How to Remove Ceiling Paint

Updated February 21, 2017

There are a variety of reasons why you may need to remove the paint on your ceiling. Some ceilings were painted with multiple layers and types of paint. This can lead to the paint chipping and other paint damage. The best way to remove layers of paint from your ceiling, depending on the current state of the paint, is by sanding.

Test your ceiling paint for lead contamination. Lead paint is prevalent in older homes. You can purchase a kit at your local hardware store or hire a professional. If your paint has lead contamination, hire a professional to help you solve the issue.

Test the durability of your ceiling before sanding. If you had previous water damage, make sure the drywall or wood is still intact and stable. If there was excessive water or mildew damage, you may need to replace the ceiling.

Put down drop cloths, and cover floors and furniture to minimize debris damage. Wear a safety mask and safety glasses to avoid injury from dust and paint debris. To reduce the amount of dust spreading to the rest of your home, block off open doorways with tape and plastic drop cloths.

Sand the ceiling in an up and down motion using a sanding block attached to an extensive rod. For optimal results, use a medium grit sandpaper (80 grit) to begin your project, and switch to a coarse grit sandpaper if needed. Starting out with a coarse grit is only recommended if there are many layers of paint on your ceiling and peeling has started to occur. Avoid using a spackle knife to remove peeling paint as this could further damage the drywall by scraping lines and gaps in the surface.

Examine the surface for dips and bumps. Make sure that the surface is completely smooth and that there are no major imperfections in the ceiling. You may need to lightly sweep the ceiling with a broom to remove a layer of dust that may still be hiding imperfections. If you sand too deep into your ceiling, you may be able to patch any noticeable areas with spackle.


Make sure to prime your ceiling before applying a fresh coat of paint to your sanded ceiling. Primer will kill any remaining mildew and stains.


Paint strippers can ruin drywall, especially if there are multiple layers of paint. If you have a wood ceiling, you may be able to use a light stripper.

Things You'll Need

  • Drop cloths
  • Mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Sanding block on extension rod
  • Medium grit sandpaper


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About the Author

Based in Philadelphia, Christian Fuller has been writing home improvement and sports-related articles since 2007. He holds a bachelor's of arts degree in communications from Eastern University.