How to Remove Paint from Hardwood Floors

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Feb 20, 2023

Removing paint from wood floors can be a challenging and time-consuming process, but it’s possible to restore your floors to their natural beauty with the right tools and techniques. In this guide, we’ll take you through the steps you need to follow to remove paint from wood floors and share some of the best tips and tricks for DIY paint removal.

How to Remove Paint from Wood Floors

Step 1: Use the Right Tools

Before you begin, gather the essential tools for removing paint from wood floors. These include a paint scraper or putty knife, Goof-off paint remover, sandpaper, a scraper with a razor blade, a vacuum cleaner, a dust mask, gloves, and eye protection. Having the right tools will make the job easier when removing recent paint spills or older, stubborn paint stains.

Step 2: Test the Paint

It’s essential to determine the type of paint you’re dealing with to know the right approach. To test the paint, apply a small amount of Goof-off, lacquer, paint thinner to a small, inconspicuous area of the floor.

If the paint softens and begins to come off, it’s likely water-based. This is a good sign! If it remains hard or dry, it’s likely oil-based. This will help you determine the right paint remover to use.

Step 3: How to Scrape Paint Off of Hardwood Floors

Using a paint scraper or putty knife, gently scrape away as much of the paint as possible. Be careful not to scratch or damage the wood. If you don’t have a putty knife, you could also use the edge of a flathead screwdriver. If the paint stain is particularly stubborn, you may need to use a scraper with a razor blade to get underneath the paint. You can also apply heat to the area by using a hair dryer or heat gun.

How do you remove paint from wood floors without damaging the finish?

Keep in mind that wood floors typically have a layer of polyurethane on the surface. It’s okay to scrape the surface, but you don’t want to go too much deeper than the surface or else you may need to re-stain the floor, which could be tricky.

Step 4: Apply Paint Thinner or Stripper

If there’s still paint on the floor after scraping, apply paint thinner or “mineral spirits” to remove the remaining paint. Use a paint thinner for wood floors and apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the stripper to sit for the recommended time, then use a scraper to remove the paint. Be sure to avoid letting the thinner pool or drip.

Some advocate for using natural ingredients like lemon juice, vinegar, soapy water or rubbing alcohol to remove paint, but in our experience, this typically is not a successful approach when it comes to stubborn paint spots that have been present for longer than a few days.

Paint thinner vs paint stripper

If you don’t have success using a paint thinner, you can find more heavy duty, commercial paint removers from stores like Home Depot. A paint stripper is going to be a bit more aggressive when it comes to removing hardened paint, oil based paints or old paint residue that has been sitting for years.

Step 5: Sand the Floor

If you were able to tackle the paint stain without aggressively scraping the area, sanding might not be necessary. But for most the big, gnarly paint removal jobs, sanding is typically needed in order to restore consistency in the wood grain and floor color.

Once the paint is removed, sand the floor using medium-grit sandpaper, working in the direction of the grain. Then switch to fine-grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface. Sanding is one of the best ways to get rid of paint on hardwood floors. Vacuum up any dust and debris as you go.

Step 6: Clean the Floor

After sanding, clean the floor thoroughly to remove any remaining dust and debris. Use a vacuum cleaner and then wipe the floor with a damp cloth. Make sure the floor is clean and dry before moving to the next step.

Step 7: Apply a Polyurethane Finish

If you’ve sanded away the finish coat or “topcoat” on your hardwood floors, you’ll definitely want to apply a new one. Protecting the wood floors finish will give it a polished and consistent look. You can use a matte, semi-gloss or gloss finish.


Removing paint from your wood floor is a challenging but task but doesn’t always require a flooring pro. By following these steps and using the right tools, you can remove paint from your wood floor without damaging them. Remember to test the paint, scrape away as much as possible, use a paint stripper if needed, sand the floor, clean it thoroughly, and apply a finish. These are the best ways to remove latex paint or oil based paint from wood floors and restore them to their natural beauty.

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