As painted surfaces age, they lose their beauty and start to crack, chalk, flake, or peel. At this point, it becomes necessary to try and reclaim its former appeal. The best way to do that is to strip away the old varnish and paint using paint strippers.

The best paint stripers for wood and metal should be easy to apply, use, and not damage the surfaces. These products may be solvent-based, caustic paint strippers, biochemical paint strippers, and Zero VOC paint strippers. Besides, there are tools used in removing old paints.

In this article, we look at some of the best paint removers in the market, their features, pros, cons, and why they stand out. Before you purchase a paint stripper for your project, it is essential to know that not all of them are suitable for all surfaces.

Comparison of the Best Paint Strippers

ProductWhat It’s Best For
PORTER-CABLE Paint Remover Heat GunBest Overall Electric Heat Gun
Citristrip Paint & Varnish Stripping GelBest Biochemical Paint Stripper
Smart Strip Advanced Paint RemoverBest Eco-Friendly Paint Stripper
Wagner Spray Tech PaintEaterBest Palm Paint Stripper
DEWALT Rotary SanderBest Semi-Industrial Paint Stripper Machine
MAX Strip Paint & Varnish StripperBest for Any Type of Surface
BLACK+DECKER Heat Gun, Dual TemperatureBest Compact Design
Excel Blades  Best Design
FOSHIO Paint Removers  Best for Small Manual Jobs
Wagner Spraytech Heat GunVersatile Electric Heat Gun

Review of the Best Paint Strippers

1. PORTER-CABLE Paint Remover Heat Gun – Best Overall Electric Heat Gun

This electric tool uses heat to strip old paints from the surfaces. It comes with a dual setting for low and high fan speed. The temperature can be adjusted with ease thanks to its temperature control dial. The Porter-Cable paint remover gun comes with an integrated hanging hook making it easy to store.

It only weighs 1kg (2lbs), meaning it cannot cause too much fatigue when working with it or holding. With the 1500-watt motor, the tool delivers high heat, and its long electric cord makes it more flexible and versatile.

From different users, some have reported slight erratics changes in temperature. It increases and decreases without any warning. This paint stripping tool works well compared to most heat guns, and it’s relatively cheaper.

Key Features
  • It has a powerful electric motor of 1,500 watts.
  • The manufacturer gives a 3-year warranty.
  • It comes with dual fan-speeds.
  • It has temperature control.
Pros
  • It has a support stand for hands-free operation.
  • Long power cable cord measuring 6 feet. It’s thick and flexible.
  • It’s easy to use.
  • Relatively cheaper compared to other tools of the same size.
Cons
  • It doesn’t come with the wireless features.
  • It can be noisy.
  • The temperature can occasionally wobble after using it for long.

2. Citristrip Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel – Best Biochemical Paint Stripper

Citristrip is manufactured from citrus terpenes and can be used both indoors and outdoors as paint and varnish remover. It has a citrus scent with a gel-like consistency. This product effectively removes several layers of water-based and oil-based paints from a wide range of surfaces like wood and metal.

It is not harsh and doesn’t damage surfaces. To use it, you need to slather it on the painted surface and let it sit for a few hours before wiping it off. It is easy to use and can stay wet and active for up to 24 hours. It also adheres to vertical surfaces, which makes stripping of wall paint easy.

However, Citristrip contains N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP), which can adversely affect your health. The standard latex or nitrile gloves may not be adequate to protect you when handling this type of stripping solvent because they can penetrate. Therefore, butyl rubber gloves are recommended for protection. Similarly, its fumes are also hazardous.

Key Features
  • Comes in 1 Quart size.
  • It’s biodegradable.
  • Formulated with a citrus scent.
  • Ideal for different types of surfaces such as wood, metal, or masonry.
Pros
  • It can be applied to vertical surfaces.
  • Easy to use and very effective.
  • Does not contain methylene chloride.
  • It is non-caustic and may be used indoors.
  • It remains active for 24 hours giving room to strip several layers at a go.
Cons
  • It contains NMP, which can be harmful to handlers, and therefore its fumes can be hazardous.

3. Wagner Spray PaintEater – Best Palm Paint Stripper

It is a disc sander tool that chews through all paint coats with ease, and can also be used to smoothen wood in preparation for painting and application of varnish. Wagner Painteater takes off latex with ease and can also take off enamel with a few passes. It works equally well on wood and metal. The tool is lightweight and quiet.

Wagner Painteater is easy to use compared to a traditional belt sander, and it’s ergonomically designed body allows different hand positions. It also stays cool for a long time. If it gets too hot, a thermal fuse will trip to allow cooling. However, it needs a reset switch when the thermal fuse trips.

Key Features
  • Made with components of plastic and metal to give the best quality.
  • It’s easy to operate and lightweight.
  • Removing and replacing the rotating disc is simple and straightforward.
  • Two settings on the temperature of low 750°F (400°C) or high 1000°F (540°C).
  • It has an electric motor of 1200 watts.
  • Manufacturer’s warranty of 2 years.
  • It comes with a storage hook.
Pros
  • It is easy to operate and use.
  • The tool is light.
  • It is excellent for paint removing jobs.
  • It remains cool and does not overheat.
Cons
  • Whenever it gets hot, it stops working.

4. Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover – Best Eco-Friendly Paint Stripper

Smart strip advanced paint remover is an eco-friendly product that is biodegradable and is suitable for all surfaces. It is manufactured using the latest technology, making it one of the safest to use because it does not contain toxic compounds found in caustic products.

It is popular in a wide range of industrial and domestic use in removing paints without causing damage to the surfaces, the environment, and the user.

Smart Strip does not contain methylene chloride or caustic, and it is effective on water-based paints. However, it is relatively expensive.

Key Features
  • It’s a water-based paint remover
  • It’s non-flammable
  • Does not contaminate the environment
Pros
  • Does not contain methylene chloride
  • It is eco friendly
  • Safe on skin
  • Can be used indoors 
Cons
  • It is expensive compared to other paint strippers.

5. DEWALT Rotary Sander – Best Semi-Industrial Paint Stripper Machine

The DEWALT Rotary sander is one of the best semi-industrial paint strippers available. The tool comes with a rotary disc that runs on a powerful 6-amp motor. The tool delivers superior performance when stripping paint on a variety of surfaces. You can use it to remove paint from metal, plastic, wood, and other surfaces.

It features a VSR trigger that allows the operator to control the speed and power while sanding.

It also comes with an adjustable dust shroud that can be connected to a vacuum to keep things tidy in and around the workplace. This tool also has a mid-handle design that significantly improves balance in your hands. As a result, you are less likely to complain of operator fatigue during use. The paint stripper comes with a 3-year warranty, which is very reassuring.

Key Features
  • It has a 5-inch variable rotary disc.
  • Dual temperature settings 750°F (400°C) or high 1000°F (540°C).
  • Powerful 6-amp motor.
  • Integrated stand for hands-free use.
  • Comes with a hanging hook.
  • It comes with a 3-year limited warranty.
Pros
  • Low noise.
  • Great for semi-industrial use.
  • Corrosion-resistant Nozzle.
  • Better user comfort.
Cons
  • Expensive.

6. MAX Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper – Best for Any Type of Surface

This ranks as the best for any type of surface, including wood, metal, brick, mortar, plastic porcelain, glass, marble, ceramic, granite, concrete, and plaster. However, it’s not made to remove factory or automotive finished (baked) paints. It is easy to see why anyone would go for the MAX Strip paint and varnish stripper.

The product is safe on skin and doesn’t have harsh fumes. Besides, this product doesn’t have toxic compounds like NMP and methylene chloride like caustic products. It’s an eco-friendly product that’s safe for antique woods and relatively cheaper.

Like other safer paint strippers, its performance is lackluster. It doesn’t thoroughly remove the paint. You may have to scrub off the remaining patches of paint, which can be quite exhausting.

Key Features
  • Suitable for almost any type of surface.
  • Does not have harmful chemicals.
  • Safe on a wide range of wood types.
Pros
  • Safe and odorless.
  • Eco friendly.
  • Affordable.
Cons
  • Not so effective.
  • May etch plastics.

7. Wagner Spraytech Heat Gun – Versatile Electric Heat Gun

Wagner Spraytech is a heat gun with a 1200-watt motor, and it’s one of the best paint removers. It is a lightweight and compact tool making it versatile to maneuver with it while working. You can adjust the temperature because it comes with a switch for high and low settings. The temperature can be set to 750°F (400°C) or high 1000°F (540°C) depending on the type of job.

You can also adjust the speed of the fan to two levels that help in cooling.

However, this heat gun does not come with a stand to sit on while cooling off, and you may have to buy a generic stand, which is an extra cost to you. According to many users, the handle gets somehow hot when it has been used for a while.

Key Features
  • It comes with a 1200-watt electric motor
  • Low and high-temperature settings
  • It’s lightweight and compact
Pros
  • It’s light and compact
  • It’s a versatile tool
  • It’s easy to use
  • Dual temperature controls and fan speeds
Cons
  • Does not come with a stand
  • The handle gets heated after using for some time

8. Excel Blade Scraper – Best Design

The tool has a retractable blade to help protect the blade when it’s stored. It is ideally suited for removing old paints and stickers from different surfaces. This simple yet versatile tool is manufactured using heavy-duty steel for durability and sturdy. Besides, it is coated with rust-resistant coating and can withstand heavy usage for long periods. 

It is efficient at scraping away paint, old caulk, and glue. Typically, the tool is mainly used for small jobs where the massive power scrapers are not efficient. However, its small size can be difficult to hold securely. Besides, it’s not easy to insert and remove the blades.

Key Features
  • Has a retractable blade.
  • Simple tool yet versatile.
  • Made of durable, heavy-duty steel.
Pros
  • Efficient.
  • Great for small jobs.
  • Uses replaceable blades.
Cons
  • Difficult to hold.
  • Difficult to insert and remove blades.

9. FOSHIO Paint Removers – Best for Small Manual Jobs

Foshio paint remover is ideal for delicate surfaces, and the tool is affordable, coming with 100 double-edged blades and two scapers. Using Foshio paint, remover takes effort and may not be suitable for large scale jobs. The plastic used for the Foshio paint scrapers is durable but could break if used carelessly. On the flip side, it is incredibly light and doesn’t rust.

Unlike other hand held scrapers, there isn’t a spring mechanism, lowering the chances of breakage. However, like most scraper blades, it’s easy to cut deep and scratch the surface, which could easily damage your surface. You need to be extra cautious when using this tool to ensure you’re not damaging your wood or metal surfaces.

Key Features
  • It comes with 100 blades and two scalpers
  • The handle is made of a quality and durable plastic
Pros
  • Can last for a lifetime because it comes with 100 blades
  • Lightweight
  • Very cheap
Cons
  • Made of plastic which isn’t the most robust
  • Easy to damage surface beneath the paint

10. BLACK+DECKER Heat Gun, Dual Temperature – Best Compact Design

Black+decker heat gun is a versatile tool with two different temperature settings at 750°F (400°C) or high 1000°F (540°C) to suit various applications. It is ideal for stripping paints and varnishes from surfaces. You can use the heat gun for other purposes such as loosening bolts and nuts or thawing of frozen pipes.

The gun is designed as lightweight and compact to make it easy to use, and it comes with an in-built stand to use when it’s cooling down.

Key Features
  • High and low-temperature settings
  • Built-in stand feature
  • Comes with 1375 watt motor
  • 2-year manufacturer’s warranty
Pros
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Dual temperature settings
  • Comes with a stand for easy cool down
Cons
  • It has a short nozzle
  • Makes loud noise when operated

Paint Strippers Buyers Guide

Before you begin your paint removing job, there are several things you have to consider to optimize your results. It is essential to note that not all paint strippers are suitable for all types of surfaces. Some strippers have harsh chemical components that could easily damage surfaces and require special safety precautions.

Know the Type of Surface

Before you make your purchase decision, consider the type of surface you want to strip. For instance, heat guns are ideal for surfaces with multiple layers of paints. They are also more suitable for metal surfaces. Sanders, on the other hand, is suitable for wooden and metal surfaces, while biochemical products are more suitable for metals and floors.

Large surfaces on immobile projects such as siding and baseboards, heat guns would be ideal. Floors made of hardwood and other pieces of furniture, sanding may be an ideal option.

Safety

Safety is always a priority when deciding on the ideal paint remover. Caustic paint strippers are very strong and effective, but they contain harmful substances such as methylene chloride.

Exposure to these chemicals could adversely affect your health. Long term exposure may lead to liver failure, kidney damage, and even cancer. These products should be used outdoors. Even when handling safer alternatives, you need to be cautious.

If you’re stripping surfaces painted before 1978, you might need a lead paint test kit. If the paint had lead, you would need to paint strippers suitable for such paints. These paint strippers come in a gel-like or paste form, and they are made to trap lead particles from escaping. 

Types of Paint Removers Products

There are many types of paint strippers available in the market today. Each of these products possesses unique properties that make them more suitable in removing paints from specific surfaces. Similarly, certain paint strippers are more effective in removing long-lasting coatings such as polyurethane and epoxy on certain surfaces.

Chemical-based paint strippers can also pose significant health risks if mishandled. Handy tools, on the other hand, are reusable but can be quite exhausting in a large project. Whichever paint stripper you choose, always try testing it on a small area so that you don’t cause permanent damage to your item.

Solvent-Based Strippers

This category of paint removers is the most versatile, and they work by breaking down the bond between the surface and the paint through a chemical process. They are best in removing oil-based and water-based paints. Solvent-based strippers are also effective in stripping epoxy and polyurethane paintings from surfaces like metal and wood without causing discoloration.

Some brands of solvent-based strippers contain methylene chloride (DCM), which is classified as the volatile organic compound (VOC), while others include a mixture of toluene, alcohol, and methanol.

Products having a high concentration of VOC can affect your health if you inhale the fumes. Anyone directly inhaling the fumes of products containing methylene chloride may have their vital organs such as the reproductive system and brain-damaged. Therefore, when handling such products, always wear a respirator, skin covering clothes, safety glasses, and gloves made of resistant material.

Solvent-based strippers are used in a thin layer typically about 1/8 of an inch and stay briefly on the surfaces often about 10 minutes or less before the paint is lifted off with the scraper. Surfaces that have been stripped should be washed immediately with water or spirit before it is repainted.

Caustic Strippers

Caustic strippers contain sodium hydroxide, an active ingredient that acts by partially converting the dried paint into soap and loosening it from the metal or wooden surfaces. These types of strippers are not suitable for epoxy and polyurethane. They are very effective in removing oil-based paints.

Although caustic strippers may be used to strip off water-based and oil-based paints from wooden and metallic surfaces, it can bring undesired results. Caustic strippers can quickly erode metals such as aluminum and cause discoloration of hardwoods such as maple. However, the black coloration can be removed using wood bleach.

Caustic strippers should be applied in a ⅛-inch to 1/4-inch contact layer and should last for about 30 minutes before scraping off the old paints. These paint strippers are alkaline, having a higher pH of between 13 and 14, the stripped surfaces should be neutralized so that the pH returns to about 7, and this is done by wiping with a vinegar solution or plain water.

Caustic strippers can irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs if you touch or inhale. Therefore working with these products needs ideal safety gear such as respirators, skin covering, safety glasses, and chemical resistant hand gloves. However, caustic strippers are safer compared to solvent-based strippers because they have low VOCs.

Biochemical Strippers

Compared to solvent and caustic strippers, biochemical strippers are much safer to handle because they are made from plant-based compounds like terpene and organic compounds like N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP). However, the added organic compounds may cause skin irritation and even adversely affect the respiratory and reproductive systems.

Therefore when handling biochemical strippers, it is advisable to wear safety gear to protect yourself.

Biochemical strippers are effective in removing oil-based and water-based paint from metal and wood surfaces. However, they are not effective in removing epoxy and polyurethane coatings. After using biochemical strippers on wooden surfaces, they leave loose wood fibers on the stripped surface.

They should be applied in a thin layer of about 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch. It needs to remain on the surface for about 3 to 4 hours before the surface is scrapped. After applying biochemical strippers, the surfaces should be washed with mineral spirits or water, and there is no need to neutralize.

Zero-VOC Strippers

These paint removers are safe because they don’t contain methylene chloride, organic compounds, or Lye. This category of strippers is odorless and costly. They are manufactured using natural solvents such as benzyl alcohol. These strippers are effective in breaking down the resins of oil-based and water-based paints on metal surfaces and, to some extent, on wood surfaces.

Although they are the safest strippers, exposure may also irritate the skin and lungs, and therefore, you need to wear protective gear. Using Zero-VOC products require about ⅛-inch to ¼-inch thickness and should remain on the surface anywhere between three and 24 hours. After the paint is removed, you need to rinse the surface using water or spirit.

Other Types of Paint Strippers

Today, there is a wide range of machine tools used as paint strippers such as Belt sanders and drum sanders. Wood scrapers can be used, and they can yield excellent results, though they can easily bite into the surface of the wood and cause damage.

Heat can also be used as a paint stripper. Blow torch and heat guns are the tools that use heat to remove old paints. The blow torch uses a naked flame to strip paints off the surfaces. They have an adjustable knob used in controlling the intensity of the flame.

On the other hand, heat guns don’t use naked flames. These tools are suitable for metal surfaces, and if you’re handling them, you need to take extreme caution. Materials like wood and plastics can be damaged or catch fire. Professional training may be required before handling them.

Other General Safety Precautions

Paint stripper solvents and gels contain potentially hazardous chemicals. Each product has specific safety precautions given by the manufacturer. However, there are some general safety precautions that you need to keep in mind when dealing with any paint stripper.

  • Always read and follow instructions on the label by the manufacturer. It is easy to assume you already know how to use a paint stripper when you have been doing it for a while.
  • Ensure you wear chemical-resistant gloves. Gloves made with neoprene or butyl rubber are recommended. Besides, replace gloves often to minimize dermal exposure risk.
  • Avoid using other products or chemicals not intended for paint stripping work like gasoline, kerosene, or lighter fluid.
  • Avoid any type of paint stripping chemicals coming into contact with your eyes. You need to wear protective gear all the time.
  • Don’t attempt to use a heat gun as a hairdryer, they might look similar, but they don’t work the same.

Conclusion

When choosing the best paint stripper for your project, it is essential to consider safety. You should also look to acquire a product that is reliable and appropriate for your project. The surface you will be working on should guide you to the right best paint stripper.

In this article, we have listed some of the best paint removers available in the market. Any of the listed products do a great job when used appropriately.

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