How to Remove Paint from Wood Trim


Carrie asked: How do I remove paint from wood trim? We recently bought a 100-year old home that has all the original woodwork. It is still finished nice, but when the previous owner had repainted the walls, they dripped paint on most of the wood trim. Is there a way to remove the paint without having to remove the wood and refinish it?

The technique for removing dry paint spills from wood trim will depend on whether the paint is oil-based or latex. These steps will walk you through both methods.

You Will Need:

Steps to Remove the Stain:

  1. If the paint is latex, all you need to do to remove it is rub it with a rag and denatured alcohol. Old or thick paint may require some effort, but the denatured alcohol works well without damaging the wood underneath.
  2. If denatured alcohol doesn’t work, you probably have oil-based paint. Sand it lightly with fine grit sandpaper, taking care not to “dig in” to the trim by oversanding. Stop when the bulk of the paint is gone, even if some color remains.
  3. Next, wipe the colored spots with a rag and mineral spirits. Don’t overwet the wood, as the mineral spirits can damage the wood if it soaks in.
  4. Finally, wipe any areas which were touched by mineral spirits with a clean damp cloth. Do NOT leave the trim wet. Dry it with a soft cloth if necessary.
  5. If any of the trim is discolored, touch it up with a wood finish repair pen or apply a stain to match.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Although many latex paint spills can be cleaned with soap and water, the denatured alcohol will provide better, faster results with aged paint.


  1. Great; I will try this on an old school we are restoring.

  2. Thank you for the three ideas that I can try to remove the paint off of beautiful wood in this 65-year-old home I am living in. The input is very helpful.
    Thank you,

  3. What is denatured?

  4. Heather,
    Denatured alcohol is basically ethanol that has some other additives, in it as well. Another common name for denatured alcohol is “methyolated spirits.”
    Source: Wikipedia – Denatured alcohol
    Source: eHow – Denatured Alcohol Vs. Isopropyl Alcohol

  5. What is the difference between methylated spirits and mineral spirits?

  6. Ed,
    Methyolated spirits refers to ethanol that contains other additives, typically methanol. Mineral spirits refer to turpentine that is made from petroleum (whereas regular turpentine is made from trees).
    Source: Wikipedia – Denatured alcohol
    Source: Wikipedia – White spirit
    Source: Wikipedia – Turpentine

  7. Our house is 100 years old and the woodwork has been painted a number of times over the years. I am wanting to strip the paint off with a heat gun. My question is could any of this paint contain asbestos? Should I be wearing a mask?

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