How to Get Paint Off Wooden Stairs

If you want to get fading or ugly-coloured paint off your wooden stairs, you'll need to approach the task with the right materials. Staircases are often painted with textured oil-based paints to provide good traction for foot traffic. These paints stick to wood better than latex paints, so they take a little longer to remove. Nonslip textures also cause problems on some stairs. With the right tools, however, you can get rid of wooden stair paint in just a few hours.

Clean the stairs with an ammonia-based cleaner and a sponge. Paint removers work better when they are not contending with a layer of dirt on the painted surface.

Sand off any surface textures using 150-grit sandpaper. Silica sand is commonly used to add traction to staircases. The sand limits paint remover's effectiveness, but sanding will wear down most of it in advance. If your stairs have untextured paint, you don't need to sand them.

Wipe away sandpaper dust and leftover cleaning residues with a moist towel.

Brush chemical paint remover onto the stairs using a 2- or 3-inch paintbrush. Most chemical paint removers work well on oil-based paints, and they are also effective if your stairs were coated with latex paint. For speciality paints, talk to a sales associate to see what brand of paint remover works best. Let the chemical paint remover sit on the surface until it stops bubbling.

Scrape off the loosened paint with a metal putty knife.

Repeat Steps 4 and 5 until all the paint has been removed. Oil-based paints take several applications of paint remover before they fully loosen and scrape off.

Clean the surface with dish soap, water and a rag to remove any remaining paint remover residue, though most of the gel-like product will have absorbed into the loose paint layers during removal.


Wear rubber gloves whenever working with ammonia-based cleaning products and chemical paint removers.


Flush your eye immediately if you accidentally get any cleaning solution in your eye.

Things You'll Need

  • Ammonia-based cleaner
  • Sponge
  • Rubber gloves
  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • Towel
  • 2- or 3-inch brush
  • Chemical paint remover
  • Metal putty knife
  • Dish soap
  • Rag
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Richard Kalinowski began writing professionally in 2006. He also works as a website programmer and graphic designer for several clients. Kalinowski holds a Master of Fine Arts from Goddard College and a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.