How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

How to Strip…Paint Off a Door

How to Strip Paint off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Have you ever had to strip… paint off a door? (You must leave a dramatic pause after strip for the full effect! LOL. If you haven’t had to strip…paint off a door, consider yourself lucky. If you need to strip… paint, I have some tips and a tutorial for you!

How to Strip Paint off a Door

Here’s the back story: My home’s doors have been purple for over 7 years. I was over the dark and wanted some vibrancy. It was supposed to be a simple project. Just paint the front doors a beautiful green (Benjamin Moore Perennial Green.) I had tested the color on my custom house mailbox. That was TWO YEARS ago! (Life’s been a little busy, okay. Forgive me, I’ve been wrapped up in a major kitchen renovation.) All I had to do was get the paint mixed and get painting. Instead, I was caught in the middle of the DIY project from HELL!

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

I had five doors to paint (front two doors, one side door and two wooden storm doors.) But, this DIY project was doomed from the start. My friend Holly was sweet enough to offer to help me paint. The week we were supposed to start on the doors her son came down with scarlet fever. A few days later as I was getting ready to paint them myself, MY SON got scarlet fever.

I finally got around to sanding and priming the front door. I was elated as I finally began to brush the paint onto the doors. Ahhhh. Beautiful green. I finished the first coat on the front doors. Then proceeded to the side door. When I went back to give the front doors a second coat…a problem exposed itself. Nooooooo!

The paint was NOT sticking properly. A light scratch revealed the purple paint beneath. Ugh! What?! Nooooooooooo.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

The paint was easily scraping off the front doors. I was miffed. I had done all the right things. I checked to make sure it was latex paint. I had sanded AND primed. And yet the paint refused to stick to the front door. My favorite paint guy and I could only deduce that perhaps at one time a previous homeowner used a chemical cleaner that was resisting the paint.

My only course of action was to strip… the paint off down to the bare wood and start over. I was crushed, I wanted to cry. Instead, I just got to work stripping. Here’s the best way to strip… a door if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing to strip… paint.


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How to Strip a Painted Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Safety precautions:

  • It is imperative that you wear chemical resistant rubber gloves and eye protection while stripping paint. The chemicals (even the less toxic CitriStrip can be harmful to your skin or eyes.)
  • Work in a well ventilated area, or you may choose to wear a respirator (especially when using the mineral spirits.)
  • When working with power tools, like a power sander, wear adequate hearing protection. Continued exposure to loud noises even if they don’t seem loud at the time can damage your hearing.
  • Always check your paint ahead of time for the presence of lead paint. If you have lead paint, wear your respirator and do not sand the paint. Strip it off and clean up ALL the paint chips and debris. Seal it in a plastic bag and dispose of it in the trash.

Lead check Instant Lead Test | Pretty Handy Girl

  • Stripping paint is a DIY project that requires you to keep children away, especially if there is lead paint.

Instructions for Stripping Paint:

Here is a fairly thorough video showing you the process of stripping a door from start to finish:

Or you can read the step-by-step pictorial version here:

Begin by brushing CitriStrip onto your door. Cover all the paint with the stripper. Try not to brush over the stripper once you have applied it onto the door.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Let the stripper sit for 15 minutes. (<—I’m trying so hard not to be corny and comment about that sentence.)

After 15 minutes (or if you see the paint bubbling), start scraping off the paint.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Rotate your 5-in-1 Painter’s tool to see which edge works best at scraping along the different profiles.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Needless to say, you will need to repeat applying stripper and scraping until you get down to the bare wood. Have patience, this process may take a while. (You can show me some sympathy as it took me three days to strip both doors. Granted, our doors had at least 5 coats of paint on them. So, there was lots of re-applying the stripper and waiting.)

Once you’ve removed the majority of the paint, use steel wool and/or the small wire brush dipped in mineral spirits to clean off more of the paint.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Using a simple putty knife can help pry out any leftover gunk out of the corners and crevices.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Once you’ve removed all the paint that is humanly possible to remove, wipe the door with a damp rag and allow it to dry thoroughly.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Repairing the door:

After the door has dried, assess your door for cracks or gouges. Now is the time to patch any imperfections.

Be sure to use a stainable wood putty if you will be staining your door. I use the same wood filler regardless of whether I’m staining or painting.

For cracks in the door, scrape or sand off any rough or raised edges. Spread the wood filler and allow it to dry. Hand sand small spots or leave them and sand it while sanding your door.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Sand the doors. Start with a 150 grit sandpaper. On the second sanding, switch to 220 grit, a finer grit sandpaper.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Use a Dremel Multi-Max with the triangular sanding head to get into all the corners and grooves.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

After the sanding is done, use a vacuum cleaner to suck up most of the sawdust. Use the can of compressed air to blow additional sawdust out of the corners and crevices.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Follow up with a damp rag to wipe any additional sawdust off the door.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

This is where I spent 45 seconds enjoying the beautiful fruits of my labor.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Faster than you could say strip…paint off a door, the moment was gone and I had popped open the can of primer and started over again. (So depressing.) I wish I could have left the doors wood, but they aren’t in great shape and our side door was already painted a pretty vibrant green at this point.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

After the primer dried, I gave each door two coats of Benjamin Moore Perennial Green.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Yup, it only took two years and three days of stripping, but I finally have beautiful and colorful doors. The green is so pretty with my newly freshened up front flower beds. (More on that process another day.)

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

What is the worst DIY project you’ve ever been involved in? I’d love to hear about your DIY Hell! It might make me feel better at this point because I’m depressed that I spent an entire week painting my doors.

How to Strip Paint off a Door

How to Strip Paint off a Door

Disclosure: I am proud to be a 3M- sponsored blogger, and, as part of my responsibilities, I get the opportunity to evaluate new products from 3M DIY. Opinions are my own and additional product used in the project were selected by me.

For more great DIY tips visit 3M:
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How to Strip Paint off a Door

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  1. Tex Hooper
    Tex Hooper says:

    I like what you said about putting the right amount of primer for your door. My door has been fading for a while now. I’ll have to consider getting a new door with new paint.

  2. Verbena
    Verbena says:

    I was always told that as long as the lead paint stays wet, and you are not sanding it, it’s safe. Is that not the case anymore?

  3. Jeanne
    Jeanne says:

    Oh, that is a beautiful color! I would’ve been hardpressed to paint it once I seen it down to bare wood too!
    My project from hell is tackling a double window and door frame in my dining room. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad had I read your post first. My first mistake was thinking the stripper would be enough just with one application. Knowing ahead what to expect is far less spirit dampening than seeing the less than desirable results of a product that is doing the job but less than what you initially thought it should. My spirits are now renewed and there just may be a light out of this diy hell I created. Thank you for sharing!

  4. shanna stowe
    shanna stowe says:

    I’m about to tackle a door, but I have stripped a very old table (dated 1875 underneath). latex white, then under than was some sort of shellacy beige that the stripper only softened somewhat, then under that was blue paint that just instantly turned liquid with the stripper. Needless to say this was a long job. I’m very proud of the result, but whew. I appreciate your pictures of the tools you used to get to the details and little spots without damaging the wood. My experience is that softer woods like pine are easily damaged sharp tools after being treated with stripper. I never quite knew what to do with the mineral spirits. Thanks for a great demo.

  5. Jody Serritella
    Jody Serritella says:

    Hi Brittany, I found your website as I am tackling my front doors that had 5 layers of paint. I’m on my 5th day of removing paint! Yes😔5 days! We had some rain so I had to let the doors dry out. My question is did you get a lot of moisture remaining when you put the citrstrip on? I used plastic scrapers and as I scraped and got to bare wood it would be moist and then some of the wood get scraped and make rough edges. I am hoping that when I sand these areas where the wood was rough ( mostly around detailed panels of the door) will be sanded down smooth. I have about 90% of the paint off, if I start sanding and the small remaining areas of paint are smooth will my paint go on ok? I don’t want to use the citrastrip anymore for fear of wood getting too wet again. I am painting my doors black semi gloss and have a primer to use first that has a grey tint. Any advise you can give me is greatly appreciated! Thanks again! Jody

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      The doors definitely will get some moisture from the citristrip. But, using the mineral spirits seemed to dry it enough for me to sand and prime the next day. I would definitely recommend making sure the door is dry to the touch before priming. Especially if you’ve had rain in the forecast.

      • Jody serritella
        Jody serritella says:

        Thanks so much Brittany! I will try the mineral spirits. I worked on the doors today (again!) and am maybe 95% done with removing all the paint. Hopefully tomorrow I will be done removing all the paint and soon be able to paint the new color! Yippee!

  6. Bernadette
    Bernadette says:

    Hey Brittany, great post. I am about to venture into a stripping job :))
    Question – did you leave the doors hanging as you worked on them? That would make life so much easier for me, as I will be working on a shed door and don’t really want to remove it.

    Thanks for the tips,


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] admit it, I’m crushing on green doors lately. If you know me well, you know that I painstakingly stripped my front doors a few years ago and repainted them bright green. Now I’ve been thinking more and more about front door colors for Saving Etta. I hope […]

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