How to Remove Paint From Walls - Your Comprehensive Guide
September 19, 2019

In most cases, all that’s needed before repainting your walls is a good wash to remove grease and dirt. A little soap, water and scrubbing, and you will be ready to get painting.

But sometimes more work is needed and the existing paint needs to be removed first. While this is a dirty and time-consuming task, it does offer great results that may improve the condition of your walls by removing flaking or peeling paint. It can also be vitally important — read on for more.

For more information on costs associated with painting have a look at our handy Interior Painting Price Guide!

Why Is It Important to Remove Old Paint From Walls Before Re-Painting?

Although it’s popular to simply go overtop of your existing paint with a fresh coat, sometimes this is just not possible. If you have an older home, you can’t be certain what kind of paint was used on your walls. In many instances before the 1980s, the paint will contain lead, a substance that can be harmful. 

Old Paint Flaking Off a Wall

To be safe, you should follow these steps to properly remove the paint from your walls safely so you can be confident in the quality of your painted walls.


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How to Remove Paint From Walls in 5 Steps

How to Remove Paint From Walls in 5 Steps

1. Prepare and Protect

Before you tackle the paint on your walls, make sure to set up the area you will be working in and around. This is necessary to protect your skirting boards and flooring. Paint removal can be messy work, so be sure to find enough drop cloths to cover your floors. This will catch most of the paint chips and act as a barrier. 

You may also want to apply tape against the edge of your skirting boards if you are using the chemical cleaner option so the paint thinner won’t drip and damage your finishes. 

2. Decide on Your Method

To remove paint from your walls you can choose either working by hand to remove paint or using a chemical paint stripper. Both are valid ways to remove your paint but one may be more suitable for your project. 

Hand removal means you won’t be working with any chemicals but you will need to make up for it with labour! It can be a lot of work to remove paint in large areas by hand. It’s not an option if you have old paint to remove as it may contain lead. Scraping will release lead particles into the air and can pose a health risk, so if you have old paint it’s best to choose a different method. 

Using a chemical method can be a bit messy but is extremely effective. Some chemical paint removers can be very harsh, so use with caution. However, this is a good choice when you aren’t able to do the whole wall by hand. 

Not sure which method is best for your particular project? An expert interior painter can provide custom advice based on your walls.

3. Working by Hand

If you’re working by hand, you’ll want to start by scraping any loose paint with a brush. Your brush should have wire bristles for the best effect. Use your brush slowly over the entire wall in sweeping motions to remove as much as you can. 

After this step, use a sharp scraper to remove the paint. You may need to use this in combination with an oscillating scraping tool to really tackle the big sections. If you still have paint to remove, use sandpaper by hand or with an oscillating power tool to slowly work over the entirety of the wall. 

4. Working With Paint Stripper

It’s best to use a paintbrush with your paint stripper to apply it. Try and find a gel version so it is less likely to drip and make a mess. Also, check that it will work with the type of paint on your wall. Make sure that your area is well-ventilated since you’ll be working with chemicals. 

Starting at the top, brush your paint stripper over the wall before allowing it to sit as directed, long enough that it penetrates the paint. You may find it easiest to work one section at a time. Then, use a paint scraper to remove the paint. Have a bucket handy to collect the old paint so it is easy to dispose of properly. 

5. Clean up

After the paint is removed from your walls, it’s time to clean up. Be careful when removing your drop cloths from your room so that all chips stay contained. These need to be disposed of properly, so check with your local guidelines — especially if you suspect you have lead paint remnants. 

After the drop cloths are gone, be sure to wash the walls to ensure all dust and paint particles have been removed. This will leave your walls in great condition for future paint or wallpaper plans.


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How to Remove Flaking Paint From Walls

To remove flaking paint, you’ll need to use a scraper and wire brush in combination for the best results. First, use your scraper to remove large flakes of paint. Then, use your wire brush to ensure all edges are clean and free of flaking paint. This can be especially helpful if you have noticed flaking paint near window frames and hard to reach areas or on corners. 

Flaking Paint on Walls

After you’ve removed all of the flakes, you can decide whether you need to continue removing all of your paint with a manual scraping or chemical method. Or, if you plan on painting next, make sure to check your walls for any damage or cracks that will need to be filled before you start.

How to Remove Emulsion Paint From Walls

Removing dried-on emulsion paint can be a bit difficult, but it’s not impossible. Use a paint stripper designed for acrylic or latex and follow the steps above for chemical removal. 

Emulsion Paint

You may also want to consider a heat gun as this can soften and loosen paint that has built up in certain areas. 

A wet sponge can thoroughly remove all of the softened emulsion paint from your walls. This, in combination with your scraper, is sure to leave your walls clean and paint-free. Washing your walls will also help to remove any leftover chemical residue to help prep before painting.


These tried and true methods are the best way to get rid of flaking, peeling, or bubbling paint that is causing an unsightly mess. So pick up your paint scraper and set down your drop cloths to get started. Short on time? Hire a painter and decorator to help out with paint removal and applying a stunning new coat of paint!

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