD-40 isn’t as 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. 

4. Scrape Paint Off

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

Final Words

Removing paint from floors isn’t hard. You need to know the type of paint you are removing, and then use the adequate method/product to remove it. You must avoid aggressive or harsh methods, which can damage the floor surface.

Tony Adams
Tony Adams

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,

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