How to Remove Permanent Paint

It may seem permanent, but with the right tools and techniques, paint can be removed from most substrates, including concrete, wood and drywall.

Wood, Metal, Concrete and Masonry -- Heat Method

Scrape away any loose bits first.Scrape away any loose bits first.
Whether you want to expose an original material or simply apply a new coat of paint, work and a bit of elbow grease will allow you to properly prepare a surface for a new look. The process for removing paint differs, depending on the surface.

Use a paint scraper to remove any loose or peeling areas of paint.

Hover a heat gun or heat tube above the painted surface to soften the paint. Working in one small area at a time, soften the paint to the point where it starts to peel then use a paint scraper to remove the paint. Be careful to not scratch or gouge the substrate. Use steel wool to get into any narrow areas.

Sand any residual paint that did not peel away. Rough-sand with 80-grit sandpaper then finish-sand with 120-grit sandpaper. A sanding block can be used for small projects or an orbital or dual-action sander can be used for large projects.

Wood, Metal, Concrete and Masonry -- Chemical Method

Use a paint scraper to remove any loose or peeling areas of paint.

Purchase a type of chemical paint stripper that is intended for the surface that is painted. Non-caustic strippers are available.

Paint a thick coat of stripper onto the paint and let it sit as it melts the paint. Follow the wait time indicated in the manufacturer's instructions. Remove the loosened paint with a paint scraper. Use steel wool to get into narrow spaces.

Rinse the remaining stripper thoroughly with water and allow the surface to dry.

Sand any residual paint that did not peel away.

Drywall -- Sanding Method

Use a paint scraper to remove any loose or peeling areas of paint.

Remove any switch and outlet covers, sconces or other fixtures that are attached to the wall.

Remove or cover the furniture from the room and open the windows to ventilate the space. There is going to be a large amount of dust.

Sand the walls with an orbital sander and 60 to 80-grit sand paper. Use firm pressure, using back-and-forth and circular motions. Gradually layers of paint will be removed. It is not necessary to remove all the paint for repainting drywall and you may damage the drywall with sander if you go to deep.

Things You Will Need

  • Paint scraper
  • Heat gun or tube
  • Steel wool
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block or electric sander
  • Dust mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Respirator
  • Paint stripper
  • Paintbrush
  • Latex gloves
  • Screwdriver
  • Orbital or hand sander
  • 60 to 80-grit sandpaper discs


  • There are also professional companies that can sandblast painted surfaces like concrete and metal for effective, quick removal of the paint.


  • Always wear proper protective wear. Wear a dust mask and safety glasses when sanding. Wear latex gloves and a respirator when working with chemical stripper. A respirator should also be worn when heating paint.
  • Test any paint that is older than 1978 for lead. Lead test kits are available at hardware store. If the paint tests positive, consult a professional for removal. Stripping is generally the best option, as it does not release lead into the air.

About the Author

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.