How to Remove Latex Paint Without Removing the Varnish From Wood

Jenny Harrington

Removing latex paint without removing the varnish from wood furniture and baseboards can be done with isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol itself does not damage the varnish.

If the paint is still wet, it can often be wiped off with a damp towel, but the longer the paint has been on the varnished wood the more likely it is to lit off the varnish. The trick is to be gentle and take your time when removing the latex paint and to also understand that some damage may still occur to the varnish.


Keep the wood in your home waxed. This protects the varnish and aids in removing latex and other spills.


Work in a well ventilated area. Test removal on a hidden area of the wood first.

  1. Apply the isopropyl alcohol to the latex paint. If removing paint from a large area only apply the alcohol to a 3 inch square area at one time.

  2. Cover the area with plastic cling wrap. Alcohol evaporates very quickly so you must cover it to keep it moist so it can do its work loosening the latex paint. Allow the alcohol to sit on the paint for 30 minutes.

  3. Lift the plastic wrap off the area and set aside. Rub the latex paint with the towel to remove it. If the towel does not remove the paint, gently use the scraper to peel it from the wood surface.

  4. Wash the area with water to remove the last of the alcohol and paint. Dry completely to keep the varnish from warping.