If you’re looking for the easiest way to remove paint, whether it be from wooden furniture, walls, metal, or masonry, you can’t look past paint stripper. There are plenty of chemical paint stripper products on the market, but not all are created equal. The best paint remover will quickly and easily break down the old paint, varnish, or coatings on the surface you’re treating, so they can easily be wiped or scraped off.
While traditional paint thinners often contained toxic chemicals like the methylene chloride, you can now find a paint stripper made of solvents with low acute toxicity. Ideally, the best paint stripper should also be water-based, odor-free, non-caustic, and biodegradable. And though the best paint stripper for wood, walls, or any other surface should be as non-toxic as possible, you still need to practice safe handling. Only use paint remover products in a well-ventilated space and wear the correct safety equipment.
We’ve rounded up the top five best paint stripper products to help you get the job done safely, easily, and successfully.
The best paint stripper
To determine this list, we examined several of the most popular paint remover products on the market, looking closely at factors like chemical harshness, eco-friendliness, cost, functionality, and customer reviews. We focused on safe-to-use products without harmful ingredients that were still highly effective on multiple coatings and surfaces.
- Avoid products containing the harmful chemical methylene chloride
- Only use paint stripper in an extremely well-ventilated space, such as outdoors
- Always wear proper protective equipment when using paint strippers: thick gloves, goggles, mask, and protective clothing that covers your arms and legs.
- Protect your surrounding environment, as even non-toxic paint strippers may affect your backyard’s flora. Cover surrounding grass and plants with lightweight plastic, if possible.
Citri-Strip Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel: Best overall
At the top is Citri-Strip’s Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel, which proves you don’t need a paint stripper containing harsh chemicals to get the job done. While reviewers enjoy the non-offensive citrus scent, it’s the product’s ability to stay wet and active for 24 hours that sets it apart from competitors. You can strip several layers of latex and oil-based paint, varnish, lacquer, shellac, and more from wood, metal, and masonry surfaces — all with one application. Many users see results in as few as 30 minutes.
Citri-Strip is also biodegradable (a huge plus for the environment) and non-corrosive, so it won’t damage the surface underneath the layers of paint. It comes in an easy-to-apply gel form and will set you back less than $13 for one quart.
Dumond Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover: Most eco-friendly
While our first pick checked several environmentally friendly boxes, Dumond’s Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover takes eco-friendly to a whole new level. It’s formulated without caustic or harsh chemicals, contains zero Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), is 100% biodegradable, water-based, and odor-free. While this might have some customers worrying it isn’t as effective as other paint remover products on the market, this isn’t true. Smart Strip removes up to 15 coats of “virtually any coating from any surface” including the dreaded lead-based paint.
While customers sing its praises for its odor-free effectiveness, many concede it’s a pricier paint stripper for walls, wood, furniture, etc. than others, and is perhaps best for stripping smaller surfaces.
Sunnyside 2-Minute Advanced Paint Remover: Fastest working
Sunnyside’s 2-Minute Advanced Paint Remover is designed to remove multiple layers of finish in just one application and strips up to 25 square feet per gallon. If you’re looking for the quickest and best paint remover for wood, this product will strip it of oil-based finishes such as latex, varnish, and acrylic within a mere two minutes.
Reviewers find this product easier to apply and less messy than others. Pslu, its new, safer formula is methylene chloride-free. Keep in mind that other layers (such as epoxy, floor finishes, and polyurethane) can take longer to wear down — around five minutes. But if you follow the product’s instructions, you can’t go wrong.
MAX Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper: Most family-friendly
With a skin-safe formula for easy home and professional use, no toxic chemicals such as methylene chloride or N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP), and no harsh fumes, the MAX Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper has our seal of approval as both one of the best paint strippers, and one you can feel good about using around your family. The product claims that due to its pleasant (and non-toxic) fragrance, this paint remover can be used indoors without any special ventilation. But as with all paint stripping products, it can’t hurt to be cautious.
This powerful, no-drip gel formula cleans up easily with water, and customers praise how stress-free it is to work with. MAX gently strips paint, latex, polyurethane, shellac, varnish, and more — but the manufacturer advises caution when working with plastic surfaces, as it may etch them.
Dumond Peel Away 1 Heavy-Duty Paint Remover: Most heavy duty
If you’ve got a big job that needs heavy-duty paint stripper capable of removing up to 32 layers of water- or oil-based paint – including lead-based paint – from multiple surfaces, then Dumond’s Peel Away Paint Remover is the solution. This kit includes a paste remover, application tool, laminated paper, and neutralizer, offering an all-in-one solution for tough paint removal jobs. The best part? Dumond may be heavy-duty, but it’s still environmentally safe, biodegradable, non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, non-flammable, and contains zero VOCs. Bonus: no methylene chloride, cementing its spot on our list of the best paint strippers.
Customers say they have seen results within seconds for smaller spaces, but following the instructions is key, as this product isn’t recommended for many types of coatings (as stated on its label).
The bottom line
Stripping paint used to be a hard and hazardous task, as older paint removers contained harmful chemicals and toxic fumes. Thankfully, there are now numerous paint remover products that are effective and easy to use and contain safer ingredients that are non-toxic, biodegradable, and sometimes odorless. Our overall best paint stripper product is Citri-Strip Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel, as it ticks all of the boxes of eco-friendliness, ease of use, affordability, and effectiveness.
Other frequently asked questions
Does paint stripper expire?
There is little to no evidence that paint stripper expires over time. But it’s best to keep your paint stripper sealed and airtight when not in use to stay effective for as long as possible.
How do I dispose of paint stripper?
Never pour paint stripper down the sink or into the soil to dispose of it. The safest method is to dispose of it in a household hazardous waste collection program, but bear in mind that rules may vary by state or country.
Will paint stripper ruin my clothes?
Paint stripper lifts and removes any paint or varnish it comes into contact with, but there is no evidence it can discolor or affect the appearance of your clothes. That said, better safe than sorry: Don’t wear precious items and do wear proper protective clothing when working with paint remover products.