About Paint & Varnish Removal

Materials You'll Need

Protective Equipment

  1. Safety Goggles (completely covering the eye).
  2. Rubber Gloves that are chemical-resistant, such as neoprene or butyl not the dish washing kind.
  3. Clothing that covers all skin: long sleeved shirts, pants, socks and shoes. If working at eye level or above, wear a cap or hat.

Materials to do the job

  1. Paint brushes. An old wide brush will do. Use a natural-bristle brush, as synthetic bristles will deteriorate rapidly.
  2. Scraper. A wooden type scraper is ideal; however, if not available then a dull, flexible-blade putty knife can be used. If necessary, dull both the cutting edge and the corners of the blade with a metal file; otherwise, you might gouge the wood.
  3. Toothbrush, toothpick, cotton swabs. These come in handy for getting into tiny crevices or when working with intricate designs in the wood.
  4. Nylon pot scrubber. Helpful for removing the stripper or old finish from the pores in open-grained woods such as walnut, oak or mahogany. Also, use to prepare surface for a new finish when cleaning by the water wash method.
  5. Metal cans. Large coffee cans are good both for holding the paint remover while work is in process and for collecting the waste (sludge) when the work is done. Whatever type of metal container you use, make sure it has a securely fitting lid.
  6. Twine, coarse string or burlap. Handy for removing sludge from leg turnings (using shoe shine or back-and-forth rubbing motion).
  7. Stiff-bristle scrub brush. Useful for removing old finish in places inaccessible to a scraper.
  8. Disposable pie pans or some other suitable container. Place under legs of furniture to catch drippings.
  9. Dropcloth, newspaper, cardboard and old rags. Try to gather as much material as possible to catch drippings and sludge to protect the surface underneath the work. Paint removers can damage linoleum, asphalt, plastic and vinyl.
  10. TSP, TSP-PF or other strong detergent. Add to water when rinsing surface by the water wash method to improve cleaning action in preparation for new finish. Use water wash method only with removers that are water rinsable.
  11. Deglosser or mineral spirits. If not rinsing by the water wash method then clean surface with Deglosser or mineral spirits. Deglosser will do a better cleaning job than mineral spirits. This method is recommended for fine woods, antiques and veneered surfaces. All removers can be cleaned by this method.


The amount of paint remover you will need depends on what you are stripping and how many coats of old paint must be removed. As a general rule, however, you can figure that one gallon of remover will strip 50 to 100 square feet. Buy only what you will use to avoid storing paint removing chemicals in the home.

Next: Worksite & Setup