How to Get Paint Off Hardwood Floors

How to Get Paint Off Hardwood Floors

Removing paint from hardwood floors can be a tricky chore. The process may involve sanding, using chemical strippers, or applying dry heat or steam. Professionals must know how to sand and refinish the damaged sections of the floor, ensuring optimal results for the client. 

In this article, you will learn how to remove paint from wood flooring without much hassle. If you’re diving into a DIY project, prepare to put in some time and effort to effectively remove the paint and restore the surface of your wood floor. 

Preparing and assessing the floors

Before proceeding with any floor maintenance or repairs, cleaning the surface is key. Clear away dust, dirt, and grit to ensure any paint marks are easily identifiable. If you’re responsible for the paint splatters, you likely know if they’re water-based or oil-based. If not, conducting a quick test can help determine the best removal method.

Here’s a simple assessment:

1. Dampen a cotton ball with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.

2. Gently wipe it over the paint splatter.

3. Examine the cotton ball for paint residue. If there’s none, it’s likely oil-based paint. If there’s residue, it’s probably water-based or latex paint, which are usually easier to remove.

Tools and equipment needed

Depending on the chosen method to remove paint from hardwood, you’ll be needing some of the following tools:

  • Cotton ball
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Special rags
  • Dishwashing liquid / soap
  • Scraper / Credit card
  • Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
  • Lemon juice 
  • Old toothbrush or nylon-bristle scrub brush
  • Heat gun or hair dryer
  • Chemical paint stripper
  • Cleansing pads

Removing paint from wood floors: what are your options?

1. Dishwashing liquid / soap and water

Once you’ve confirmed the paint is water-based, blend a few drops of dishwashing liquid / soap into two cups of very warm water. Then, dip a microfiber cloth into the solution, ensuring it’s just damp after wringing it out. Scrub the paint-splattered area following the wood grain. As the paint begins to loosen, use a dry rag to wipe it away.

If the paint seems loose but remains stuck, use a scraper or the edge of a credit card to gently scrape it off. Be cautious not to apply excessive pressure to prevent damaging the floors.

2. Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol and lemon juice

Succeeding with this method involves giving alcohol time to work its magic on water-based paints. 

Begin by delicately scraping off as much paint as possible using a scraper. Then, take a rag and dip it into a mixture of three parts rubbing alcohol and one part lemon juice. Apply this solution to cover the paint and allow it to sit for five minutes. 

Then, use the rag to scrub off the paint, and if needed, use a toothbrush. For stubborn spots, a brush can be more effective than the rag. Once the paint is removed, wipe the area with a clean, water-dampened rag to finish the process.

If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, cleaning vinegar can be an alternative to help soften the paint. While it won’t miraculously eliminate the paint, it can effectively soften water-based paint splatters, making them easier to scrape away. It’s essential to use only cleaning vinegar; avoid white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar, and refrain from mixing it with other products. Cleaning vinegar contains sufficient acetic acid to effectively soften the paint.

3. Heat gun / hair dryer

A heat gun is an effective way for both oil-based and water-based paint to soften the material and easily remove it from your floor. You have to point the heat gun at the paint while simultaneously scraping it away with a scraper. To complete the process, wipe the floor with a damp rag for a high-quality finish

It’s essential to avoid overheating the paint, as this can harm the wood floor’s finish. If you’re concerned about potential floor damage, using a hair dryer instead of a heat gun can be a safer alternative.

4. Paint thinner / paint remover

If the paint is oil-based or just very stubborn, use a paint remover or paint thinner, such as turpentine or mineral spirits. Make sure the room is well-ventilated and there are no open flames like fireplaces or candles. 

Follow the instructions on the product label to apply the remover or thinner to the paint. Use a rag to delicately rub the product on the paint until it’s fully removed. Be gentle during this process to avoid removing the finish from the floor.

5. Cleansing pads

While we’ve discussed removing dried paint from wood floors, addressing wet paint spills is just as important. It’s essential not to let the paint dry as it becomes significantly more challenging to remove once it sets.

Cleansing pads are a solution if you set wet paint on your wood floor, whether it’s water- or oil-based. Have these pads at hand so that they’re readily available for your next interior painting endeavor. This ensures swift cleanup of any paint spills on your wood floors before they dry and become harder to remove.

Other useful tips

  • Always begin with gentle methods before moving on to methods like heat or paint stripper.
  • Use a low-grit sandpaper.
  • When using putty knives, it’s important to make sure they don’t scratch hardwood floors. File them down before you begin using them so they are more blunt to prevent scratching.
  • With all methods, and on hardwood floors in general, avoid using excess moisture as this can lead to more damage.

For more tips on how to properly clean, remove, repair, or replace hardwood flooring, or for information on any of the products we carry, reach out to First Atlanta Flooring and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!