Painting over plaster allows homeowners to combine texture and colour on their walls, but changing your mind about colour or style might create a cleaning nightmare. To repaint or wallpaper over plaster, the wall surface needs to be completely clean of all old paint, or the new material will not bond correctly. Stripping paint from plaster may cause slight damage to the wall, but you can remove the old paint and repair the wall to help with your new decorating project.
Wear a dust mask and protective gloves. This will protect against inhaling flaking paint or paint dust and prevent hand contamination.
Gently peel away any loosened or peeling paint with your fingers. Get as much paint off this way as you can, as this causes no wall damage. Be sure to dispose of paint directly into a garbage bag or can to prevent pets and children from touching the flakes.
Scrape away remaining paint with a putty knife or metal scraper. While scraping, use only the flat blade. Do not use the metal edges which can gouge the plaster. You will scrape off small pieces of plaster regardless, but using the flat blade minimises damage.
Fill any major gaps or gouges in the plaster wall with joint compound or filler putty. Make sure you choose a putty to match the colour of your plaster, if you will not cover the wall again. Follow specific instructions regarding drying time, but do not attempt to paint or make any other changes to the wall until the repair work is completely dry.
Using paint thinner can aid with paint removal, but some thinners will also remove plaster. If you intend to replaster or are not worried about the texture, feel free to use these chemicals. Talk to a professional and a paint supplier or hardware or home improvement store for details regarding your options.
If you did not do the painting yourself, or if it was done before the late 1980s, contact a professional paint company or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the possibility of lead in the paint. Scraping and dissolving lead paint releases the lead in the air, creating a hazardous environment.