To remove paint from countertops, you can try countertop stain removers or chemical paint strippers. While it might be tempting to opt for some seemingly practical tools to help you remove pain from countertops like sandpaper, steel wool or carbide scrapers, these tools are not ideal for removing paint from kitchen countertops because they can scratch the surface underneath while spreading dust and debris in a food preparation area.
The wiser option to remove paint from countertops is the use of chemical paint strippers, many of which are now available as environmentally safe strippers that are free of petrochemical solvent odors. These paint removers work equally well on stone, concrete and laminate counter surfaces.
Things You'll Need
EPA-recognized lead test kit
Stripping paste or gel
Plastic putty knife
Disposable plastic bucket
Mild dish detergent
Step 1: Check for Lead
Test the surface for lead if the counter was painted before 1978. The Environmental Protection Agency warns that residual lead paint dust is a severe health hazard, especially for children. Most paint, hardware and home center stores offer EPA-recognized lead test kits so you can easily test the paint yourself.
If the test indicates an actionable amount of lead, contact a certified lead abatement professional or your community health department, and ask how to proceed.
Step 2: Protect Surrounding Areas
Spread a dropcloth on the floor beneath the counter area, and apply painter's tape on border areas that butt up to painted walls.
Step 3: Consider the Environment
Apply an environmentally safe paint-stripping gel or paste to the entire surface of the painted countertop, using a disposable paintbrush.
Unless you know exactly what type of coating is on your countertop -- oil, latex, epoxy or polyurethane -- select a paint stripper that's effective on a variety of coatings. That info is found on the product's label, or you can ask the retailer for the product's Technical Data Sheet (TDS) for more detailed information.
Step 4: Determine and Follow Timing Guidelines
Allow the stripping compound enough time to soften the paint, which can be as quick as 15 minutes or as long as overnight. The working time varies according to the type of paint, number of coats and the rated speed of the stripper. Follow the directions on the product's label or TDS. Open the windows to keep the area ventilated while the paint stripper works.
Step 5: Remove the Old Paint
Slip a plastic putty knife under the paste or gel to gently peel the old paint away. Dump the gooey mix of paint and stripper into a bucket for later disposal. Continue peeling the paint mix away until the surface has been completely stripped.
If the paint does not peel loose at first, smooth the stripping paste or gel back into place over it, and give the stripper more time to work.
Step 6: Clean the Surface
Wipe any residual paste or gel away with paper towels. Then sponge the counter clean with mild dish soap and water.
Step 7: Dispose of Paint Residue Responsibly
Take the bucket of paint residue outdoors. Let it sit for a few hours so the chemicals evaporate.
In most communities, the dried paint compound can be disposed of with ordinary trash. Contact your trash hauler for exact instructions.
Mike Matthews is editor of Green Building Product News, a national publication that covers sustainable innovations in building and remodeling, and he has spoken at national conferences on green building. He has also served as founding editor of "Paint Dealer" magazine.