Does Vinegar Remove Paint from Wood?

paint being removed from wood

The vinegar sitting in your pantry can remove paint from wood. Not only is it an affordable option, but an effective one too capable of removing stubborn stuck-on paint from many surfaces. Even better, vinegar does not harm the environment as it does not contain harmful chemicals or noxious fumes, not that it smells good. While there are other methods, using vinegar may be your new favorite option to remove paint safely.

Why Vinegar

Vinegar does not remove paint, but it does soften paint so you can scrape it off. The process works quickly and easily, making your life very easy and speeds up the process of repainting a project. Most people love vinegar because of the affordable cost and the less toxic smell or possible asthmatic reaction.

Furthermore, you can use any type of vinegar you prefer to get a scent you prefer. Choose apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, white wine vinegar, and the list goes on. Most people opt for distilled white vinegar as it comes in larger sizes for less money. The acidic nature of vinegar helps with many tasks such as removing paint and many other household tasks too.

How to use Vinegar to Remove Paint

Using vinegar to remove paint requires several steps.

Step 1 – Before you start, you need to prepare the vinegar by boiling the amount you need. Start with a cup and gauge from there if you need more. You can also boil water and then put the vinegar in a safe container and then place the cup in the boiling water if you prefer.

Step 2 – Depending on the size of your project, use cotton swabs, a cloth, or a paintbrush to apply the vinegar to the surface of your project. Wear gloves to prevent the boiled vinegar from hurting your hands. Next, dab the vinegar onto the paint you want to remove.

Step 3 – Wait for the vinegar to soak into the paint and soften it up, which takes about 10 to 20 minutes. Do not let the vinegar dry on the paint before moving on to the next step, as this will mean you need to repeat the process, so plan accordingly. If the paint is really stuck on, you may need to repeat this process a few times to get the paint up.

Step 4 – It’s time to scrap the paint off using a scraper or a cloth. It’s best to keep a drop cloth underneath the project so you can scrape the paint off right onto the drop cloth and then later throw it away. You can also use a stiff credit card, a rubber or silicone spatula, or even a flat head screwdriver at an angle.

Step 5 – Do not forget to let wash the surface after removing the paint and clean up the mess. Remove as much debris as possible so you can move on to painting, staining, or adding a protective cover to your project.

Mistakes with Vinegar

Many people use vinegar to clean as it’s safe and effective; however, knowing it can remove paint, you do not want to use it to clean wood. For example, avoid using vinegar to clean wood floors as it can ruin your finish. Instead, make sure to use vinegar mixed with oil to clean wood furniture and condition and follow with a wax. It goes without saying not to use vinegar to clean a painted surface or stained, for that matter, without oil in the mix.

Next, vinegar does not degrease or remove grease stains. If you need to remove grease from a project, you will want to use a degreaser or dish soap. Vinegar can also remove wax, so while you can use it for this purpose, you do not want to use it on waxed surfaces to prevent damage. Do not use vinegar to clean electronics, stone, or other protected surfaces either, as the acid in vinegar can damage these surfaces.

Other Ways to Remove Paint From Wood

Vinegar is not the only way to remove paint from wood without resorting to using noxious chemicals. Let’s take a look at the different methods.

Sanding – while sanding definitely removes paint, it can take a long time and create a huge sand mess in the process. However, you will not use chemicals, but you will still need to wear protective gear to keep the sand out of your nose, mouth, and eyes.

Baking Soda – This is another product that’s affordable and easy to use. However, baking soda will not remove paint from wood, but it will from hardware attached to wood, which is why we mention it here. Heat water mixed with baking soda and then put the hardware in and leave for about 20 minutes. Wait for it to cool and dry before removing the paint.

Pressure Washer – a pressure washer can quickly strip paint from wood, but you should only do this outside as the water goes everywhere. Use a pressure washer with a PSI rating of 2500 or more to get the paint off. Always let the wood dry completely before adding a new product.

Heat Gun – a heat gun can also remove paint from wood but requires a certain level of experience. Try on a project or two you do not care about to understand how the heat gun works and get a little experience under your belt. Furthermore, make sure the wood and paint are lead-free to avoid issues. Always wear protective gear when using a heat gun.

Wire Brush – While using a wire brush sounds tiresome (because it is), it’s effective at removing old dried paint from wood but can damage the wood. However, it’s very precise but only for smaller projects. Use a different method for larger projects.

Final Thoughts

Vinegar offers an affordable and effective method to remove paint from wood surfaces. It’s a better option for you and for the planet, too, as it’s free of VOCs and toxic fumes. Simply grab a gallon the next time you are a the supermarket, and you are ready to strip paint off your old wood furniture.