I titled this post How to Strip Paint from Doors, but really you can use this technique on most wood items, like windows or stair ways, etc. We’ve lived in our 1850s Greek Revival for about 5 years now and have been stripping doors since we moved in. Since. We. Moved. In. It’s a journey, friends.
We knew the house has some lead paint and some really sloppy, caked on paint jobs. Mostly on doors and windows, so we began the task of addressing these issues over the last few years. We’ve now stripped 10 doors, and have become quite good at it! Here’s our how-to.
What didn’t work
Sometimes what didn’t work is just as important as what did work. Here’s what we tried that we don’t recommend.
Heat gun for large areas. We love a heat gun for little touch ups and small projects but for big areas it’s hard and time consuming. Plus if you have lead paint, you want to avoid this because it places dust particles in the air and that’s bad. Real bad.
Most paint strippers. We tested about 5 brands of stripper before finding the one we’re recommending. All the other brands were a total let down. They had an extreme odor so being around it was really hard, the odor filled our whole house. And on top of that – they didn’t remove all the paint in one go! What a buzz kill. So much work.
Having the door ‘dipped’ to remove the paint. We got an estimate for this and it was REALLY expensive. Around $300+ a door. We calculated how much product we use and we spend around $70 per door for the method we’re recommending. I arrived at that cost by figuring out the per gallon price of a 5 gallon bucket. It takes about 2 gallons to do a door. If you can get a good price on getting the doors dipped in your area, that’s fantastic. I couldn’t find one in the NJ/Hudson Valley area. We have 30+ doors to do in total, so any financial savings is good motivation for us.
What did work
Say hello to our BFF, Peel Away 1. This paint stripper made by Dummond Chemicals is freaking AMAZING. This isn’t sponsored, we seriously love this product. Mainly because it actually works and it also seems like the safest product to use health-wise compared to the other brands we tried.
The company who makes this, Dummond, makes a bunch of different versions. Peel Away 1 has been good for us because our house has many different paints layered together. Lead based oil, latex, milk paint, etc. This is the only product that removes them all. We even had one door that had a layer of stain and this product took it right off.
Reasons we love this product:
– It actually works in one go – It’s a water based product, no crazy clean up – Zero VOC – Non-carcinogenic, meaning it won’t cause cancer. Other paint strippers can’t make this claim. – Supplies come in the kit with the product – It keeps lead paint ‘wet’ which is a safer way to contain lead dust – Easy to use
Here’s a link to the product page on the manufactures website. Read about the product in more detail.
We’re going to strip paint from a door and show you the step-by-step. We begin by removing the door, with the hinges attached, from the door jam. We also remove the door handles/hardware. Leave the hinges attached and strip the paint off the hinges while still attached to the door. You could remove the hinges if you want but we find the door easier to rehang if we make less moves to the hinges.
This is a two day process. Make sure you have time in your schedule and the weather is good so you can work outside if need be. It must be done in a timely manner or the stripper will dry out.
How to Strip a Door!
Get all your supplies together. What comes in the bucket kit, plus the list below:
Use the plastic scraper to apply product ¼ inch thick. It’s kinda like cake frosting. We try and work very fast, with one person applying and the other person assisting with covering.
Work in sections, apply the paper, making sure to get out all air bubbles. The goal is to not let the product dry out. We love using plastic wrap too, which works well for smaller objects and windows.
Once all the product is applied and you’ve applied the paper or plastic wrap to make your project air tight. Wait 12 – 24 hours. We go with 20-24 hours. For hardware, I normally let it sit 10 hours or so.
Day two: Remove product and neutralize
Remove section of plastic/paper and begin removing product with the plastic scraper from the kit. If you like peeling a sunburn, you’ll love this. Get the wood as clean as possible. **DO NOT use a metal scraper. You will gouge the wood, it softens with this stripper.**
Spray with water to remove extra product, gently work any difficult areas. When the wood is almost perfectly clean, move on to next section. Tip: I like to work in one direction, in one section at a time. It allows you to pile up the waste and is way less messy in general.
Now the door is looking pretty clean, we move it to an area we can use a garden hose to give it a final rinse. If your wood item is not solid wood (veneer) or you are working indoors, use a water bottle for this step. Do not soak the wood too much – it can cause wood veneer to peel up, etc.
Apply the neutralizer. The Citralize has directions on the package as to how to mix and how long to leave on the wood.
After the neutralizer has been on the wood for the correct length of time, rinse one more time and allow to dry completely.
That’s it! Now we are going to sand and paint our door and it’s good as new.
The product comes with paper to cover it but we love using plastic wrap, especially on smaller objects and windows. We find it does a better job to keep the air out.
Time your project and make sure you have time two days in a row. The second day will take longer, the application on day one is pretty fast.
We like to work in a team of two. One person gloved and doing the messy work, the other person assisting and lending a hand. You can have two people removing the product, just make sure to work at the same pace.
DO NOT let the product dry out. I did that on a small corner once and it was really hard to get up. Plastic wrap any air leaks and plan your project so you can work two days in a row.
We try to work outside because this is so messy. If you can work outside, it will go faster. If you can’t, make sure to tape up/plastic any areas that you don’t want the finish stripped from.
Never use a metal scraper. The wood is soft and metal will gouge – use the provided plastic scrapers that come in the kit, or buy one.
Always wear gloves. The product can chemical burn your skin. Be safe. I accidentally got a bit on my arm and cleaned it off immediately and my skin was fine.
If you want to try out the product get the 1.25 gallon bucket. If you are crazy like us, buy it in 5 gallon buckets and make sure to get free shipping. The link we provided above was one of the only free shipping places we could find at the time we wrote this blog post.
If you have a big project, Dummond sells a kit so you can test each type of paint stripper they sell. This might be worth it is your house has similar paint types, and you plan on stripping several items, or working over multiple years.
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