What is Paint Remover?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Sometimes referred to as paint stripper, paint remover is a chemical solvent that is used to remove paint from different types of surfaces. There are paint removal products made with synthetic materials, while other brands are manufactured using natural ingredients. Different types of paint removers are used on various surfaces, with some products formulated to work on wood, while others are more suitable for masonry or metal of some sort.

A trowel may be used to peel away paint.
A trowel may be used to peel away paint.

Most paint remover products function by penetrating a layer of paint and causing it to detach from the underlying surface. Once the dried paint is loosened, it is possible to use a trowel or similar tool to gently peel away the paint, leaving the underlying surface exposed. While the range of ingredients vary from one paint-removing product to the next, most are formulated to interact with the paint, but not harm the surface in any way.

Oil from soybeans is used to make a natural paint remover without harsh chemicals.
Oil from soybeans is used to make a natural paint remover without harsh chemicals.

A traditional paint remover is usually applied with the aid of a paintbrush. The bristles of the brush are dipped into the product, then applied to the dried paint using simple brush strokes. With most products, a thin, even layer of the remover is sufficient to loosen the paint and make it easy to peel it away in sheets.

Another type of paint removing product is known as spray paint remover. This type of remover comes with a spray pump that makes it possible to quickly apply an even level on any horizontal or vertical surface. Often, removers of this kind will loosen the paint quickly and completely, making it possible to use a dry cloth to gently dislodge the sheets of paint.

Paint remover products are formulated for specific projects. An industrial strength car paint remover is used to remove the old layer of paint before a fresh coat is applied to the metal body. Concrete paint removers are great for restoring brick walls or concrete walkways that were painted at one time. Low-fume versions can be used inside when stripping away old paint from door and window facings, making this type of do-it-yourself job much easier to accomplish.

As an alternative to using paint stripping products that are full of harsh chemicals, it is possible to purchase removers that use organic compounds to accomplish the same goal. Soy paint removers are created by extracting and processing oil soybeans. Other natural elements are combined with the soybean oil in a formula that can remove paint from doors or even walls.

In addition to paint removal products, there are also varnish removers. These work in the same manner as any paint remover, making the job of stripping old varnish off woodwork much easier. Hardware stores as well as most home supply stores carry several brands of varnish remover in the same general area as the paint remover.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


If I'm reading the article correctly, it sounds like I can use a paint remover to help remove the top layer of paint off by pantry wall. The paint has been flaking and I chipped away what I could, but the walls are uneven because parts of the last coat have been removed and parts have not.

I was planning to sand the wall as best I could and paint over the entire thing, and not worry about it not being even. Now I think I will look into getting a good peel-away paint remover and try to get the entire top coat of paint off the wall.


While helping restore an old house, I had to remove paint from wood floors. One bedroom looked like the previous owners had used a sieve instead of a paint tray when they were painting the ceiling and walls. Why they left all those paint drops and splatters on the floor instead of getting them up immediately is beyond my understanding, but that's what they did.

There was one spot where it looked as if someone spilled a good amount of paint and just wiped at it and didn't get all the paint. It was a large smear of white paint.

I wasn't sure we would be able to remove all of the paint, but we bought a natural wood paint remover and went to work. I'm not recommending this, but I just poured the remover on some of the bigger spills and used a cloth to dab it on in other areas where there wasn't as much paint.

It took some scrubbing and scraping, but we were able to get all the paint off the wood without scraping away or damaging the wood. I was pleasantly surprised. I always thought when paint was left on a surface that long you were stuck with it.

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