How to Get Latex Paint Off of Wood

By Max Stout

Latex paint is made from a water-soluble, rubber base mixed with acrylic resin. The name “latex” is somewhat misleading because latex paint does not contain latex at all. The term actually refers to the man-made rubber that is mixed into the paint. Latex paint is often used because it works well on both interior and exterior surfaces, and is relatively easy to clean up. The most effective agent for cleaning latex paint off wood surfaces is alcohol.

List of Items Needed

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Soft cloths
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic wrap
  • Oscillating tool with wood sand paper accessories
  1. Test a section of the painted wood by applying isopropyl alcohol to the latex paint in a 4- to 5-inch area with a soft cloth. Wear rubber gloves when applying alcohol.

  2. Cover the test patch with plastic wrap. Because alcohol evaporates quickly, the plastic wrap helps keep the test surface of the wood moist. Let the wrap remain on the wood for 30 minutes.

  3. Remove the plastic wrapping from the test area.

  4. Wipe as much of the latex paint from the surface of the wood using a soft cloth. Use an oscillating tool fitted with wood sand paper accessories to remove any remaining paint. Take the paint off with 60-grit sand paper, and then smooth the wood with 240-grit sand paper.

  5. Wash the wood surface with water and dry thoroughly.

Tips and Warnings

  • If all the latex is not removed after 30 minutes, try a new test patch leaving the alcohol covered for a longer period of time.
  • If isopropyl alcohol contacts the skin, flush the affected area with plenty of water. Follow by washing with soap and water.
  • Isopropyl alcohol should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area in a tightly sealed container.
  • Wear safety goggles and a respirator whenever you use a power sander to remove paint.

© Demand Media 2011