The Basics of Paint and Varnish

With the right supplies and a few simple tips, stripping paint and varnish is easier than it sounds. Check the product label for any additional items you will need. And be sure to read all directions before starting any stripping project. Visit our projects section for more specific sample projects.

1. Preparation

Remove all hardware from the piece to be stripped. Spread out a heavy plasitc drop cloth to cover the work area. Work in an outdoor or well-ventilated area out of direct sun and away from strong breezes. If working indoors, open all windows and doors and maintain a cross ventilation off moving fresh air across the work area. Mask and tape off areas not to be stripped.

2. Apply the remover

Wear chemical splash goggles and chemical-resistant gloves and apply the stripper according to package directions. This may be by brushing, spraying or rolling under plastic. For brush-applied strippers, brush in one direction only. For aerosol or sprayable strippers, point the sprayer away from you. Hold the sprayer or can about 10"-12" from surface to be stripped. Use short sweeping motions to apply.

3. Let the remover work

Read the product label to determine how long to let the remover sit. Then begin removing the softened paint just before the remover starts to dry. If you start too soon, the remover may not have time to soften the coating or penetrate through all layers.

4. Scrape it off

Scrape off the softened paint using the plastic stripping tool so as not to harm the surface.

5. Remove the residue

Use a clean abrasive stripping pad with Klean-Strip Paint Stripper AfterWash to loosen remaining finish and remove any residue. Surface should be completely clean and dry before refinishing.

6. Clean-up

Return unused stripper to the original container. Take outdoor and allow liquid to evaporate and residue to dry. Then dispose of in metal containter in accordance with federal, state and local regulations.

Need help with a project? Ask one of our professionals.


The Supplies You'll Need


  • Wear chemical splash goggles
  • Wear chemical-resistant gloves
  • Work outdoors. If inside, open all windows and doors
  • Apply remover to a small area up to 9 sq. ft.
  • Have rags nearby for quick clean up
  • Let used rags and paper dry before throwing away
  • Clean up according to federal, state and local regulations.
Tip Box

Many windows and doors are finished in old paint compounds that may contain hazardous materials. Make sure you dispose of old stripper and coating in a metal container, and keep this in a well ventilated area. Check your federal, state and local guidelines for proper disposal.

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