The best ways to remove paint from a banister

Updated February 21, 2017

If you use improper methods to try to remove paint from a banister, unnecessary damage may result. Stripping paint can be very difficult or rather easy, depending on which tools and techniques you choose to employ. Learn the easiest, safest paint removal techniques, or you could scar the banister and stain underlying surfaces.

Tool selection

A host of paint stripping tools occupies the shelves of your local DIY centre; however, most of these are intended for use on rough exterior surfaces that can endure harsh friction. If you use metallic putty knives, pull scrapers and wire brushes to try to strip paint from your banister, permanent scarring is bound to result. To remove paint from smooth interior wood surfaces, use a flexible plastic putty knife.


Since you will use a solvent to eliminate paint from the banister, you'll need to thoroughly cover underlying surfaces to prevent stains. Once the solvent comes into contact with the paint, the finish will liquefy and drip down onto flooring. Meticulously cover underlying surfaces with plastic masking sheeting. Prevent pooling by overlapping the sheeting with canvas or fabric dust sheets.

Stripping solvent

Once you've carefully covered underlying surfaces, apply solvent to the painted banister using a natural-bristled paintbrush. Stripping solvents tend to evaporate very quickly. Slow this process by draping plastic sheeting over the banister, which will provide the solvent with more time to work. After about five minutes, remove the sheeting and scrape the loosened paint free using the flexible plastic putty knife. Clean residual paint using a rag dampened with stripping solvent.


Stripping solvents expel noxious fumes. Open windows and doors before getting started. If you're working in a confined area, wear a protective respirator.


If you need to remove minor paint stains from a banister, massage them loose, using a rag dampened with white spirit solvent. This solvent is much milder than stripping solvent, and won't affect the underlying finish.

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About the Author

Ryan Lawrence is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. He has been writing professionally since 1999. He has 10 years of experience as a professional painting contractor. Lawrence writes for High Class Blogs and Yodle. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations with a minor in history from the University of Oklahoma.