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Latex Paint Remover (plus the Painter’s Rag Trick)

These days, removing latex paint is not the chore it used to be. There are safe paint removers and of course, the nasty ones will always be there.

It’s easy. Today there is no need for the toxic latex paint remover that we once bought. In fact, the old ones are now illegal, thank you EPA. Oil paint problems: See this post.

Still wet? Jump to #2 below.

1. Latex Paint Remover: dry paint

For removing paint in small spots, the go-to product, the industry standard, is of course Goof-Off. Another honorable mention is Motsenbocker’s Lift Off. All painters carry one of these, always. Wet, wait, wipe. 

Home Remedy: Water, “the Univeral Solvent”. Keep the dried paint wet for about a ½-hour then scrape with a plastic knife sort of thing, but not metal. See how soft it is after an this time? The spray solvents above will be MUCH faster with not much scraping (just wiping).

Goof Off and Motsenbockers have the reputation of not leaving a residue on the substrate, but if you have paint on a sensitive surface, do a test spot first to make sure.

Refinishing and stripping lots of paint? Use a big-time latex paint remover:

Heat Gun: From my cold, dead hand, Charlton. This paint removing heat gun to use, but don’t start a fire, this gun’s for hire, said Bruce never. Paints melt under this heat and you can scrape it easily as you go. You really should wear a respirator. Read my post: I simplified the crazy world of masks and filters.

Nothing working? Go Ballistic.

The Nuclear Option: Jump into the toxic paint removers: they sure do work well. Protect yourself and your family: wear eye protection, skin protection with nitrile gloves, and of course a chemical respirator. The mask I wear is explained in a short post, (same link as just above).

Toxic paint removers would be your old-fashioned 100% sure-fire best paint remover for metal and so on. Stripping paint from metal and wood could be a combination of methods including a drill attachment or a variable speed grinder (shown) with the awesome 3M Sandblaster pads shown just below.

Here is a video of how the pad is installed on the grinder.  There are many types of pads for 4½ – 5-inch grinders and most tools come with assorted washers for a good fit. Not all grinders have the same threads so you may need the adapter kit for this pad. Not expensive and handy since you will probably fall in love with a diamond cutting wheel later on.

Paint Strippers: Insert your own joke here. I’d like to suggest that everyone uses this VOC-compliant stripper. (VOCs are volatile organic compounds: this is the cause of some cancer.) In the old days, paint strippers were not at all eco-friendly like this one.

This paint stripper is reported to remove 30 coats of paint at once. Let me know if you don’t love it (in the comments below). I once used this citrus product which works, but it’s slower (and safer).

Lost faith in latex paint removers? You may not be trying to remove latex paint. Could it be oil?. Watch this video to learn the test.

Caution: You know that old paint stripper lying around? The EPA has made it illegal. Below we have safe options.

 Important note on LEAD PAINT below. 

2. Wet Paint? Easy to remove

It’s easy to create clean up with a nice sharp edge if you goof when painting indoors or outdoors.

  • Cover your scraper with your dry rag and wipe a bit (we don’t use a cloth with strong dyes as it leaves a mark).
  • As you wipe your line, with each swipe of the rag/knife, slide the rag a bit to expose fresh cloth.
  • See how the line is totally clean and sharp? Just don’t let the wet paint on the rag make more mess! That never happened to me 🙂
  • This is demonstrated in the first video, below.

The #1 tool and ‘right-hand’ of a painter is the 6-in-1 multi-tool removes/hammers nails, cleans rollers, and more. It’s the key to the painter’s rag trick in the video below.

We have other posts on removing paints (links below).

Floors? Some floors STAIN when in contact with latex paint. Try rubbing alcohol as a paint remover, and if not, try items in the list of latex paint removers above (also see the last video about flooring).

Make Sure You Are Not Exposed to Lead Paint 

outdoor walls with latex paint that needs removal
Wall that needs latex paint stripper

Old paint very possibly has some lead. We all know that it causes brain damage. Here is a test: take up to 5 samples, with this lead paint test kit and send them into the lab (EPA approved). The lab is paid for in the price of the test kit. There are no hidden fees.

As always, we wear a respirator when creating dust: cheap insurance. The WebMD website on using paint remover for paints containing lead.

How to Touch-Up Paint In 4 Steps (mostly deals with walls, but gives some tips)
How to Remove Spray Paint (From All Kinds of Surfaces)
How to Get Spray Paint Off Skin (with Home Remedy)
How to Remove Paint from Plastic (Without Damage)

Let us know in the comments if you need any help!

There is one case when I did not know how to remove latex paint: some ‘click’ flooring is stained by latex paint… I failed to get the stain out. I might have used acetone or other nasty solutions if I had had time.

13 thoughts on “Latex Paint Remover (plus the Painter’s Rag Trick)”

    • Not sure if you are asking about removing the paint or just painting over. To remove, carefully scrape. Slowly. Or just sand until paint stops coming off then top level bonding primer like Stix, then good top coat paint. Removing all that paint might harm old soft wood, but you can certainly buy paint remover. It’s a world of hurt. Good luck

  1. We bought a house with a really unattractive red latex gel stain (did the acetone test) over a beautiful dark brown stain (island is still that dark brown color). How do I remove the red latex stain without ruining the dark brown stain underneath so it will match the island? I realize that I’ll have to touch it up a bit. The red rubs off with acetone easily. Any suggestions?

    • I don’t think you can. I’d strip it down with the harsh toxic paint removers, then re-stain with the one you like. I’d have to see it of course so this is just a guess. So it’s like you say, you’ll touch up, but probably re-coat is more accurate.
      You could try to get just the red with acetone… Use a respirator and open windows! No smoking!
      I think you’ll find the acetone removes both. But the red may be water-based and the brown oil based…so you may have luck, but I doubt it.
      Good luck! There, now you will have it.

  2. How can i remove 1 gallon of spilled latex paint out of the bed of my truck ? Kids dont know how to put lids on these days. Thank you !

  3. My painters tape didn’t work on a baseboard. How would you recommend removing fresh latex paint from a latex painted baseboard. I goofed a blue on a white baseboard…thanks!

    • Hi. You won’t be able to do that easily. YOu just do what we do. We do trim, then walls and then check all the trim for wall paint and take the trim color and touch up over the wall paint. Fast and easy. So you stumbled on the pro way which makes sense.
      Let me know if I misunderstood.


  4. I’m trying to remove an old latex paint job from an arcade game, but trying to preserve the original paint and graphics underneath. Any suggestions?

    • It’s as described above: start with a scraper, then soak with water for a long time. If you have high-pressure water, meaning a pressure washer (for the garage or outside) it’s best, or use a wire brush or scrubber. Do all you can before you go to the Goof Off at the top of this page. The Motsenbockers is just as good. If all else fails, go with the heat gun.
      Good luck!


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