Caustic Paint Removal

Updated February 21, 2017

Caustic paint removal is perhaps the easiest and most convenient paint removal method out there. Simply coat the paint with the solvent, and then scrape it and the paint away a few minutes later. However, methylene chloride, the active ingredient that makes caustic paint removers so effective, emits dangerous fumes. Whenever using a paint remover, you must be sure to keep the room well-ventilated and sealed, and always protect your breathing passages from the toxic vapours of the removal process.

Remove the paint out of doors if at all possible. If you can't do this, be sure to keep the methylene chloride fumes from escaping into nearby rooms. Turn off the heat or air conditioner's fans. Keep doors closed, and cover them with plastic sheeting that's taped at the top of the door (to allow easy entry and exit), and long and wide enough to cover all of the gaps between the door and the frame.

Open the window(s) in the room, and place an electric fan facing one of them to direct the air in the room outdoors.

Put on long trousers, a long-sleeved shirt, chemical-resistant gloves, goggles and a breathing mask.

Pour 2 cups (3 cups for walls) of the paint remover into a separate plastic container.

Apply a thick layer of the remover to a section of the painted area, using a paintbrush or plastic putty knife. Use up all of your 2- or 3-cup supply if the area is large enough, but do not refill the container.

Leave the paint remover to work for the manufacturer-recommended amount of time. This usually takes 15 to 30 minutes. To minimise the amount of time you are exposed to the caustic paint remover's fumes, spend this time away from the room or area you are working in.

Scrape away the paint remover and the paint, using your plastic putty knife. Throw away the goop in a rubbish bin.

Moisten a rag with any remaining paint remover in the plastic container. Use the rag to scrub any residual paint away.

Wipe down the area with a rag dampened with water or another neutralising solvent recommended by the paint remover's manufacturer.

Towel the area dry.

Apply the paint remover to other sections of the wall or furniture piece, 2 cups of remover at a time, until the project is finished.


Take 10- to 30-minute breaks between each application and removal to limit the amount of time you are exposed to the remover.


Make sure you use a high-quality breathing mask that's specifically designed for use with organic chemicals.

Things You'll Need

  • Semipaste paint remover
  • Plastic container
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Tape
  • Electric fan
  • Long trousers
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Breathing mask
  • Chemical-resistant gloves
  • Goggles
  • Plastic putty knife
  • Rags
  • Water
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About the Author

Based in Houston, Texas, Meg Butler is a professional farmer, house flipper and landscaper. When not busy learning about homes and appliances she's sharing that knowledge. Butler began blogging, editing and writing in 2000. Her work has appered in the "Houston Press" and several other publications. She has an A.A. in journalism and a B.A. in history from New York University.