How to Strip Old Wood From Picture Frames

Updated March 23, 2017

Over a period of time, the paint and lacquer finishes on old wooden picture frames will start to crack. Stripping the wood is a very delicate process, but you can do it yourself with the proper chemicals and tools. The older the wooden picture frame is, the more delicate you will have to be.

Lay a piece of plastic sheeting on the floor in your work area so that spilt chemicals won't damage it.

Tape around the inside of the picture frame with masking tape. If the gel stripper gets inside the groove where the glass goes, it can strip the wood too much and cause the glass to be loose.

Put on the rubber gloves and the safety glasses. Open the can of gel wood stripper.

Apply the gel stripper to the wood with a paint brush, making all the strokes in the same direction. Do not brush the stripper back and forth. Start at the top of the picture frame and work downward. Let the stripper sit on the wood for about 10 minutes.

Scrape the wood with a flat scraper to remove the paint from the picture frame. Be careful not to scrape the wood too hard, or it could leave grooves from the scraper. If paint remains, reapply more gel stripper and repeat the process until all of the paint is gone from the wood.

Apply the lacquer thinner to the wood with a clean paintbrush and leave it on the wood for about 10 minutes.

Scrub the wood with the steel wool pad until it is completely smooth. Keep reapplying the lacquer thinner and scrubbing the wood until all of the paint is gone and the wood surface is smooth. The smoother the surface, the better it will look.

Wipe down the frame with a clean rag. Let the picture frame dry for a couple of hours.


You can also use regular rubbing alcohol to strip wood that does not have paint on the wooden surface.


Do not get any of the wood stripping chemicals in your eyes or skin. It will burn. Fix up a work area in a well-ventilated place so that the fumes from the stripper can escape.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic sheet
  • Safety glasses
  • Rubber gloves
  • Masking tape
  • Gel wood stripper
  • Paintbrush
  • Flat scraper
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Steel wool
  • Clean rags
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About the Author

Grace Mclain has been writing professionally since 1998. Her articles have appeared on, and LIVESTRONG.COM, and she specializes in automotive and business topics. McIain has a professional writing certificate from JB Hunt in Little Rock, Ark.