Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
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Summary: To remove dried paint from hardwood floors, you can sand them or use a paint scraper, soap, and warm water. You can also use rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol, a paint-removing solvent, paint thinners, or cleansing pads. However, there are a few safety measures you need to take.
Having hardwood floors in your house is a luxury nowadays because installing them has become expensive. If the previous owners of your home decided to paint them, or someone spilled paint on them accidentally, it can make them unsightly.
In this article, I’ll discuss how to determine what paint is on your hardwood floors, how to get water-based, latex, and oil-based paints off, and how to remove paint splatter from your wooden floors. I will also discuss removing paint from your hardwood flooring without sanding it.
Figuring Out What Type of Paint Is on Your Hardwood Floors
The first thing you’ll need when trying to remove dried paint from hardwood floors is to determine what kind of paint it is. There are three main types of paints: water-based, latex, and oil-based. Each of these paint types will have a different method of removal.
One trick I often use is to put some rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and gently rub it over the surface of the paint. If any paint comes off, the paint is water-based or latex. If it doesn’t, the paint is oil-based.
If you have either partially or entirely painted hardwood floors in your house and want to remove the paint (whether it be to redo it in another color or return the floors to their natural state), you might come across a few issues.
How you remove paint from hardwood floors depends greatly on the paint type, so I have listed several ways to remove paint from hardwood floors for water-based, latex, and oil-based paints.
No matter what you plan on doing to your floors once you have removed your paint, your wood must be appropriately cleaned and prepared beforehand.
It is also worth noting that none of these methods is a one-stop shop for getting all of the paint off your floors, and you will likely need help from one (or two) of the other methods mentioned.
How to Remove Dried Water-Based Paint From Hardwood Floors
Water-based paints are made up of a pigment, a binder, and water, which is used as a carrier. They are the most commonly used paint type and the most environmentally responsible type of paint. They dry quickly and don’t have a strong odor. They are also reasonably easy to clean up. Still, you could use a few methods to get water-based paints off hardwood floors.
Sand the Paint Off
The easiest way to remove large amounts of paint from your floors is by sanding the paint off. For this, you’ll need a handheld electric sander, like the BLACK+DECKER Mouse Detail Sander, and different grits of sandpaper for the sander (60 grit, 80 grit, and 120 grit), which you can get in a pack, like the BLACK+DECKER Sandpaper Assortment 12-Pack.
You will also need some regular sandpaper to use by hand, like the Fandeli Assorted Grits Sandpaper Sheets.
Here are the steps on how to sand your floors:
- First, make sure you have all the necessary equipment. If you don’t want to buy an electric sander, you can rent one from your local hardware store.
- Using your electric sander, start sanding your floors to get rid of the paint. Start with the 60 grit paper to get rid of the most paint.
- Then, move on to using the 80 grit and 120 grit sandpaper. These will ensure that your floor is uniform and eliminate any rough sanding marks left by the 60 grit paper.
- Once you finish sanding with the electric sander, you may have to go back in by hand with some sandpaper to get into hard-to-reach places like corners and between floorboards.
- If there are any deeper grooves in your floorboard where sandpaper can’t reach, you may have to use a paint scraper, like the Allway Tools Contour Scraper, to get the paint out of there.
- Once you’ve gotten rid of all of the paint, you can finish your floors in your preferred way, like waxing it, sealing it, staining it, or repainting it in a different color.
Use a Paint Scraper
If the paint on your floors is already starting to flake off, you can use a paint scraper, like the Toughest Tools 3-inch Paint Scraper, to scrape off the paint that is already loose. If there is any paint that you can’t remove using a paint scraper, you can try to sand it off or use one of the other methods explained below.
Use Soap and Water
One of the most incredible things about using water-based paint is that it can often be cleaned up simply by using a mild soap and water. For this, you’ll need a bucket filled with warm, soapy water and some old rags you don’t mind getting dirty (and most likely throwing away).
Here are the steps on how to remove dried water-based paint using soap and warm water:
- Mix some dish soap with warm water (not hot) in a bucket.
- Use a damp cloth to wet the entire surface of the painted floor with soapy water. Ensure it’s not soaking wet, but it should stay wet for a few minutes.
- Leave the water on the paint for a few minutes so the paint can soften and loosen up a bit.
- Take the damp rag again and scrub over the paint until it comes off.
- Use a dry cloth to wipe away any excess paint and moisture.
- If there is still some paint that hasn’t come off, you can get rid of it with a paint scraper or an electric sander.
Use Rubbing Alcohol
If sanding, scraping, and trying water and soap on your paint all didn’t quite get the job done thoroughly, you could try using this next method to get that last bit of paint off your floors. This method can also be used as a first option and followed up by another method if it doesn’t completely remove all of the paint.
To get the best results from this method, you need to allow time for the rubbing alcohol mixture to work its magic on the paint. For this method, you’ll need some old rags you don’t mind throwing away after using them, rubbing alcohol (a.k.a. Isopropyl alcohol), lemon juice, and a brush to scrub the floors with. Now, let’s get onto how to use a rubbing alcohol mixture to get the paint off your floors!
Follow these steps on how to remove dried water-based paint using rubbing alcohol:
- Make the rubbing alcohol-lemon juice mixture by mixing three parts rubbing alcohol with one part lemon juice. The quantity you’ll need of this mixture will depend on how much of your floor is covered with paint.
- Using a rag, cover the painted area with the alcohol-lemon juice mixture. Let it sit on the paint for roughly five minutes to allow it to soften and loosen the paint from the floorboards.
- Then, using the rag, scrub the paint to get it to come off. You can use a brush (an old toothbrush or any other floor scrubbing brush) to get off any stubborn paint or paint stuck in a crevice in the wood.
- If there is still any paint left over after you’ve done this, you can use a paint scraper or a sander to remove it entirely.
Now that I’ve covered how to get rid of water-based paints, we can move on to removing latex paints from your floors.
How to Remove Dried Latex Paint From Hardwood Floors
Latex paints are very similar to water-based paints. However, they can sometimes be more challenging to clean up or remove and require stronger cleaning materials. There are a couple of methods you can try to get rid of latex paint on your floors.
Sand the Paint Off
Getting large amounts of paint off your floors can be tedious, but sanding is the best method to remove paint from the wood surface. To do this, you’ll need a compact electric sander, different grits of sandpaper for the sander (preferably 60 grit, 80 grit, and 120 grit), a paint scraper, and some regular sandpaper to use by hand.
Here are the steps on how to sand your floors:
- Using some 60 grit sandpaper on your electric sander, sand your floorboards until most of the paint has come off.
- After that, you can use the 80 grit and 120 grit sandpaper. The finer grits will make your floor evenly sanded and remove any marks left by the 60 grit sandpaper.
- Once you’ve gotten most of the paint off using the electric sander, you can use a paint scraper and some regular sandpaper to get the stubborn paint out of corners, between floorboards, and deep grooves in the wood.
- Once you’ve sanded all the paint off, you’ll need to clean the remains off the floor. You can do this by using a vacuum cleaner.
- After vacuuming, you can add a new finish to your floors using wax, a floor sealant, a wood stain, or a fresh coat of paint.
Use a Paint Scraper
If some of the paint on your floorboards is already loose and starting to come off on its own, the easiest way of getting it off would be to use a paint scraper. You can either use the paint scraper on its own or use a hammer to lightly tap the scraper against the paint to get it to lift away from the floorboards.
This method will likely not eliminate all of the paint, so you can try using a sander or one of the other methods explained below to remove the remaining paint.
Use Denatured Alcohol
The next method you can try is to use denatured alcohol to remove the paint from your hardwood floors. For this method, you’ll need some old cloths, a scrubbing brush or toothbrush, and denatured alcohol, which you can find at your local hardware store. Note that you will need to throw the rags away after you’ve finished, so don’t go using your nice kitchen cloths.
Here are the steps on how to remove dried latex paint using denatured alcohol:
- Blot the denatured alcohol onto the paint using your rag. Ensure you’ve adequately covered your painted floors with enough alcohol to keep them damp for a few minutes.
- Leave the alcohol on the floor for a few minutes to soak into the paint and break it up. This will make it much easier to remove the paint.
- Use your scrubbing brush to scrub the paint off of the floorboards. Apply enough pressure to ensure that the paint comes off of the floor.
- If there is paint in small grooves or crevices of your floor, you can use an old toothbrush to scrub the paint out of there.
- Use a dry rag to remove any excess paint and alcohol to ensure your surface is dry after removing the paint.
If the denatured alcohol didn’t completely get rid of all of the pain on your floorboards, you could try using one of the previously mentioned methods or the one that will be explained next.
Use a Paint Removal Solvent
An effective way of removing paint from a large area of your floor is by using a paint removal solvent. You can get a variety of paint removal solvents from your local hardware store; just be sure to get one that is made for latex paints. Otherwise, it won’t get rid of the paint. You’ll also need some rags to apply and wipe away the product.
Follow these steps on how to remove dried latex paint using a paint removal solvent:
- Apply the paint remover onto the area of paint you want to remove using one of your rags.
- Let it soak into the paint for the recommended amount of time. Different paint removers will recommend different amounts of time that you need to leave the solvent on the paint for, so you should use that as a guide to how long you should leave yours on the paint.
- Use a dry rag to wipe away the dissolved paint and the paint remover. If the solvent has left your floor a little slippery, you can use some water and dish soap to clean that up.
- If there is any paint left, you can use one of the methods mentioned above to get rid of the excess.
Now that I’ve gone over how to get rid of latex paint, we can discuss how to remove oil-based paints from your hardwood floors.
How to Remove Dried Oil-Based Paint From Hardwood Floors
Oil-based paints are made of a pigment, a resin, a natural oil (like linseed), or synthetic oil (like alkyd), as well as a solvent thinner, which is used as a carrier. Oil-based paints are very durable and are used on surfaces on which the finish is needed to last a long time.
Painters often use oil paints on surfaces that won’t have their color changed often or things that need to withstand regular contact, like trims or moldings.
Although oil-based paints are some of the hardest to get off any surface, I will discuss a few ways of getting the job done.
Sand the Paint Off
One of the best ways of getting rid of large amounts of oil-based paint from a hardwood floor is by sanding. This will require an electric sander, sandpaper for the sander of varying grits (60 grit, 80 grit, and 120 grit will work best), regular sandpaper to use by hand, a paint scraper, and potentially a heat gun, like the PRULDE Dual Temperature Setting Heat Gun, or a hairdryer.
Here are the steps on how to sand your floors:
- Ensure you have all the equipment you’ll need. If you don’t want to buy a thing like an electric sander or a heat gun, you should be able to rent them from your local hardware store.
- First, use your electric sander and 60 grit sandpaper to sand your floors to get rid of the majority of the paint.
- If the paint does not come off easily by using the sander, you may need to use the heat gun or hairdryer to heat it up first.
- Hold your hairdryer (set to maximum temperature level) or the heat gun approximately 3 inches (7.6 cm) away from the paint for up to a minute. The heat will reduce the strength of oil paint’s adhesion to your floors.
- Once the paint is warmed up, you can use your sander again to remove the paint. You will need to periodically heat up the paint again as you move to a new spot.
- Then, once most of the paint is gone, you can move onto the 80 grit and 120 grit sandpaper to smooth out the floor and get rid of any remaining paint.
- If there is any paint left in the corners of your room, between the floorboard, or in scuff marks on your floor, you can use a paint scraper or regular sandpaper to get rid of it.
- Now that you’ve gotten rid of all of the paint, you can clean your floor with a vacuum and then apply a new finish to it.
Use a Paint Scraper
If some of the paint is already coming off of your floors, you can use a heat gun or hairdryer to soften the paint and then scrape it off with a paint scraper. Then, if there’s still any paint left on the floorboards after that, you can use a sander, paint solvent, or paint thinners to get rid of it.
Use a Paint Removal Solvent
Another thing you can do to remove paint from your hardwood floors is to use a paint-removing solvent. You can buy an oil-based paint-specific paint removal solvent from your local hardware store. You’ll also need some old rags to help with the process.
Here are the steps on how to remove oil-based paint using a paint removal solvent:
- Use one of the rags that you have to cover the painted floor area with the paint removal solvent.
- Using the recommended time on your solvent bottle, leave the paint remover on the paint so that it can break the paint down for you to be able to remove it.
- Then, use a dry, clean cloth to wipe the paint and excess solvent off of your floors.
- If there’s still some paint left over on your floors, you can use a scraper or a sander to remove it.
Use Paint Thinners
Paint thinners should only ever be used as a last resort for removing paint from your hardwood floor, as it is quite a harsh chemical solvent and could do damage to your floorboards if used incorrectly. Always make sure to ventilate the room you’re in when using paint thinners, as they have a strong odor and give off chemical fumes that could be harmful to you, and wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.
For this method, you’ll need some paint thinners and a few old rags. In case you can’t ventilate the room you’re working in, you can opt to use mineral spirits instead of paint thinners.
Follow these steps on how to remove oil-based paint using paint thinners:
- Soak a part of your cloth in the paint thinner or mineral spirits.
- Then, cover the area of the floor that you want to remove paint from.
- Soak your cloth again and rub the paint off of your floorboards. You’ll need to re-soak your rag periodically, as paint thinners do evaporate quickly.
- Wipe away the excess paint thinner from your floor once you’ve removed the paint. If there is still any left, you can use a scraper or sander to remove it from your floors.
Note that depending on the paint’s quality and age on your floors, you may need to repeat these processes a few times before you get all of the paint off of your floors. This is true for all types of paint, but even more so for oil-based paints, as they are the most durable type of paint.
How to Remove Paint Splatter From Hardwood Floors
Whether you’ve recently painted the walls in your house or have an artist living under your roof, there’s bound to be some paint spilled on the floors at some point, no matter how careful you are.
To remove small paint splatters from your floors, you can use any of the methods explained above, depending on what type of paint is splattered on the floor, but there is one other method you can try that might surprise you. You can use a facial cleansing pad to remove paint splatter from your floors.
Here are the steps on how to use cleansing pads to remove dried paint:
- Get some cleansing pads from the store. Look for ones made to fight acne because the acids in them will help break down the paint.
- Use one of the cleansing pads and scrub the paint splatter.
- If the cleansing pad becomes dry or covered in paint, use a fresh one.
- Continue on in a similar fashion until all of the paint has been removed from your floors.
How to Remove Dried Paint From Hardwood Floors Without Sanding
You may have some spilled paint on your floorboards or a room whose floorboards have been completely painted that you want to get rid of, but you don’t want to sand your floors. You’re in luck because there are several ways you can remove paint from hardwood floors without sanding.
Depending on the type of paint you have on your floors, you can either use a paint scraper, water, soap, rubbing or denatured alcohol, a paint-removing solvent specific to your type of paint, or some paint thinners to remove the paint from your floorboards.
If you have oil-based paint on your floor, you may need to use a hairdryer or heat gun to soften it before removing it with one of the above methods.
You can also use a combination of several methods if using one of them doesn’t quite get the job done.
In this article, I discussed several ways to remove dried paint from your hardwood floors, whether it be just a few paint spills or the entire floor of a room.
This can be done in many ways, but trying to get paint off your floors using the wrong method can badly damage your floors, so be sure to choose the right method for your floors and the type of paint on your floors.
Also, ensure that you are following all of the necessary safety precautions, and if you feel that you cannot do it by yourself, hire a professional.
- House Beautiful: Water-Based Paint Vs. Oil-Based Paint: When to Use Each
- All American Flooring: 6 Ways To Remove Old Paint From Hardwood Floors
- Family Handyman: How to Remove Paint from Wood Floors
- Wikihow: How to Remove Paint on Hardwood Floors
- Wood Floors Cleaner: How to Get Paint off Hardwood Floors (Dried, Latex, Painted)
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