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How to Remove Oil-Based Paint From Wood Doors

Meg Butler

The best way to remove oil-based paint from an old door is with a chemical paint stripper. Sanding, a commonly used option, can actually wear away layers of the door. If the door is old and has been frequently refinished, it might have been sanded many times. This repeated abrasion of the surface wears away details on the wood that might detract from its value. And chemical strippers are much easier on the arms than sanding. They go on like paint and dissolve the existing paint -- and anything else -- on the surface of the wood so that it can easily be scraped away.

Make sure the door is closed before you take it off of its hinges.
  1. Close the door and take it off of its hinges. Most doors are affixed to the frame with two or three hinges. Start with the bottom hinge. Use the butt of your screwdriver to tap the hinge pin up and out of the hinge. Repeat with the middle and finally the third hinge. Place the hinges in a labeled plastic bag to prevent loosing track of them.

  2. Lay the door on a tarp or section of plastic sheeting.

  3. Remove all hardware from the door. Most doorknobs, hinges, peepholes and knockers can be removed by the screws that affix them to the door. Place each piece of hardware and its respective screws in their own, labeled individual bags to prevent losing track of them.

  4. Put on your rubber gloves.

  5. Pour a small amount of the chemical stripper into your jar. Dip your brush in this container, not the main can.

  6. Paint the chemical stripper onto one face and the edges of the door according to the manufacturer's instructions.

  7. Leave the chemical stripper in place for the manufacturer-recommended amount of time. The paint will begin to bubble and loosen.

  8. Scrape the loosened paint off of the door with a plastic paint scraper. Deposit the removed paint in the trashcan.

  9. Fill your second glass jar with a few inches of a solution that is equal parts shellac thinner and lacquer thinner. Submerge the steel wool in the solution to saturate it. Then use it to scrub away any residual paint and thinner. After you scrub one small area, wipe it up with a dry rag so you can see the progress that you are making.

  10. Wipe down the door with a rag moistened with water or another neutralizing agent recommended by the stripper's manufacturer.

  11. Flip the door over and repeat Steps 4 through 8 with the other side of the door.