When we think about home decoration and renovations, one of the first things you might start thinking about and researching is what colour or finish you’re going to get. We’ve all been there, planning out our dream home aesthetics (after all, isn’t that what The Sims is for?). However, just remember that home decorating is not as simple as slapping a coat of paint onto a wall and calling it a day. More often than not, you won’t be the first person to have painted an element of your home, and so the first step is frequently needing to get rid of what was there before.
Paint stripping is important because it leaves you with a clean surface upon which to start painting. Without it, you run the risk of just building up layers and layers of old paint which is more prone to wearing down over time; peeling, cracking or discolouring are common examples of what can happen if a surface hasn’t been properly prepared before painting.
Broadly, there are 3 types of paint strippers; caustic based, solvent based and heat guns. Caustic strippers are not the easiest nor the safest to work with, and with that in mind we’ve collated a selection of the best from those latter two categories. Read on, then, for our rundown of the best options for paint stripping at home, with a level of choice based on whether you’d prefer a heat gun or a more conventional solvent based liquid.
|Nitromors All Purpose Paint and Varnish Remover||Liquid||£££|
|Rustins Strypit Paint and Varnish Stripper||Liquid||££|
|PolyCell Maximum Strength Paint Stripper||Liquid||££|
|Black+Decker KX1650 Heat Gun||Heat Gun||£££|
|VonHaus Heat Gun||Heat Gun||£££|
Nitromors is to some the first name in paint stripping. With a reputation for stripping paint from just about anything, this super strength all purpose incarnation of the classic formula is up to the same sorts of standards. It is fair to note that older versions of Nitromors did have a different formula, as legislation removed a potentially hazardous chemical from the product. That doesn’t stop the newer incarnation of Nitromors from being super effective. It actually comes as a gel, meaning that it’s highly drip resistant. It’s also a bright green formula, allowing you to see exactly where you’ve been.
The gel composition of the Nitromors also allows it to be used efficiently on vertical surfaces, and it’s suitable for use on a variety of surface types. These include wood, metal and even masonry. Thanks to its consistency, even a smaller container such as the standard 350ml goes a very long way, guaranteeing a solid level of value. Combined with the effectiveness of the stripping, as well as a low level of odour in the revised formula, and you’ve got yourself a high quality paint stripping product.
- Non drip
- Applies to different surfaces
- Goes a long way
- Smaller container
Rustins’ Strypit stripper is a powerful and effective solution for removing not only various types of paint, but lacquers and varnishes as well. The strong formula can be used on a variety of surfaces types as well as a variety of paints, including wood, metal, glass and even plaster, and is tough enough to remove multiple layers of paint (though a couple of layers are typically needed).
To prevent dripping, the stripper is designed as a gel and as such can be applied to vertical surfaces. The consistency allows for liberal application of the gel, and as it’s bright orange, you can easily follow where you’ve already been. As a gel, it’s also very easy to clean up even with just water, and is free of any caustic substances to make it safer to use.
- Non drip formula
- Colour allows easy tracking
- Needs several coats
PolyCell’s take on an easy to use paint stripper aims to make the process super simple in terms of both application and removal. It promises to do the job of paint removal in just one application, also claiming that it can take off an astonishing 12 layers of paint in that one go. It does this with a fairly thick consistency that’s easy to apply and doesn’t drip, even on vertical surfaces. Then, the ease of removal is via the novel formula that penetrates paint and creates a soft film so that the paint can be simply peeled off.
Another notable feature is that it promises not to cause any damage to the surface it’s used on. It’s certainly suitable for use on wood and metal surfaces, and gets to work in only 20 minutes (although make sure the room is well ventilated!). Residue can also be easily cleaned from the surfaces with water. It also represents fairly solid value for money.
- Good consistency
- Works quickly
- Easy to use and remove
- Strong fumes
Black+Decker are a widely known household name in DIY and power tools, but their products nonetheless strike a good balance between value and high quality. This heat gun has two different heat settings; 460°C and 600°C; to afford you more control over the heat, depending on the application. Another useful feature is a built in wire stand at the base of the handle, allowing you to both rest it down for handsfree usage, or simply rest it upright to let it cool down.
As is to be expected with a Black+Decker product, the build quality is to a very high standard. It’s a compact unit, and has a 2-metre cable to give you some flexibility in accessing hard to reach spots. Naturally, as many heat guns are, this is suitable for a variety of applications as well as just paint stripping. As it’s a fairly low investment, it’s a good budget option for a multi purpose power tool.
- Multi purpose
- Good build quality
- Variable heat settings
- No attachments/accessories
This heat gun style paint stripper from Seekone is a versatile and variable heat gun that gives you a lot of control over the paint stripping process. It has two variable temperature settings depending on your needs; 50 – 450°C and 50 – 600°C. Having these different settings firstly allows for you to be in control of how aggressively you heat the area of paint to be removed, but also to control the rate of removal.
It also comes with five different heat gun nozzles that elevate its use beyond just paint stripping as well; there’s an attachment that concentrates the heat to a point, a wide concentrator, one for safe use with glass and a reflector and deflector nozzle. Seekone also provide a scraper and a putty knife. It also has a built in overload protection to prevent it from overheating, extending the life of the heat gun.
- Lots of accessories
- 2 temperature settings
- Overload protection
- Middling build quality
VonHaus’ 2000W heat gun is a powerful tool for multiple uses around the house for home DIY projects; paint stripping of course, but a variety of other applications as well. The versatility is compounded by four different attachments; a glass protection nozzle, air spreader nozzle, concentration nozzle and reflector nozzle. They assist with focusing the heat in specific directions as per the specific task.
It also counts on two different operating temperatures between 350°C to 550°C. In order to prevent overheating, so that the lifespan of the tool is extended/prolonged, it also has a built in thermostat. VonHaus also designed the heat gun to be easy and comfortable to use, with a careful weight balance and an ergonomic handle. It’s also well built, with a toughened plastic exterior that’s resistant to the heat it produces internally. VonHaus also supply the heat gun with a 2-year warranty for added peace of mind.
- Comfortable to use
- Variable heat settings
- Different attachments
- Buttons easily knocked
Which Paint Stripper To Go For?
Stripping existing paint is an essential step in redecorating. Almost without fail, the surfaces you’re aiming to paint are going to have already been painted before. Getting rid of that previous paint is key because if you don’t, it’s likely to leave an uneven surface that will then result in an uneven top coat. The two safest methods for paint removal are using a solvent-based paint stripper, or using a heat gun with the necessary attachments. With these options in mind, we’ve rated the best overall paint stripper as well as the best budget choice.
Best Paint Stripper – For all out quality, the PolyCell Maximum Strength Paint Stripper does the job. It does have a fairly strong scent, but with how well it does what it needs to do (and as long as you make the necessary preparations) it can be overlooked. Ultimately, the ease with which it can get through layers of paint and the ease of removal, by creating a soft film, makes it an excellent choice.
Best Value – The VonHaus Heat Gun stands out as the best option for value. While it’s a smaller investment to get a liquid or gel paint stripper, it’s a fairly minimal investment for the amount of use you’ll get out of it. Especially thanks to a number of different attachments, it’s super versatile.
Paint Stripper FAQ
How to use paint stripper
For any paint strippers, clean the surface thoroughly first to maximise the efficacy of the stripper. If using a solvent-based product, the ambient temperature affects how quickly it will evaporate. If it’s a warmer day, layer a thick coat of stripper over the top and cover with some kind of plastic sheeting such as clingfilm to prevent rapid evaporation. Once it’s been left for a while, try using a paint scraper to see if the paint has softened enough to come away easily.
If using a heat gun, it’s a similar process that goes more quickly – the heat guns typically come with scraper attachments, and so the heat will elicit a similar softening reaction which can be scraped off straight away.
What is the best paint stripper
The best paint stripper is one that lifts paint cleanly and efficiently. Solvent or heat gun paint strippers are somewhat subjective as to what you prefer. If it’s a liquid paint stripper, the best one has a good workable consistency that allows for easy application. For heat guns, a motor that evenly applies heat with good quality attachments for the paint removal is the best.
Where to buy paint stripper
Paint stripper can be bought online, or at most DIY stores big or small. The decision of where to buy lies with your level of comfort in buying such a product – if you’re happy with understanding what you want, then go ahead and buy online. However, if you’d prefer some face to face advice, then it’s recommended to speak to someone at a local hardware store.
How to dispose of paint stripper
Solvent-based paint stripper is still a toxic chemical, although less dangerous than caustic types, is still difficult to dispose of. In many cases, local councils or authorities may have services in place for the safe disposal of these kinds of chemicals. Alternatively, given the nature of solvents to evaporate, as long as there are no pets or children around who could reach it, you can just leave it out to evaporate.
How does paint stripper work
The basic function of paint stripper is that it softens paint to allow it to be scraped away. That will either be by way of a chemical process, where solvents react with the paint to make if soft and pliable for easy scraping. Alternatively, heat guns instead use focused heat to soften the paint for the removal process.