Best Paint Stripper for Concrete, Brick, Wood & Metal

When drastically changing paint colors, most people would remove the old stuff from the surface first and then reapply new. However, different surfaces require different methods. This is why it is important to choose the best paint stripper for specific surfaces, like wood, concrete, masonry, and brick.

Choosing the right type ensures that paint is removed easily and will not damage the surface or material it is applied to. Some make use of strong chemicals that may work great with specific surfaces but are ineffective on others.

Even if you still have some leftover material that you used effectively for acrylic paint that was accidentally spilled all over your furniture, you may not get the same results when using it on your deck. That is why you need to know which one to use for the specific surface you will be working on.

If this already sounds tedious to you, don’t worry because we are here to help you out. We will guide you on picking the right kind for your needs.

Choosing the Best One

When it comes to choosing the best paint stripper, people immediately think that using liquid removers is the only way to do so. They also believe these products are all just the same, that is why many make the mistake of just grabbing the first can they see on the shelf and hope that it will do the job.

While they may hit the jackpot and get the right one that works effectively without affecting the surface it is painted on, there is also an equal chance that it will not easily remove the paint, or even cause damage to whatever surface it is applied on.

But before you make the same mistake as others did, you need to familiarize yourself with the different ways to help you choose which one is most appropriate for your needs. Removal on any surface is generally done in two ways: through chemical ones in liquid form and via non-chemical means.

Liquid options are categorized into three: biochemical, caustic, and solvent.

Biochemical

The most environment-friendly of the three, biochemical products use solvents that are plant-based. It may consist of lactic acid taken from corn sugar, terpenes from citrus rinds or pine trees, citric acid, dimethylsulfoxide from wood pulp, and an organic compound called NMP or N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone, among others.

Because it uses mostly natural ingredients, this type hardly emits any odors. Unfortunately, this compromises its ability to work as efficiently as many other options, as it lacks the chemicals that can easily and swiftly do so. That is why when using biochemical products, it will take time before the entire paint is removed. Despite this, it can be used on any surface without causing damage but multiple applications may be needed.

While considered safer than caustic and solvent solutions, the NMP present is known to be risky for women and those who are exposed to it for long periods and can cause reproductive issues, that is why should still be used with caution.

Caustic

The caustic ones, on the other hand, is water-based and uses lye as its main ingredient. The lye used in this type can either be caustic potash, also known as potassium hydroxide, or caustic soda, or better known as sodium hydroxide.

It has a high pH-level, typically ranging from 13 to 14, and it works by breaking down the chemicals present. This is done by applying a thick layer of it, ranging from 1/8 to 1/4 inch, over the surface and allowing around 30 minutes of dwell time. However, this type is ineffective in a -10 degrees Celsius environment.

The lye present will react to the dried paint to turn it into soap, allowing it to be lifted or loosened from the surface it was applied to. But due to its alkalinity, neutralizing the surface afterwards is important, and this is done by applying a solution of water and vinegar afterwards.

It is considered the best latex paint remover and can also work on oil-based and enamel products well on certain surfaces. However, it does not really work with acrylics, polyurethane, and epoxy. Also, it has the tendency to corrode aluminum and cause hardwood to blacken. Not only that, it is also known for attracting moisture, which can damage wood.

While water-based, it must still be handled carefully because it is known to cause irritation to the lungs and eyes, or even skin burns.

Solvent

Known for having the most VOCs, or volatile organic compounds present, solvent solutions consist of chemicals that allows paint and coating, including epoxy, polyurethane, acrylic, polyaspartic, and polyuria, to swell up or bubble. This happens because the bond that adheres to the surface is softened up or dissolved by these chemicals, allowing for its easy removal. While neutralizing is unnecessary, the surface needs to be washed with either mineral spirits or water after removing the paint.

Methylene Chloride used to be the primary component of solvent products, but its known health risks make it dangerous for use; in fact, this compound has now been banned for consumer use. That is why other compounds, such as toluene, ketone, and acetone are being used for it.

Because of the higher amount of chemicals and VOCs present, solvent solutions pose more health risks and are known to emit the strongest fumes. On the upside, these chemicals also make them quite corrosive and great for heavy-duty use. And unlike caustic ones, they can be used even in a cold environment without issue.

Aside from chemical means, paint can also be removed by using heat or via sanding or power washing.

Heat

Using heat should be done with caution, especially if a torch or a heat gun is used. A torch has an open flame to remove paint, which can be a fire hazard, and despite being flameless, a heat gun can also cause fires and create toxic fumes. That is why a low-intensity infrared heater is ideal for this method, but it also has its own limitations in terms of which surfaces it can be used on. But regardless of what tool is used, the heat causes the material to soften up, allowing it to be scraped off easily.

Sanding

Either done using a machine or through hand, sanding will work through friction. This method can be considered intrusive, as it may also strip away layers of the surface where paint is applied to.

Power Washing

Not everyone knows that power washing is not just for cleaning; it can also be used to remove paint, especially on exterior surfaces. However, this method can be challenging, as mishandling a power washer or using the wrong amount of pressure can cause damage to any surface.

Before starting the work and regardless of which method will be used, it is vital to determine if there are parts that are lead-based, especially if the house dates back to 1978 or earlier. The process will disturb lead and create dust and chips that can be easily inhaled, ingested, or absorbed and may cause lead poisoning that can lead to death.

Lead test kits can be used to know immediately whether it is safe to work on a particular surface or not without special safety precautions. And for large scale projects on such homes, buying in bulk is practical because a basic kit will not be enough to test all suspected areas; they can only be used in a single room on average.

Water-Based vs. Oil-Based

When it comes to paint, water-based and oil-based ones are quite different from each other, from application to removal, so it is important to understand the differences between a water-based vs. an oil-based remover.

Water-based products, which is generally either latex or acrylic, is known to be easier to remove than oil-based ones, and it can even be done manually without using chemicals. In fact, water-based paint that is not yet completely dry can even be removed by just soap, water, and some elbow grease.

Sanding and heat can also work on water-based materials quickly. But if using the products mentioned on this page, caustic strippers work best for latex ones, while solvent ones are suitable for acrylic products. While both water-based, acrylics are resistant to the chemicals found in caustic products, unlike latex ones.

On the other hand, oil-based materials are tougher to remove, that is why the stronger solvent and heat are used instead. More effort is needed when dealing with oil-based compared to water-based ones, that is why its compatible products are harsher.

While biochemical products can be used for both oil and water-based products, it will require more time to do so; despite its versatility, it is the least aggressive type. Because of this, the dwelling time can take several hours to an entire day before it can fully penetrate the paint and allow easy removal. Also, it will take several coats before you’re entirely done.

Zero VOC Options

For those who prefer a safer method through liquid means but would rather avoid the lengthy process involving biochemical strippers, a zero VOC solution is ideal.

The VOCs present are what makes them dangerous to use, especially to pregnant women. This is because VOCs are capable of evaporating, and when they interact with the gases present in the atmosphere, they can create the harmful ozone gas.

The strong fumes emitted when opening a can is indicative of the level of VOCs present. Simply put, the stronger the smell, the more VOCs present. Unfortunately, the smell is not the only aspect everyone should watch out for. There are actually so many health hazards attributed to VOCS, such as:

  • Cancer
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver problems
  • Damage to the central nervous system, especially the brain
  • Irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat
  • Nausea
  • Recurring headaches
  • Chronic fatigue

That is why it is vital to limit the exposure to any substance that contains them. Solvent strippers are known to have the most amount of VOCs present among the three, typically followed by caustic ones. While biochemical solutions use natural ingredients, these ingredients may still contain certain amounts of VOCs, and it is hard to determine the actual present.

Zero VOC, on the other hand, are generally considered as the safest due to the minimal amount of VOCs present. Because of this, the health risks are as good as eliminated. Not only that, those who use it no longer have to deal with fumes, because zero VOC products will hardly emit any odors. And due to the lack of these toxic compounds, they are also an eco-friendly option.

Best Paint Stripper for Wood

While there are plenty of options that can work on various surfaces, it is often better to choose specialized product that work on specific surfaces only, especially if it only involves one type of surface. And when it comes to choosing the best paint stripper for wood, there are a couple of options to choose from.

Liquid

Liquid ones can be used for all kinds of wood surfaces, making them generally the best option, including for spot work on wood surfaces. While caustic, biochemical, and solvent strippers will all work on wood, it is still important to choose the right type based on the kind of material to be removed, as well as what kind of finishing will be done afterwards.

For wood that has thick layers of paint and will be turned a different color, caustic strippers will work best, even on a carved surface because it can cause discoloration or permanent stains. But if the aim is to preserve the look and feel of wood as much as possible, solvent strippers are ideal because they are less intrusive with wood.

Sanding

Good old fashioned sanding is another method that works on wood, often with the use of an electric or power sander. However, this should ideally be used only on flat surfaces, as it can ruin woodwork, such as moldings, trims, and decorative wood. That is why this method is recommended only on wood floors and walls.

If working with wooden furniture, including cabinets, moldings and baseboards, decorative or carved wood, and other similar wood surfaces, sanding is possible but only when done by hand using a sanding block and with the right kind of sandpaper. However, this can be time consuming because a single pass will not be enough to get it done entirely; the wooden surface must be sanded by both fine grain and coarse sandpaper to get the best results.

Heat

Another method used on both even and uneven surfaces is through the use of heat. Again, it should be done with caution, as too much heat can damage the wood itself.

To avoid this, it is better to use a low heat infrared heat than a torch with an open flame or a heat gun that produces high heat. However, the bulky size of an infrared tool makes them not ideal for use over furniture, that is why they are best used on large, flat wood surfaces.

Work on outdoor surfaces, like decks and siding, using heat can also be done using steam. Best for heavy-duty use, the steam produced acts as an emulsifier that will allow paint to be easily removed. While the risk of fire is minimal since the steam’s temperature never exceeds 212 degrees Fahrenheit, this method is known to cause warping on the wood, which can be difficult to fix.

Power Washing

For decks and outdoor wood surfaces, power washing may be used and not just to clean surfaces. However, peeling layers must be removed first and the solution should be applied on the surface and allowed to dwell before doing so.

The right water pressure is needed because weak pressure will be ineffective for the purpose, while water pressure that is too strong can damage the wood. Working with latex paint will require less water pressure, since it is easier to remove than oil-based ones.

When done right, this can be the fastest method, especially when working on a large area. Pressure washing can only be done outdoors, as it will involve large volumes of water that can cause all sorts of issues when used indoors.

Do note that regardless of which method is used, it will still involve scraping the paint off. If you are expecting it to fall off on its own, that will never happen. While most of these require scraping as a final step, power washing normally involves scraping before using the pressure washer and afterwards for any stubborn parts remaining.

Best Paint Stripper for Concrete

Concrete is known to be porous, which means it will easily absorb anything applied to it, but this characteristic also makes its removal much harder. That is why finding the best paint stripper for concrete can be quite the challenge; however, this does not mean the removal, whether on concrete garage floors or walls, is impossible.

Liquid

Whether used only for spot removal, such as for accidental spills, or completely stripping it off on a concrete garage surface in preparation for another coat being added on afterwards, chemical solutions will get the job done. However, it is not as easy as it would be on wood.

Choosing the right kind for a concrete surface will mainly depend on the type used, as all three types can be applied on concrete without causing damage. Use caustic strippers for epoxy, polyurethane, polyurea, polyaspartic, and acrylic coatings, which are commonly used on concrete, while oil-based paint are easily removed by solvent products. Biochemical ones can also work with different materials on concrete, but the entire process will still take longer.

Sometimes, these products may not be enough to do the work because of the porous nature of concrete, even if thick layers of it are applied over the paint. In such instances, additives that will make the chemicals absorbent at the same time may be used. Ordinary cat litter or clay, which is crushed up to become fine, will work well. They must be mixed together with the active component before application.

Do note that reapplication may be necessary to complete the process.

Sanding

Sanding may also be used for concrete, but normally only for floors. A sanding disc is attached to a standard floor buffer instead of a polisher, and the paint is remove in the same manner of polishing the floor.

While this method can be effective in removing paint that has gone deep into the holes of concrete, it is also known to damage the surface because of the scrapes and scratches it can create. That is why polishing the floors after the work is done and before applying a new coat of paint may be necessary.

Power Washing

Another method for concrete that may be considered less invasive is through power washing. Since water-based paint is typically used on concrete, power washing alone may be enough; there is no need to apply a coat of remover over the paint before attempting to wash it off using the pressure washer.

In case water is not enough to get the result you want, even at the highest pressure available, more abrasive washers, either a shotblaster or sandblaster, may be used. They work the same way as a pressure washer but instead of water, a shotblaster uses tiny beads made of metal and a sandblaster uses sand. Since they are very abrasive, they must be used carefully to minimize any damage to concrete.

Working on concrete surfaces is definitely more challenging, thanks to its porous nature.

Best Paint Stripper for Masonry & Brick

Making sure that every nook and cranny of an uneven surface, such as brick and different kinds of masonry, is evenly painted can be quite the challenge, but it is even more so when it comes the preparation stage. That is why among those that were discussed, this is the surface that is hardest to work on. Finding the best paint stripper for brick & masonry is not easy, especially if preservation is also a major concern.

Liquid Options

To preserve brick and masonry, especially for historic homes, it is important to use the least obtrusive methods, that is why using liquid paint strippers should be done cautiously. These chemicals may have a strong reaction to the surface that can cause permanent discoloration, especially for older masonry and brick.

So, when using liquid products, only those that are specially formulated for brick and masonry surfaces should be used. Caustic, solvent, and biochemical solutions may work, but make sure to get those intended for use on these surfaces. Caustic products should also be the last option, as it can be absorbed by the porous surface and cause long term damage that may not be instantly visible. Certain solvent products are water-soluble, and these are the best for masonry and brick.

Too often, liquid solutions will not immediately work with masonry and brick, that is why multiple applications are usually done. Again, this should be done with caution to avoid any possible damage.

Power Washing

If the paint on masonry and brick is already in poor condition, power washing may easily get the job done. However, this method may not be advisable for soft or weak bricks and masonry, which is typical for old homes. The water pressure, even at the lowest setting, may be too strong for the surface to withstand, that is why it is typically used only when other methods do not work.

Using sandblasters may also work, but these are a lot more abrasive than water. This means it can easily damage the surface if done improperly.

Given that both liquid strippers and pressure washers may damage a masonry or brick surface, some may think twice about using them. A less intrusive but very time-consuming method is by applying the paste or gel kind on fabric and placing it over the surface. This allows paint to be transferred to the fabric, minimizing the possibility of damage to brick or masonry.

Gel

A relatively newer method is by using a gel. This is considered as the most versatile way of doing so, because its formulation allows it to be evenly applied on various surfaces, even vertical ones. This can also be safely used on metals like aluminum, wood, masonry, brick, and even for antique furniture, like the Jasco Premium Paint and Epoxy Remover, but it may not properly work on plastic surfaces.

Given enough time, from just a few minutes to as much as 24 hours, the surface will bubble up, indicating that it has separated and is ready to be wiped off. Its longer dwelling time will allow it to penetrate even thick layers of paint in a single application. While it is normally scraped off, gel will allow it to be easily wiped off.

Gels can be used safely with different kinds of paint, including both water-based and oil-based ones and even lead-based materials. This is because it can encapsulate lead, trapping it to the gel and preventing it from being released in the air. It does not contain toxic chemicals commonly found in liquid removers, especially methylene chloride. However, some of them may contain NMP that is known to also cause health issues. Also, some are known to be odor-free, while there are also those that emit strong fumes.

From all these, it is safe to say that each of these methods have their own set of pros and cons. it is up to the user to decide what would best meet his or her needs.

What should be remembered is that all of them will require the use of safety equipment, such as safety goggles, proper gloves, masks, and overalls or long shirts and pants. Even ones that are marketed as safe or non-toxic may still contain toxic chemicals or compounds, and it is always better to be safe than sorry when working on any surface.

Best Paint Stripper For Metal

What you’ll need to know is that it really isn’t all that easy if you’re looking to remove paint from metal.

For instance, it could be that you have an old bike that you’re hoping to work on, which would in fact be one of the easier things that you could deal with.

However, if you’re trying to remove something from the old furniture that you have outside, you’re setting yourself up for quite the task.

The bicycle has the advantage that the surface is pretty smooth, unlike that of outdoor furniture which is basically the reason for the differences in the difficulty of the job.

If you’re dealing with paint and you’re now facing a surface that isn’t smooth, stripping it off may just be the next step you have to take.

The important thing is that you do the steps in the right order.

The first step is to obviously make sure that you’re covering the ground so that you will have a surface that is easy to clean afterwards. It’s easier to remove if you don’t have to sweep it up from a concrete floor, but rather just have to fold the plastic sheeting together and throw it away. You can also make due with old newspapers instead.

If you’re dealing with something old, we encourage you to have the surface tested for lead, because lead was allowed to be included in consumer products up until 1992.

The second step is to pour some of the appropriate product into a small container that you can throw away afterwards – we recommend something like a metal can that has been cleaned. You can then use a brush to cover the surface of the metal with the chemical, by following the instructions that have been included on the product that you’re using.

Bubbles coming from the surface will start appearing at which point you can start scraping it off. A nylon brush or scrubbing pad can be used for those areas that are difficult to do with the scraper. You may need to reapply the solution several times to achieve the result you want.

A rag with mineral spirits will be used to wipe down the surface once you are done scraping, which will help get rid of the remnants, as well as remove a good bit of the product that was used.

You want to make sure that the paint stripper is no longer there, which includes rinsing the surface with generous amounts of water, after which you will dry the surface with a rag.

If you’re dealing with lead-based surfaces, we encourage you to take the necessary steps to make sure you’re not exposed to unnecessary levels of lead.

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