How to Remove Water-Based Paint From Wood

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Whether you're practicing your watercolor paint skills or your kiddo made a mess while painting a masterpiece on your kitchen table, paint sometimes finds its way onto your wooden surfaces. Luckily, if the culprit of the mess is water-based paint, it's easier to remove from wood, especially if it's fresh. Even if the paint is dried on, there are a few different methods to efficiently remove water-based paint from wood.


Different Types of Paint

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Water-based and oil-based paints are two of the most common paint types in craft and home improvement stores. While there are other types, these are the most common options, especially when painting your walls or crafting.

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Water-based paints include acrylic and latex paints and can be used for crafting as well as for painting walls, furniture, and cabinetry. Water-based paints tend to dry quickly and a milder odor than most oil-based paints. Some people prefer them over oil-based paints because they're more environmentally friendly. You can use water-based paints on various surfaces, including wood, concrete, stucco, brick, and aluminum and vinyl siding. These paints are usually easy to clean up with soap and water if you spill or splash some during a painting project.


Oil-based paints include natural oils combined with pigment and resin to make durable, long-lasting paint. Oil-based paints tend to stand up to scratches and bumps better than water-based paints, so they're often recommended for painting moldings and trims. While oil-based paints tend to last longer than water-based ones, they take longer to dry and have a stronger odor. Unlike water-based paints, oil-based paints tend to be trickier to clean up if you spill them while painting and won't come out with just soap and water. To remove oil-based paint spills, you often need to use a heat gun, paint remover, or potentially paint thinner.


Using Soap and Water

Most of the time, you can remove water-based paint from wood using soap and water. With this method, you want to loosen and wet the paint enough to easily scrub it off the wooden surface.

  1. Add two or three drops of mild soap, like dish soap, to a bowl and fill it with warm water.

  2. Mix the two and dip a soft cloth into the mixture. Use the wet cloth to scrub and loosen the paint from the wood.

  3. Once the paint is wet, you should be able to easily wipe it away using a separate dry cloth.

  4. For more stubborn, dried-on paint stains, you may need a plastic putty knife to help loosen the paint from the wood.


Using Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol also helps remove water-based paint from wood. For this method, you'll need a putty knife, rubbing alcohol, and lemon juice.

  1. To start, use a plastic putty knife to scrape as much paint off the surface of the wood as possible.

  2. Combine 3 parts rubbing alcohol with 1 part lemon juice in a bowl and mix.

  3. Dip a soft cloth in the rubbing alcohol and lemon juice mixture, cover the paint spot with the mixture, and let it sit for five minutes.

  4. Use a dry cloth or a brush to scrub the remaining paint.


Test a small area of the wood with the mixture of rubbing alcohol and lemon juice to ensure no damage is done to the finish.