Does Lacquer Thinner Remove Paint? (Here’s How)

To remove a dried paint coating, you must use a strong solvent. So, can you use lacquer thinner to remove paint?

Lacquer thinner is a paint-removing solvent that can remove paint from different surfaces. You can also use it to clean painting equipment after using them. 

You can use it on sensitive materials such as clothes and natural fabrics. However, you can’t use it for wool and silk materials. 

Dried Paint

Lacquer thinner can remove dried paint from any surface because it is designed to penetrate and dissolve them. It is formulated with a combination of ethanol, acetone, and other chemical-based solvents. This makes it strong enough to remove dried (cured) paints. 

You can also use it to thin lacquer (hence the name), one of the strongest finishes. Lacquer paint forms a thick film that has the same features as polyurethane. This film is strong, thick, and resistant to moisture. So, if the lacquer thinner is strong enough to thin this sealant, then it’s also strong to remove dried paint.

To remove dried paint, lacquer thinner penetrates the coating and softens it. Once the coating is soft, you can wipe it off using a rag. However, you shouldn’t use high amounts of lacquer thinner as it can damage the surface underneath the coating.

How To Remove Paint Using Lacquer Thinner?

Removing paint with lacquer thinner isn’t difficult, but you must prep and use the right tools.

Here are the tools that you need:

  • A Face Mask
  • A Pair of Work Gloves
  • Lacquer Thinner
  • Clean Rags
  • Scraper or Putty Knife
  • A Soft Scrubbing Brush or Sponge
  • Warm Water
  • Dish Soap
  • Drop Sheet
  • Linseed Oil

1. Prepare The Workspace

Prepare The Workspace

Paint removal can get messy, so you must prep the workspace to prevent any big mess. You must remove all objects and furniture near the surface.

If you are removing paint from a vertical surface, put a drop sheet on the floor around the wall. This prevents the spills from dropping on the floor. 

2. Scrape The Paint Off

Scrape The Paint Off

First, scrape as much paint as possible using a putty knife (or scraper). This reduces the paint volume on the surface and makes it easier for the lacquer thinner to work. 

To scrape the paint, use a plastic or metallic scraper. Use a plastic scraper for wood, plastic, fabric, and other sensitive surfaces. If you use a metallic scraper for these surfaces, you can damage them. For concrete surfaces, use a metallic scraper.

Position the tip of the scraper under the coating, push the scraper into the coating and lift it. Do this repeatedly until you remove most of the paint. 

Next, wipe the surface to remove the dust and filth. 

3. Apply The Lacquer Thinner

Apply The Lacquer Thinner

For non-porous surfaces, pour lacquer thinner directly over them because it won’t damage them. Non-porous surfaces are impervious, meaning liquid can’t penetrate and damage them.

For porous surfaces, damp a rag with lacquer thinner and use the dampened rag to wipe the painted surface. If you pour it directly over porous surfaces it can damage them. After applying it, wait 10 minutes before removing it.

4. Wipe The Surface

Wipe Off The Paint

The lacquer thinner will penetrate the coating and dissolve the particles. Once the particles are dissolved, the coating will lose its bond to the surface and will liquefy. Once the coating liquefies, wipe it off using a rag.

For stubborn leftovers, apply more lacquer thinner, wait 10 minutes, and wipe it off.

5. Wash The Affected Spot With Dish Soap

Wash The Affected Spot With Dish Soap

After you remove the coating from the surface, clean it to remove the lacquer thinner residue. If you don’t, the residue can discolor the surface and make it unpaintable. 

To remove the residue:

  1. Mix dish soap in a bowl of warm water.
  2. Pour the warm soapy water over the surface and use a soft sponge to scrub it.
  3. Don’t use a soft brush or sponge for wooden surfaces; instead, use a rag. 
  4. Dip the rag into the mixture (soap and water), then squeeze the rag over the surface. 

6. Rinse and Leave To Dry

Rinse and Leave To Dry

Once the paint is off, leave the surface to dry for a few hours (or days) before you use it. 

Wood Stain

You can use lacquer thinner to remove all types of stains. It will penetrate the stained wood, dissolve the particles and solvent, and liquefy its coating. Once that happens, you can wipe it off. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Apply the lacquer thinner over the stained surface. 
  2. Wait a few minutes (5-10 minutes).
  3. Wipe the stain off.
  4. Clean the surface.

For varnished surfaces, use a sanding pad to scrub off the finish.

Different Surfaces

Wood

You can use lacquer thinner to remove paint from wood, but you shouldn’t use it too much as it can discolor (or damage) it. 

Here how to do it:

  1. Douse a rag with lacquer thinner. 
  2. Use the dampened rag to dab the wooden surface repeatedly. 
  3. Wait a few minutes. 
  4. Wipe off the soft paint. 
  5. Clean the wood.

You can also use a brush to spread light coats of lacquer thinner over wood. Don’t leave it on wood for more than 7-10 minutes, as it can damage it. You can use mineral spirits, acetone, and rubbing alcohol as an alternative to it.

Metal

You can use lacquer thinner to remove different types of paint from metal. However, you shouldn’t use it on bare wood as it can increase the chances of rust.

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Apply it over the metal using a rag.
  2. Wait a few minutes.
  3. Wipe the paint off the metal.
  4. Rinse the metal with clean water.

Though lacquer thinner can be used to remove paint from metal, it’s better to use gentler solvents to prevent damage. Paint removers designed for metal surfaces are a better choice. 

Concrete

You can use lacquer thinner to remove paint from concrete, but since concrete is porous, you shouldn’t use a high amount of it.

Final Words

Lacquer thinner is an effective paint-removing solvent that can remove dried and fresh paint. It can also remove wood stains.

However, you shouldn’t leave the solvent over porous surfaces for too long because it can damage them. You also must remove its residue to prevent surface damage. 

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