How to Remove Peeling Lead Paint

Robert Russell

Loose and peeling paint needs to be scraped off before the area can be repainted. If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance the paint is lead-based. Lead paint is very dangerous and has the potential of causing severe neurological and organ damage.

It is essential to follow proper safety procedures if you are working with lead paint. Removing lead paint that is peeling and flaking is a two-step procedure. The first step is the scrape off all the loose and peeling paint. Once this is done, the second step is to remove the remaining lead paint with a chemical stripper.

Removing the Peeling Paint

  1. Protect and prepare the work area. Scraping off loose and peeling lead paint generates dust that is unhealthy for people and plants. If the scraping project is outdoors, protect plants, vegetables and fruit with plastic tarps. If you are working indoors, open windows and set up fans for proper ventilation. Remove all the furniture from the room and cover the floors with plastic tarps. Seal off the room from other rooms in the house. Turn off the home ventilation system and cover all the vents in the room.

  2. Wear old work clothes that can be thrown out after the scraping is complete. It is also important to wear eye protection, gloves, a hat and a respirator designed for lead paint. Dispose of the clothes once you have finished scraping.

  3. Remove the peeling paint with a paint scraper or putty knife. Scrape one section of the peeling paint at a time. Start at the top of the wall and work your way toward the floor. Concentrate on the paint that is flaking and peeling.

  4. Thoroughly clean the area after the peeling paint has been removed. Fold the tarps, keeping all the paint flakes and chips in the center. Put the tarps in large plastic garbage bags and dispose of them. Clean and vacuum the room if you were working indoors.

Stripping Off the Paint

  1. Purchase a chemical paint stripper for your house. Lead paint cannot be safely removed through sanding because the dust particles are so dangerous. This means that some type of chemical stripper is necessary. Chemical paint strippers come in different forms. Some are like a paste that is brushed on with a paintbrush. Others come in strips that adhere to the walls or siding. Some chemical strippers are more environmentally friendly than others. Chemical strippers are available at home-improvement and paint stores.

  2. Follow the safety procedures in Step 1 and Step 2 from the first section.

  3. Apply the chemical stripper to the paint. Read the instructions for the chemical stripper you are using. Some strippers work within a few minutes, others take a few hours, and others require allowing the stripper to sit overnight. Apply the stripper and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

  4. Remove the lead paint with a 3- to 4-inch putty knife or a paint scraper. Start at the top and scrape downward, pushing the paint toward the floor or ground and onto the tarps. Scrub off the stubborn bits of lead paint with steel wool or an abrasive pad. Apply more chemical stripper if necessary.

  5. Carefully fold the tarps up, keeping all the stripped-off paint in the center of the tarps. Properly dispose of the tarps and work clothes. Clean the walls with soap and water to remove the chemical residue. The walls are now ready to be primed and paint with a non-lead-based paint.