Do-it-yourselfers can choose among several practical tools for removing paint, including sandpaper, steel wool and carbide scrapers. Unfortunately, those devices are not appropriate for kitchen countertops, because they can scratch the surface beneath while spreading dust and debris -- in a food preparation area if the counters are in the kitchen.
Chemical paint strippers give you a much smarter option, particularly the newer generation of environmentally safe strippers that are free of petrochemical solvent odors. These paint removers work equally well on stone, concrete and laminate counter surfaces.
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.
Spread a dropcloth on the floor beneath the counter area, and apply painter's tape on border areas that butt up to painted walls.
Apply an environmentally safe paint-stripping gel or paste to the entire surface of the painted countertop, using a disposable paintbrush.
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.
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.
Wipe any residual paste or gel away with paper towels. Then sponge the counter clean with mild dish soap and water.
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.