How to Strip…Paint Off a Door
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!
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!
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.
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.
(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)
- ForceFlex™ MAX Safety Goggles
- 3M™ Worktunes™ Hearing protector
- Chemical resistant gloves
- 3M™ LeadCheck™ Swabs
- 3M Advanced Abrasives with NO-SLIP GRIP™ Backing (150 grit & 220 grit)
- Dremel Multi-Max™ and/or Power sander
- 5-in-1 Painter’s tool
- Citristrip® Stripping Gel
- Klean Strip® Mineral spirits
- Steel wood
- Metal bristled brush
- Putty knife
- 3M™ Wood Filler
- Wet rags
- Compressed can of air
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Rotate your 5-in-1 Painter’s tool to see which edge works best at scraping along the different profiles.
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.
Using a simple putty knife can help pry out any leftover gunk out of the corners and crevices.
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.
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.
Sand the doors. Start with a 150 grit sandpaper. On the second sanding, switch to 220 grit, a finer grit sandpaper.
Use a Dremel Multi-Max with the triangular sanding head to get into all the corners and grooves.
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.
Follow up with a damp rag to wipe any additional sawdust off the door.
This is where I spent 45 seconds enjoying the beautiful fruits of my labor.
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.
After the primer dried, I gave each door two coats of Benjamin Moore Perennial Green.
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.)
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.
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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Hey Brittany! Glad I found this while searching for how I go about stripping the red paint off of my front door and restore it to it’s natural wood beauty. This perfectly describes what to do!
Question for you though- I see that you left your doors on the hinges for this. Is it a personal preference to do so instead of removing the door (obviously that’s a step worth skipping)? Were there any drawbacks to leaving it hung?
Marne, yes, our front doors are extremely heavy. They are solid wood and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get them back on myself. Painting them off the hinges is easier, but not enough to warrant me struggling with them ;-).
Hey Brittany – I so feel your pain. We just bought a house which the day before closing found that all the trim (interior and exterior) doors included had latex over oil paint. The money given to us by the seller nowhere near covered what it has cost us to scrape, and in some cases replace trim work. I then tried to go the non smelly route and use kilz latex primer over the oil since it says that it can be used over oil…but not this oil. I had painted two exterior doors and noticed that the paint was peeling again…I just finished scraping the front door again this weekend, and used an oil based primer this time. I feel like this has been the year I lost myself in an abyss of latex over oil paint. I don’t think I will ever be able to walk into a house and not run my fingernails over the trim to see if it will peel off. I am scarred for life. Your green doors are beautiful though – well worth the time and effort!
I have a desk that is going to need stripping to refinish. I am scared now! I love how your doors turned out. Just a gorgeous colour with your garden. I have an orange front door so bright colours don’t scare me!
I love the purple AND green doors 🙂 Thanks for all the great pics and videos – this is super helpful!
What a great post! Thanks for the tips!
Love reading your blog! Those doors are beautiful. I am going to change my front door soon, from a drab dark green to a purplish violet. Now I am very inspired!
I am a pretty handy woman with lots of goofs under my tool belt. Lots of proud moments too, there’s always one to go with the other it seems…
Recently I had to strip a couple of original hall closet doors, and even though they are mostly a flat surface, it was latex over oil based paint, so it was difficult and messy with the citristrip. I ended up using a heat gun which worked fast and clean. I’m not sure if it matters if you have lead in your paint when you use a heat gun.
Thanks for sharing your gorgeous projects and getting me motivated.
YES! I love stripping puns! Ugh… I’m not gonna lie, I loved those naked doors of yours when you were done stripping (and even the middle grungy stage) but they look pretty fancy in green too! At least you know you can’t go wrong with those doors in the future! However I venture to guess you will NEVER strip them again… haha!
Oh my GAWD!!! When I started reading this, I ran out of my office with my hair standing up on end screaming like a crazy banshee. Well almost I did. My goodness gracious are you a women of patience or what!?! This looks like the project from HELL. & I applaud you with the end result. It’s just stunningly beautiful & oh so vibrant!
I didn’t go through anything like you did but not too many years ago, I bought this house with more work in it that I care to talk about. My front door had been stained, rained on, blistered, beaten, bitten & gouged by the family dog in addition to who knows what else by the former owners. I sanded & patched that forever, painted & it turned out awesome.
Oh I don’t know if I dare to tell you one of my worst. OK, same house, my daughter & armed with sheet rock knives, donned with gloves & masks, cut up the urinated & feces stained carpet & padding through this entire house, dragging it out to the commercial dumpster. Then I had to prime every single area of this 5K sq ft house (that didn’t have hardwood) with an oil based primer to kill all the bacteria. This was a foreclosure that I bought (literally stole) in a high end beautiful neighborhood to boot! The entire house was drop dead gorgeous when I was done with it. Lived there for 7 years. I’ve written too much already but I do have more stories about this one! YES, I sold it for a huge profit but I earned every penny.
I can’t believe you wrote this –I have to strip my front door. It is bubbled and the paint is cracked. I have been putting it off–thanks for the inspiration (and the safety tip about the led paint –I never thought about that)