How to Strip Paint from Doors

HOB_Stripping_Doors

I titled this post How to Strip Paint from Doors, but really you can use this technique on most wood items, like windows or stair ways, etc. We’ve lived in our 1850s Greek Revival for about 5 years now and have been stripping doors since we moved in. Since. We. Moved. In. It’s a journey, friends.

We knew the house has some lead paint and some really sloppy, caked on paint jobs. Mostly on doors and windows, so we began the task of addressing these issues over the last few years. We’ve now stripped 10 doors, and have become quite good at it! Here’s our how-to.

House of Brinson / How to Strip Paint from Doors
Here’s a up close beauty shot of our caked on paint dating back to the 1930s.
House of Brinson / How to Strip Paint from Doors
See the nice nickel hardware hiding under there? We take the paint right off of that too.

What didn’t work

Sometimes what didn’t work is just as important as what did work. Here’s what we tried that we don’t recommend.

Heat gun for large areas. We love a heat gun for little touch ups and small projects but for big areas it’s hard and time consuming. Plus if you have lead paint, you want to avoid this because it places dust particles in the air and that’s bad. Real bad.

Most paint strippers. We tested about 5 brands of stripper before finding the one we’re recommending. All the other brands were a total let down. They had an extreme odor so being around it was really hard, the odor filled our whole house. And on top of that – they didn’t remove all the paint in one go! What a buzz kill. So much work.

Having the door ‘dipped’ to remove the paint. We got an estimate for this and it was REALLY expensive. Around $300+ a door. We calculated how much product we use and we spend around $70 per door for the method we’re recommending. I arrived at that cost by figuring out the per gallon price of a 5 gallon bucket. It takes about 2 gallons to do a door. If you can get a good price on getting the doors dipped in your area, that’s fantastic. I couldn’t find one in the NJ/Hudson Valley area. We have 30+ doors to do in total, so any financial savings is good motivation for us.

What did work

Say hello to our BFF, Peel Away 1. This paint stripper made by Dummond Chemicals is freaking AMAZING. This isn’t sponsored, we seriously love this product. Mainly because it actually works and it also seems like the safest product to use health-wise compared to the other brands we tried.

The company who makes this, Dummond, makes a bunch of different versions. Peel Away 1 has been good for us because our house has many different paints layered together. Lead based oil, latex, milk paint, etc. This is the only product that removes them all. We even had one door that had a layer of stain and this product took it right off.

House of Brinson / How to Strip Paint from Doors

Reasons we love this product:

– It actually works in one go
– It’s a water based product, no crazy clean up
– Zero VOC
– Non-carcinogenic, meaning it won’t cause cancer. Other paint strippers can’t make this claim.
– Supplies come in the kit with the product
– It keeps lead paint ‘wet’ which is a safer way to contain lead dust
– Easy to use

Here’s a link to the product page on the manufactures website. Read about the product in more detail.

We’re going to strip paint from a door and show you the step-by-step. We begin by removing the door, with the hinges attached, from the door jam. We also remove the door handles/hardware. Leave the hinges attached and strip the paint off the hinges while still attached to the door. You could remove the hinges if you want but we find the door easier to rehang if we make less moves to the hinges.

This is a two day process. Make sure you have time in your schedule and the weather is good so you can work outside if need be. It must be done in a timely manner or the stripper will dry out.

How to Strip a Door!

Get all your supplies together. What comes in the bucket kit, plus the list below:

Supplies
Peel Away Paint Remover Kit
1.25 gallon size
5 gallon size

Additional Supplies

– good pair of gloves, we like the thick Venom golves
face mask
eye protection
plastic wrap (we normally buy XL food service size)
saw horses
plastic bags for waste
sponge
spray bottle for water
spray bottle for citruslize
plastic drop cloth for ground (Disposable)

Day one: Apply the product and wrap

  • Remove any loose paint or dirt
  • Use the plastic scraper to apply product ¼ inch thick. It’s kinda like cake frosting. We try and work very fast, with one person applying and the other person assisting with covering.
  • Work in sections, apply the paper, making sure to get out all air bubbles. The goal is to not let the product dry out. We love using plastic wrap too, which works well for smaller objects and windows.
  • Once all the product is applied and you’ve applied the paper or plastic wrap to make your project air tight. Wait 12 – 24 hours. We go with 20-24 hours. For hardware, I normally let it sit 10 hours or so.
House of Brinson / How to Strip Paint from Doors
Our set up for working on two doors.
House of Brinson / How to Strip Paint from Doors
Here’s what Peel Away 1 looks like. Kinda like cake frosting.
House of Brinson / How to Strip Paint from Doors
Apply the Peel Away 1 like you are decorating a cake.
Plastic wrap it (or use that paper that the kit comes with).
Make sure to get as much air out as possible.

Day two: Remove product and neutralize

  • Remove section of plastic/paper and begin removing product with the plastic scraper from the kit. If you like peeling a sunburn, you’ll love this. Get the wood as clean as possible. **DO NOT use a metal scraper. You will gouge the wood, it softens with this stripper.**
  • Spray with water to remove extra product, gently work any difficult areas. When the wood is almost perfectly clean, move on to next section. Tip: I like to work in one direction, in one section at a time. It allows you to pile up the waste and is way less messy in general.
  • Now the door is looking pretty clean, we move it to an area we can use a garden hose to give it a final rinse. If your wood item is not solid wood (veneer) or you are working indoors, use a water bottle for this step. Do not soak the wood too much – it can cause wood veneer to peel up, etc.
  • Apply the neutralizer. The Citralize has directions on the package as to how to mix and how long to leave on the wood.
  • After the neutralizer has been on the wood for the correct length of time, rinse one more time and allow to dry completely.

That’s it! Now we are going to sand and paint our door and it’s good as new.

House of Brinson / How to Strip Paint from Doors
This is what your door looks like on day two! Crazy!
House of Brinson / How to Strip Paint from Doors
Peel back the plastic wrap and this is what you see. The Peel Away looks like it sucked the paint right off the wood.
House of Brinson / How to Strip Paint from Doors
Start scraping. So satisfying.
House of Brinson / How to Strip Paint from Doors
Then we spray with water and work any areas the paint didn’t come off. And we get in all the cracks. Use a paper towel to remove the water and see if the wood is clean.
House of Brinson / How to Strip Paint from Doors
We stand the door up and hose it off. Then apply the neutralizer and rinse once more.
We let these air dry for several days before sanding and painting.

Tips:

  • The product comes with paper to cover it but we love using plastic wrap, especially on smaller objects and windows. We find it does a better job to keep the air out.
  • Time your project and make sure you have time two days in a row. The second day will take longer, the application on day one is pretty fast.
  • We like to work in a team of two. One person gloved and doing the messy work, the other person assisting and lending a hand. You can have two people removing the product, just make sure to work at the same pace.
  • DO NOT let the product dry out. I did that on a small corner once and it was really hard to get up. Plastic wrap any air leaks and plan your project so you can work two days in a row.
  • We try to work outside because this is so messy. If you can work outside, it will go faster. If you can’t, make sure to tape up/plastic any areas that you don’t want the finish stripped from.
  • Never use a metal scraper. The wood is soft and metal will gouge – use the provided plastic scrapers that come in the kit, or buy one.
  • Always wear gloves. The product can chemical burn your skin. Be safe. I accidentally got a bit on my arm and cleaned it off immediately and my skin was fine.
  • If you want to try out the product get the 1.25 gallon bucket. If you are crazy like us, buy it in 5 gallon buckets and make sure to get free shipping. The link we provided above was one of the only free shipping places we could find at the time we wrote this blog post.
  • Here’s some videos on You Tube from the Dummond Chemical channel. I could watch this one over and over, fantasizing about doing this to our house.
  • If you have a big project, Dummond sells a kit so you can test each type of paint stripper they sell. This might be worth it is your house has similar paint types, and you plan on stripping several items, or working over multiple years.

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something we recommend, we earn a small commission. We only recommend products really love.

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December 10, 2018
January 10, 2019

12 Comments

  1. Reply

    Rosemarie

    January 6, 2019

    What were the strippers you used that didn’t work well and why?

    • Reply

      William Brinson

      January 7, 2019

      We didn’t mention the brands of stripper that didn’t work for us because we don’t want to trash the other brands. We know of people that have used some of the other products and they worked as intended. Because our house has so many layers of different kinds of paint, Peel Away 1 just takes care of them all at once. The other brands would only get partly through, some even after 3 tries. I will say we tried the major name brands of regular and eco strippers.

  2. Reply

    Amanda

    January 7, 2019

    Wow- what a lot of really relevant (for us) and interesting info! Love your design content, but this is so useful. And the paint peeling/scraping actually looks kind of fun. Bet it’s not by your 1oth door, huh? Thanks for this post!

    • Reply

      William Brinson

      January 7, 2019

      Thanks so much for the kind words and following along.

  3. Reply

    Rosemarie

    January 7, 2019

    That’s understandable! I’ll have to remember this brand next time I have a big stripping project.

  4. Reply

    Amanda

    January 8, 2019

    Curious- do you strip your door frames at the same time? We’ve re-painted a few doors, let them dry for days, and then once we closed them, the new paint stuck to the door frame and peeled off. I’m thinking we need to do both? Ugh, where do you stop?! And what is your plan for windows? Ours are all painted shut, and the cost to replace with historic approved is astronomical.

    • Reply

      William Brinson

      January 10, 2019

      We generally just strip the doors, because for some reason the frames don’t have as much paint on them. Small miracles! I will say even for the doors, depending on what time of year it is we don’t close them for a bit. The summer humidity is murder. Some take as much as two weeks to thirty days to harden.
      For windows, we are going slowly but surely and plan to strip almost all of them. We have only done the french doors in the dining room on the inside, and let just say it’s not fun, but needs to be done. This is also where I found my use of the heat gun detrimental, because it was cold outside and the heat of the heat gun cracked a window. Amateur mistake on my part, but now I know better:)

  5. Reply

    Mary

    January 31, 2019

    LOVE this post SOOOOOO much!

    Xoxo,
    1914 Farmhouse owner

    • Reply

      William Brinson

      February 5, 2019

      Thanks. Sometimes it feels like ground hogs day with as many times as we’ve stripped another door, but it’s so worth it.

  6. Reply

    Katie

    January 31, 2019

    Thank you for this informative post! My husband and I bought a mid century brick ranch we closed on in early September. It’s in great shape except for the wood trim around the windows and the garage door (which is otherwise in fantastic shape and has fun midcentury details… the doors on the market in our price range did not appeal to us in the least!). My husband bought a 5 gallon drum of this exact product shortly after we closed, and of course life got in the way and we weren’t able to get started before the weather got cold here in Chicago. I was worried about it being an onerous task, but this looks awesome! I can’t wait to give our home a facelift this spring.

    • Reply

      William Brinson

      February 5, 2019

      Thats fantastic! Congrats on the house. The Peel Away is pretty easy, just make sure you have two dedicated days. Its really the second day that takes all the time. Stay warm and send us pics on instagram @houseofbrinson

  7. Reply

    Amy

    April 2, 2019

    This is great; thanks for sharing! We have 5 doors that need to be stripped in our 1900 Victorian and I’ve been putting it off. It’s great to know the product, process, and that it will “only” take roughly two days to get the job done. It takes so much time to figure out what will work and that is the big thing that’s been holding me back. Thanks again! I’d love tips on staining the doors if you’ve figured that out too. Some of our doors have a beautiful finish in which the depth of the wood really glows and others look really bad.

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