The Best Way to Get Dried Paint Off Wood Trim

Nobody wants to see dried paint spatter or drips on their wood baseboards, chair rails, door frames or other trim. Sure, the dried paint residue looks sloppy -- but more important, the discordantly colored paint drips serve as an ugly bruise to the room's crisply applied decorating scheme. Those decorating injuries can be healed most easily if you act quickly, but there are also proven strategies for getting older dried paint residue off wood trim.

Redefining Dry

Interior latex paint may dry to the touch within a couple of hours after application, but that's just the outer skin of the paint film. Moisture continues to lurk beneath until the paint has fully cured, a process that usually takes a couple of weeks. Until then, the "dried" paint has not yet firmly bonded to the surface beneath, which means it's much easier to remove.

Keep It Simple

If the dried latex paint is less than a day old, you can usually sponge it off with hot soapy tap water -- a few drops of a mild dish soap should suffice. If the dried paint does not respond to gentle rubbing, switch to a 50-50 blend of hot water and white household ammonia, administered with clean cotton rag. When the dried paint has been fully removed, follow up by wiping off the woodwork with a clean wet cloth, then patting the area dry.

Stronger Solutions

When dried interior paint resists the simpler approach, it's time to pull out some stronger chemicals. Paint and hardware stores supply a variety of commercial spill repair treatments with catchy names such as Goof-Off, Oops and Lift-Off. Simply apply a few drops of the treatment using a clean cotton rag, and the dried paint will soften up for easy removal. Then wipe the area clean with a damp cloth.

Safer Solutions

Once paint has dried onto your wood trim, it's tricky removing it without also removing the older varnish or paint beneath. One solution is a slow-acting paint stripper that can be carefully monitored while it's working. It usually comes in a paste form that softens a single layer of paint in 10 to 12 hours -- which means the paint or varnish beneath is probably safe. Once the stripper has done its job, the paste can be rubbed off, and the dried paint will come off the wood trim at the same time. By a happy coincidence, these products are also safer and more environmentally friendly than more aggressive paint strippers.

Abrasive Solutions

If your woodwork is soiled with only small amount of dried interior paint, you can gently sand it away using a fine or ultra-fine grade of sandpaper -- 220 grit or higher. Apply the sandpaper manually, monitoring the wood trim frequently to make sure you don't start sanding off the wood trim's own finish. Should that occur, simply touch up the wood trim with its original paint or varnish.