How to Remove Paint From Hardwood Floors Easily

If you’ve recently painted a room with hardwood floors, you may have been surprised to find paint splatter stuck on your beautiful floor. Or maybe you have moved into a house with a worn-out layer of paint on the floors.

Either way, this guide will show you the steps you need to get the unattractive paint off of your hardwood floors and restore their natural beauty. It’s important to follow the steps to determine the type of paint so you can choose the right method to remove it.

As you work, be careful not to harm the floor. Avoid drenching the floor with too much water or other liquid, which can warp hardwood planks. Always dry a wet floor promptly.

Preparing the Floor

The first step to any floor maintenance is a proper cleaning. Sweep with a soft-bristled broom and make sure to reach all of the corners. You may also want to use a damp mop to clean off any stuck residue from the floor.

Cleaning first will make it easy to see the paint spots you are treating and make the treatment more effective by removing dust and grit.

Use a Paint Removal Pad to Clean up Wet Paint Before it Dries

If you are painting a room with hardwood floors, the best thing you can do is be prepared for drips and spills. Protective sheets and a good painting technique are the best way to prevent any paint spots from happening in the first place. However, you may not be the one painting and accidents can always happen.

In case of spills, it is much easier to clean up paint while it is wet by using a paint removal pad

These cleansing wipes will absorb the paint and its residue before they get the chance to dry. Preparation is key — stock up on cleansing wipes at the same time you buy supplies for painting the room.

With the proper materials on hand, you will be able to prevent wet paint spills from drying up and becoming difficult to remove. The preparation is worth it to save yourself a headache later on.

Scraping Paint With a Plastic Putty Knife

If you are trying to remove dried paint splatter from your hardwood floor, popping the paint off with a putty knife is the easiest solution.

You can use a metal putty knife for the job, but you run the risk of scratching the hardwood with the sharp corners of the knife. It’s best to opt for a stiff plastic putty knife ($5 for a set of 3 on Amazon). If you are in a hurry and don’t have the tool on hand, you can use another sturdy plastic edge like an unwanted credit card or even a CD.

Hold the knife firmly at a low angle and scrape the paint spots. Usually, they will pop right off the floor. Sometimes it takes more work to scratch the paint away. Try from all angles and with different amounts of pressure.

Finish up by rubbing with a damp rag to remove more paint.

If this method leaves some or all of the paint splatter behind, you will need to try using chemicals to remove it.

Scraping Paint Splatter With Other Tools

If you have a steady hand and a lot of confidence, you can go ahead and try using a sharper tool, like a metal putty knife or even a sharp chisel. The sharp metal edge should be more effective than plastic.

This may be a good idea if you have older hardwood floors that already have scratches in them. A few more small scratches will probably be less noticeable than paint spots. If you have new, finished hardwood floors, we don’t recommend risking scratches with metal tools.

Another possible option is to use a piece of wood with a stiff corner to scrape up the paint. A paint mixing stick or a wooden ruler are good examples. This can allow you to apply a lot of pressure to the spot without scratching the floor. You can put a thin rag over the end to be safe or to combine scraping with one of the chemical cleaning methods in this post.

How to Determine the Type of Paint

If you still have the paint cans, read the label to see whether it’s oil- or water-based (latex or acrylic). If you don’t have that information available, you will need to perform some simple tests to find out what type of paint caused the stain. 

To test the paint, take a cotton ball with a little bit of rubbing alcohol on it (you can also use an alcohol cleansing pad) and rub it on the paint spot. Look closely to see if any residue comes off the wall and stains the cotton.

If the paint leaves residue on the cotton ball, it is water-based. Oil-based paint will leave no residue.

This test is important because different paints require different methods to clean up. Using the wrong method will not only be ineffective, but it may damage your hardwood floor.

Once you know the type of paint, continue to the corresponding step in this guide.

How to Remove Water-Based Paint From a Hardwood Floor

There are two basic types of water-based paint: latex and acrylic. In general, latex paints are going to be a little easier to remove than acrylic. In the following sections, you will find several methods for removing various types of water-based paint.

Removing Water-Based Paints With Soap and Water

After scraping away as much as you can with a plastic putty knife, the next solution for water-based paints is gentle soap and water.

Mix mild dish soap with some warm water and scrub with a damp rag. Don’t saturate the floor too much — a lot of water can damage the hardwood. Use just enough to dampen the paint and focus on scrubbing the spot away.

The soap will loosen up the chemical bonds in the paint and make it easier to scrape up. If needed, use the putty knife again on the softened paint. Finish by wiping up all the soap, water, and paint with a dry rag.

How to Remove Water-Based Paints With Alcohol

If soap and water aren’t strong enough to loosen the paint stain, you may be working with durable acrylic paint. Try using alcohol, a harsher chemical.

For best results with this method, use denatured alcohol. If you can’t find denatured alcohol, you can mix 3 parts isopropyl rubbing alcohol with 1 part lemon juice. In a real pinch, you can use an alcohol cleansing pad.

Dip a corner of a rag in the alcohol and press it onto the dried paint splatter. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Then actively rub a little more alcohol on the spots. The alcohol will soften and dissolve some of the paint enough that you can scrape it up.

Use a rag wet with water to take off the last of the residue and dry the floor to finish.

How to Remove Oil-Based Paint from a Hardwood Floor

You probably know that any type of oil is generally hard to clean up. Oil-based paints are no exception. If you know your paint spots are oil-based from reading the can or if the above methods did not work to remove the stains, you may need to move on to the strongest methods specifically for oil-based paints.

Work carefully, because these stronger methods for paint removal can hurt your floor if done improperly.

Use Denatured Alcohol to Remove Oil-Based Paint

Soap and water probably won’t work on tricky oil-based paints. You should have better luck with some denatured alcohol and a rag.

Follow the same directions from the water-based paint section above. Dampen a rag with the denatured alcohol, let it sit on the paint for a few minutes, then try scraping up the softened paint. Don’t use too much alcohol and make sure to wipe it up right away to protect the hardwood finish.

Use a Hair Dryer to Remove Oil-Based Paint Spots

Technically, using a hairdryer or a heat gun that is designed for flooring can work on both water-based and oil-based paints. If you have a tricky acrylic paint that you can’t wash off, you can try heat next. In any case, it should work for oil-based paints.

Simply turn the hairdryer or heat gun on and hold it a few inches away from the paint spot while you scrape away with a plastic putty knife. The heat should soften it up and allow you to remove it.

This method should only require a few seconds of heat, especially with a heat gun. Check constantly to see if the paint is soft enough to scrape so you do not apply any more heat than you need to. Heat can warp or otherwise damage hardwood, especially premium hardwoods with a nice finish.

Once you get the paint up, just use a damp rag and a dry rag to finish the spot.

Removing Dried Oil-Based Paint with Paint Thinner

Paint thinner may be your only option for getting a tricky, oily paint stain off your floors. You need to be very careful using paint thinner because it can eat away at the finish on your hardwood floor, but also because it can be dangerous to breathe.

Ventilate the room well before using paint thinner. Open windows and doors and use a fan if you have one. This is even more important if you are cleaning a large spill. Don’t smoke or burn candles either, because the fumes are flammable.

Never dump paint thinner out onto the floor. Just dip a small bit of rag into the paint thinner and use it to rub the paint splatter until it disappears.

Again, don’t overdo it on the paint thinner. This is a serious chemical that could harm you or your floor. Use the bare minimum amount of liquid and pressure necessary to remove the dried paint with it.

How to Use Paint Remover on Dried Paint

If these household solutions for removing dried paint just don’t work for you, you might want to buy a product made especially for the job. Goof Off makes a paint remover that you can simply pour on top of the stain and then wipe off.

Products like this won’t harm the floor. Even better, they will work on both water and oil-based paints. Just make sure to follow the directions carefully for the best results.

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