How to Remove Lacquer Paint From Wood? (3 Methods)

Lacquer is a waterproof and strong sealant meaning that removing it from wood will be tricky but not if you follow the right steps. Here is how you remove lacquer paint from wood easily?

The best way to remove lacquer from wood is to use a lacquer thinner. Lacquer thinner is a combination of different solvents that can dissolve the plastic resins in lacquer paint making the paint lose its bond to the wood.

You can also mix the lacquer thinner with denatured alcohol – then wipe the lacquer with the mix. Lacquer can also be removed from wood by using chemical-based paint strippers or sandpaper. You should always put on safety gear while working with lacquer-removing chemicals.

This post reveals more ways to remove lacquer paint from wood including several products that work. Let’s dive in.

Can You Remove Lacquer Paint From Wood Without Sanding?

Can You Remove Lacquer Paint From Wood Without Sanding?

You can remove lacquer paint from wood without sanding. If you don’t want to sand the lacquer paint off of the wood, you can use chemical-based paint removers to remove the lacquer paint.

Chemical-based paint removers like lacquer thinner and paint strippers are reinforced with solvents like acetone and chemicals like methylene chloride. These solvents and chemicals will dissolve the lacquer paint making it easier for you to wipe or scrape the lacquer paint off of the wood.

When it comes to removing lacquer paint from wood, the first method that is tried out is to sand the lacquer paint off. However, other methods can remove the lacquer paint asides from sanding. If you don’t want to sand, you can use a chemical-based paint remover like a paint stripper. These chemicals will remove multiple layers of lacquer paint from wood and you wouldn’t need to sand.

You should know that none of these chemical-based paint removers will leave your wood in as good condition as sanding. After you sand the lacquer paint off of the wood, the fine sandpaper that you use to finish up will leave the wood smooth and clean.

In this state, the wood can be easily stained or painted with zero level of prep work required. But if you use chemical-based paint removers, you’ll need to neutralize the chemical, dry, and sand the wood before you can stain or paint it.

Next, let’s check out how to remove lacquer paint from wood.

How To Remove Lacquer From Wood?

Removing lacquer from a porous surface like wood is a bit tricky. This is because lacquer adheres strongly to wood and the finish is also waterproof so household and commercial cleaning agents will not remove it.

However, this guide will show you 3 great methods to remove lacquer from wood, how they work, and the tools and supplies you’ll need for each.

1. Use Lacquer Thinner To Dissolve The Lacquer Paint

Use Lacquer Thinner To Dissolve The Lacquer Paint

The first method to try out is to use lacquer thinner. Lacquer thinner is made from different solvents that can dissolve the plastic resins in the lacquer paint.

When the lacquer thinner dissolves the lacquer paint, you can wipe or scrape off the scum from the wood. Then wipe down the wood and let it dry.

For this method, you’ll need these:

  • Lacquer thinner
  • Rags
  • Paint scraper
  • Mineral spirits
  • A foam sponge
  • Denatured alcohol (optional)

Here is a guide to this:

  1. Wipe the lacquer paint with a dry rag to remove dust nibs and debris on the surface
  2. Pour some lacquer thinner into a clean bowl – You can mix the lacquer thinner with equal parts of denatured alcohol if you want
  3. Soak a rag in the lacquer thinner
  4. Use the damp rag to apply the lacquer thinner over the lacquer paint and leave for a few minutes
  5. After a few minutes, the lacquer thinner would have dissolved the lacquer paint and you can scrape or wipe it off of the wood
  6. If there is leftover lacquer paint on the wood, apply more paint thinner and wipe off the paint
  7. When the lacquer paint is off, you should neutralize the chemicals on the wood with mineral spirits
  8. Wipe the wood with a clean rag and leave it to dry.

2. Sand The Lacquer Paint Off Of The Wood

Sand The Lacquer Paint Off Of The Wood

The next method to remove lacquer paint from wood is to sand the paint off the wood. This method involves using sandpaper grit to wear the lacquer paint off of the wood surface.

The sandpaper will remove the lacquer paint and still leave you with a smooth wood surface that is ready to be stained or painted with no prep work required.

For this step, you’ll need these:

  • Sandpaper (medium and fine grit)
  • Rags
  • A vacuum or duster
  • A pair of gloves
  • A power sander (optional)

Here is how to remove lacquer paint from wood with sandpaper:

  1. Wipe the lacquer paint with a rag to remove dust nibs and debris that can weaken the sandpaper
  2. Put on a pair of gloves if you want to sand manually – if the wood surface is large, you’ll need to attach the sandpaper to a power sander
  3. Start sanding the lacquer paint with medium-grit sandpaper
  4. Remove dust and inspect the wood surface to see if the lacquer paint is off
  5. When the lacquer paint is off, finish the wood by sanding with fine-grit sandpaper
  6. Remove dust and leave the wood to settle.

3. Use Paint Stripper To Strip The Lacquer Paint Off

Use Paint Stripper To Strip The Lacquer Paint Off

The third method to remove lacquer paint from wood is to strip the lacquer paint off of the wood surface. This involves using a chemical-based paint striper to dissolve and remove the lacquer paint from the wood.

For this method, you’ll need these:

  • A paint scraper
  • Paint stripper
  • Rags
  • A waterproof bag
  • A paintbrush
  • A plastic putty knife
  • Sandpaper (optional)

Here is how to remove lacquer paint from wood using a paint striper:

  • Wipe and clean the lacquer paint with a rag
  • Apply a thick coat of the paint striper on the lacquer paint – press the paint stripper against the lacquer paint with a putty knife
  • Leave the paint stripper for a few minutes – check the manufacturer’s instructions to see how long to wait for
  • After a few minutes, you’ll notice the paint scraper starting to crack – at this stage, the paint scraper has dissolved, absorbed, and dried with the lacquer paint
  • Scrape the paint scraper off of the wood using a paint scraper or putty knife
  • If there is leftover paint on the wood, apply more paint stripper and follow the steps above
  • When the lacquer paint is off, wipe the wood with mineral spirits to neutralize the paint scraper
  • Leave the wood to dry and sand if needed.

Other Products You Can Use To Remove Lacquer From Wood

Acetone

Acetone can remove lacquer from wood because acetone is an alcohol-based solvent and alcohol can dissolve lacquer paint.

However, you’ll need a wire sponge or sanding pad alongside the acetone to fully remove the lacquer paint from the wood. The acetone will dissolve the lacquer paint and the wire sponge will scrub off the loose lacquer paint.

Lacquer Thinner

Lacquer thinner is a solvent that will surely remove multiple layers of lacquer paint from wood. This is because lacquer thinner is specially designed to remove lacquer paint – Hece the name “Lacquer Thinner”

One of the reasons lacquer paint is so tough to remove from wood is the plastic resin in the paint. These plastic resins bind together to make the lacquer tough but lacquer thinner is designed with solvents that can dissolve these plastic resins and by extension, remove the lacquer from wood. However, you should be careful with lacquer thinner as too much of it can deface your wood furniture.

Paint Thinner

Some paint thinners might remove lacquer from wood. But, these are thinners specially designed to dissolve and remove sealants like lacquer and shellac.

You should check the manufacturer’s instructions on the paint thinner container to know if you can use it to remove sealants like lacquer.

Vinegar

Vinegar can’t remove lacquer from wood because it can’t dissolve lacquer paint. Lacquer paint will not react with vinegar. You can even use vinegar mix to wipe and clean stains off of a lacquer finish.

To remove lacquer from wood, you need a solvent strong enough to dissolve the lacquer paint and vinegar is more of a household cleaning agent.

Goo Gone

Goo gone can’t remove lacquer paint from wood because Goo Gone is a commercial household cleaning agent.

As such, Goo Gone is designed specially to be finish friendly so you can use the product to remove greasy stains and goo from wood without affecting the finish or paint on the wood. Goo Gone will never remove lacquer paint.

Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits can’t remove lacquer from wood because mineral spirits can’t dissolve lacquer paint. However, you can use mineral spirits to remove tiny spots of lacquer paint stains from wood.

To do this, you’ll need to sprinkle mineral spirits on the small stains and use a sanding pad or brush to scrub the stains off. In this case, the mineral spirits will soften the lacquer paint and make it easier to remove but this will not work for multiple coats of lacquer paint on wood.

Final Words

In summary, lacquer thinner is only difficult to remove from wood because you don’t know the product or method to use. If you ever notice a lacquer paint stain on your wood or you want to remove multiple coats of lacquer paint from your wood, you can use any of the methods discussed above in this article.

You should always put on protective gear when working with chemical-based paint removers and neutralize the wood after to remove chemical residue that can deface the wood.

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