15 Paint Removal Tools to Create a Clean Slate

No matter if you’re trying to give your home a facelift or if you’re remodeling a kitchen or another area, you’ll most likely run into the issue of removing the old paint. Many people view this is a tough chore or an undesirable job, but having a host of paint removal tools at your fingertips is a great way to push this chore along.

In fact, you can choose from several quality paint removal tools to help you strip away the old paint to give yourself a blank canvas to start with. Some of the paint removal tools on the list will require manual labor while others allow you to strip it away without a huge issue. We’ll outline several choices below.

1 Removing Paint
Removing paint can be a time-consuming and frustrating process if you don’t have the correct paint removal tools on-hand. Paint removal by Diverse Stock Photos / CC BY-NC 2.0

15 Types of Paint Removal Tools

Below, we’re going to go over some of the best tools on the market to help remove paint, and you can use them for your next home renovation or modeling project.

1. Electric Paint Remover

An electric paint removal tool will help you get rid of the paint a lot quicker than you would if you used a manual method. It’s a power tool that works by spinning a disc or wire rapidly, and it works very similarly to other types of paint removal tools further down the list. However, it’s a lot quicker and more powerful.

There are several advantages that come with using an electric paint removal tool. First, you can easily strip paint from a bigger area in a short amount of time. So, a job that would normally take several hours with manual paint removal tools will only take a small fraction of the time. This is very beneficial to helping your project move along at a nice clip.

However, it’s not as simple to get this paint removal tool right where you need it to go. This is why you may want to shy away from using it in smaller areas because it is so powerful. It’s meant for larger areas like walls rather than small spaces. It can come with a 3.2 amp motor and it can spin at up to an impressive 2,600 RPMs. It’s a great thing to have if you want to remove paint from big areas very quickly.

2. Heat Guns

Heat guns are a nice way to remove paint from larger sections of drywall, but it also works nicely for tighter areas where an electric paint removal tool wouldn’t work well. It’s a very versatile tool that you can use for a host of projects around the house aside from paint removal. It works to help thaw frozen pipes if you live in colder climate zones and to mend plastic. They’re useful in repair projects, like repairing your phone.

A heat gun works as a paint removal tool because it can produce hot air with temperatures that can climb up to an impressive 1,000-degrees Fahrenheit. This is more than hot enough to melt paint, and once the paint gets gooey, you can scrape it off the walls. This paint removal tool works especially well to help remove multiple paint layers, and it works on varying surfaces, including concrete, wood, metal, stone, and brick. However, this can be a dangerous tool to use for novice DIYers. If you choose to use one, it’s a good idea to take steps to protect yourself with heat-protective gloves. Never lay it by or on any flammable surface.

When you purchase a heat gun, you want to get one that has an adjustable airflow. It should have low and high speed settings, and thermal cut-offs with a temperature display are things you also want to see.

3. Manual Sanding Block

A manual sanding block is a slower paint removal tool, but it’s nice for smaller areas or areas that have a lot of details that you have to be careful around. Also, this is a very budget-friendly option to consider, and you can buy several of them and use them to effectively get rid of the paint.

If you’re removing paint from something smaller, it shouldn’t take you a huge amount of time to complete it. Also, since you can be very careful and precise, it works well for ornamental pieces that you want to strip the paint off. If you don’t mind being a little slower, you can also use it for bigger surfaces. You will do a lot of manual labor for this to work though.

4. Nylon Drill Brush

Do you have a power drill somewhere in your garage or shed? If so, you can easily pair it with a nylon wire brush to get rid of paint. This brush attachment can help strip the paint from most surfaces, and the combination of the stiff wire with a drill’s power can make this project easy and quick. In turn, you’ll be able to move to the next stage on schedule.

The drill attachment is also available for several different brush types. You can choose a two or four-inch wide one or the standard pinecone shape. All of these attachments will work well for your intended use as a paint removal tool. As a bonus, you can use them to clean up your grill too. It’s easy and quick to attach the bylon brush to the drill. Once you attach it to the drill bit, you can start up the drill and remove your paint. It’s a great combination to have alongside paint stripping gel.

5. Oscillating Power Tool

A favorite paint removal tool for DIYers and professional contractors alike is an oscillating multi-tool. It can handle a large range of tasks, and with the right accessories and blade, you can use it to polish, grind, sand, and scrape. It’s very user-friendly, and it’s compact enough to fit into small places, unlike other power tools you may have.

You can start removing the paint with this oscillating power tool by getting a rigid scraper and attaching it. You could also use the blade attachment if it’s thin enough to slide under the layer of paint. Then, you can switch to a sanding pad. This will help give you a smooth surface to work with. When you shop for this tool, you want to pick out one that is easy to handle and lightweight. It should also come equipped with a longer cord so that you can freely move around.

2 Oscillating Power Tool
An oscillating power tool can help you take on larger areas without wasting a huge amount of time. They’re popular to use on flooring and walls. Bosch Power Tools Event by Charles & Hudson / CC BY-SA 2.0

6. Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel

Applying a small amount of varnish and paint stripping gel to your wall or surface makes getting the paint off a lot easier. The gel will break down the paint on a chemical level, and this lets you remove the paint without a huge issue. If you use the gel correctly, it can shorten your paint removal project time. You do need to make sure that it’s safe to add the gel to the surface that you want to take the paint off so you don’t cause accidental damage.

Many people choose this paint removal tool for use in stripping the paint off of their walls. It also works to remove any paint from your furniture, and there are some that are rated to be able to safely remove paint from plaster or wood surfaces without causing any damage. You can use this gel on items that have up to seven layers of paint on them. The gel will change color when it’s time to remove the paint, and this removes the guesswork. It’s supposed to start out a pale green color and slowly change to off-white to indicate that it’s done breaking the paint down.

If you want to make your project quick and easy, you’ll want to have some of this paint removal tool on hand. Combining this tool with a few other ones will work very well, and it’ll give you clean results in a short span of time. One gallon of paint and varnish stripping gel should do several rooms in your home, and this makes it fairly affordable.

7. Paint Scraper

This is the most basic paint removal tool you can have, and it also works well to get rid of rust. It’s true that there may be tools available that are easier to use, but a lot of professionals and DIYers prefer to use this paint scraper. It’s especially popular for working in tight spaces like around your cabinets or built-ins. A traditional paint scraper has a handle with a flat blade. However, you can now find variations in this tool’s design. Some scrapers will be shaped like an oval while others are triangular or rectangular.

They can come with a double or single edge to them, and the single-edge variety is much more common. However, if you want to scrape paint quicker, you’ll want to get a double-edged scraper. Most carpenters prefer to use the single-edge variety because it’s more efficient, especially if you’re working on rough surfaces. There are paint scrapers available that will remove several layers of paint. A hook scraper is nice for getting rid of stubborn spots, and a multi-tool scraper can get paint off different surfaces. It can also help open paint cans and clean rollers. Some come as 8-in-1 or 5-in-1 tools.

8. Paint Stripper

This is a popular paint removal tool, and a paint stripper is a chemical product that is specially formulated to remove paint while cleaning the underlying surface. Along with removing paint from your baseboards, it’s also great to remove varnish from furniture or from wood.

There are four kinds of paint stripper available, and each kind comes with unique properties for peeling the paint of different surfaces. For example, the most versatile option out of the four is a solvent. It can remove oil or water-based paint from metal or wood surfaces without any discoloration. The main problem with solvent-style paint removal tools is that it has a higher volatile organic compound content. So, this means that it emits fumes that can pose a health hazard. You’ll apply a thin layer of solvent-style stipper and let it sit for 15 minutes. You can then use a paint scraper to remove the paint, and you want to wash the surface before repainting it.

A caustic paint stripper is another popular option, and it works well to remove oil-based paint from masonry surfaces like concrete flooring. It converts paint partially into soap, and this gives it a gooey texture that is easier to loosen up. However, this paint stripper type isn’t effective for loosening up epoxy or polyurethane painted surfaces. You should also exercise caution if you’re going to use it on wood because it can blacken the surface, particularly hardwood.

Biochemical paint strippers are safer alternatives to the other paint stripper categories. They’re usually formulated using a mixture of organic compounds and plant-based solvents, and this makes biochemical paint strippers have a very low volatile organic compound content. So, it’s safer to breathe and a healthier choice. You can remove paint from metal, wood, and masonry using it. However, it doesn’t work well to strip polyurethane or epoxy coatings, and it can leave wood fibers when you use it on stripped wood.

Finally, you have the zero-VOC paint stripper that is almost odorless. It’s great to use if anyone in the house has health problems, and it can remove paint from wood, masonry, and metal surfaces. It’s not very effective at getting paint off plastic. You should still use safety gloves when using this paint removal tool, even if it has a lower VOC content to be on the safe side.

3 Paint Stripper
Since paint strippers come in a range of categories, you do want to ensure that the one  you pick out is a good fit for your project. Stripper by Raquel Baranow / CC BY-SA 2.0

9. Power Drill

By itself, a power drill isn’t something you would consider an effective paint removal tool. However, you will need it to use the drill attachments that work to remove the paint. The attachments can be extremely useful, so it’s a good idea to get a high-quality drill. It’s worth the price of the drill to make the paint removal process faster and more convenient.

Additionally, you can use this drill for other purposes. It works well in a range of home improvement projects, and it can be nice to use to put a bookshelf together or if you’re building a deck. There are several great drill manufacturers out there too. You want to get a drill that comes with a comfortable and ergonomic grip to allow you to use it for extended periods, and it should be a lightweight model that doesn’t put a lot of strain on your body to use. It should fit nicely in tight spots, and it should be easy to pick up and carry with you from project to project or area to area.

10. Power Washer

A power washer is arguably the best paint removal tool you can have for your deck or house. If you have one of these machines, you can quickly finish your project, especially when you compare it to manual methods. You can easily purchase one at your local home improvement store, or you can rent one for a short-term project. This tool will blast a stream of high-pressure water, and the water can be cold or hot. It’s powerful enough to dislodge the paint from your surfaces in a single pass.

There are many power washer models available on the current market, and the most common are electric ones. You may want to avoid getting a gasoline-powered one because they emit fumes and are noisy. Before you use it, you’ll have to ensure that you have the correct nozzle, and nozzles come with different pressures and spray angles. You’ll need to buy a model that offers a minimum of 3,000 pounds of pressure per square inch (PSI) to ensure that it’s strong enough to wash away your paint.

Some contractors do recommend that you use a paint scraper first to loosen up the paint before you break out the pressure washer. Other people suggest applying a layer of paint stripper to soften up the paint so the pressure washer can get rid of it without damaging the surface underneath.

11. Putty Knife

Traditionally speaking, a putty knife’s main purpose isn’t to be a paint removal tool. However, carpenters have realized that a putty knife can help you with this project despite not having a design for removing paint. It’s not surprising that this tool is one of the most versatile you can have. The main purpose of this tool is to apply filler materials like a wood filler or drywall taping compound. The dull edge works decently for paint removal, and it makes it much less likely to damage the surface under the paint.

A second reason why this putty knife works for this project is the flexibility. You can bend this tool without breaking it, and this allows you to scrape the paint away at a lower angle. However, there are weaknesses to this tool that make it far from your best option. The blade isn’t as durable as a formal paint scraper, and it isn’t the best at getting off really stubborn paint spots.

4 Putty Knife
A putty knife is a very common and popular paint removal tool that you can easily get into smaller spaces without an issue. Putty Knife by Kelly Taylor / CC BY-SA 2.0

12. Roto Stripper Drill Attachment

This drill attachment is another reason why it’s a good idea to have a high-quality drill in your garden shed. It’s a nice tool to have if your goal is to remove loose paint particles from any surface around your home. You can use it in tandem with paint remover gel to move the project along. It shouldn’t take too long to get rid of the paint using this method either.

It’s so powerful that people routinely use it to get rid of rust. When rust builds up on your doors, garden statues, or other metal items, this paint remover tool will effectively strip it away. People have even used it to remove barnacles that have attached to ships, so it has a high flexibility rate. You can use it on a host of different surfaces too, including metal, wood, cement, brick, and fiberglass without any damage. It’s a very fast way to get rid of the paint.

13. Sanding Machine

A sanding machine is a versatile paint removal tool that is very quick. It runs on electricity and it has a moving abrasive surface. This surface can be a spindle, belt, or a disk that works to smooth surfaces. You can choose from two main types of sanding machines, including belt sanders and orbital sanders.

The orbital sander has two processes to help remove paint. First, it has a spinning head that will remove loose paint as you slowly pass the tool along the surface. You should take care to not leave the sander on one spot for an extended period as it can leave a pattern in the surface. A sanding attachment helps to remove any remaining paint.

Orbital sanders are also called quarter-sheet sanders because they use a quarter of a 9-inch by 11-inch piece of sandpaper. You can use it one hand, and it’s a quicker sander with a higher orbit-per-minute ratio to it that allows you to strip the paint quicker from your floor or wall.

A belt sander is one common tool in a more modern workshop. It has a sanding belt that wraps around rollers and drums, and the front drum moves while the rear one is motorized. They work in tandem to move the sander in one direction.

This sander is available in several sizes with some being handheld and small that work to remove paint on flat surfaces and others are much larger and work to remove paint from floors and decks. You can also get a detail sander that works as a nice paint removal tool to get paint off of your furniture. It’s small enough to work in tight spaces, but it’s too small to use in larger areas. You can use it to get rid of paint on textured surfaces.

No matter which sander you choose to use as your paint removal tool, you want to have the correct safety equipment when you sand the paint. Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes, and you may also want to wear a mask or respirator to protect yourself from the dust it kicks up.

14. Utility Knife

Very similar to a putty knife, this paint removal tool is very versatile. You can use it for a range of applications, and it comes with a retractable blade with a lightweight design that allows you to carry it in your toolbox or in your pocket. You can use it to cut drywall, cut vinyl flooring, trim roof shingles, and trim wooden shims. It’s also effective for removing loose paint chips.

A utility knife is also excellent for removing paint-coated screws. If you accidentally paint over them as you’re doing your room and you need to remove them, you can use this paint removal tool to scrap the paint from the slots before unscrewing it. You will need to get all of the paint out from the slots to ensure that the screwdriver can get a grip.

15. Wire Brush

Finally, a wire brush is a nice paint removal tool that also works well to get rust and ugly surface contaminants to let go. You should note that you’ll have the most success if you remove the paint from small spots with it instead of trying to cover a very large area. Wire brushes are easy to use and inexpensive, and it’s a cheaper alternative to a more powerful sander. You can use it to remove peeling paint by sweeping it lightly parallel to the paint’s edge. However, you should consider the wire type, filament configuration, and the diameter when you buy.

Wire brushes come in various materials ranging from stainless steel and brass to carbon steel. Brass is versatile enough to work on virtually any project, and it can strip the paint from plastic, steel, wood, and iron without an issue. Stainless steel and carbon steel work for specific materials, including wood, steel and carbon. Stainless works on iron and plastic.

As for the wire’s diameter, the general rule is that you should use fine wire when you have light-duty projects. You should use a coarse or medium-wire brush as a paint removal tool.

Bottom Line

We’ve outlined 15 paint removal tools that you can easily add to your arsenal to help you tackle this project. If you get the correct ones, you can easily tackle this project in a day or two to give yourself a clean slate to repaint it.
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