How to Remove Paint from Wood Trim

Painted wood trim around a doorway.
What You'll Need
Painters tape
Wood putty
Rubbing alcohol
Microfiber cloth

Wood trim is a great finishing touch that really brings the elements of a room together. If you are like most homeowners, you have probably painted your wood trim white or some other color to match or contrast with the wall color. You may decide, however, when redecorating a room that your beautiful hardwood trim would be more striking in its natural state, so now you have to remove the existing paint. This is usually a fairly simple task but since wood trim is often ornate, the paint will penetrate into all of the grooves and carvings, making removal anything but simple. The following steps will help you remove paint without harming the wood underneath.

Prepare the Wood Trim

Mix a very small amount of soap with a gallon or so of water. Then, saturate a sponge, wring it out, and wipe down the wood trim. You want to remove any dust particulates or surface oil on the wood, so get into all of the design elements of the trim. Let the surface air-dry afterward, as wiping it dry creates streaks and fibers on the surface.

If you're not planning on painting the walls after you've stripped the trim, you'll need to protect them from this process. Use two strips of painters tape to section off the wood with one being placed on top and the other on the bottom.

Strip with a Razor Blade

Using a razor blade to remove paint is best for flat wood trim or wood trim with very minimal design accents. Place the edge on the surface at a 45-degree angle, and use very light pressure to slide the razor blade along. Be careful to not remove wood along with the paint. If you do, you can fix it with some wood putty. Dip your finger in warm water to smooth it out.

After the paint has been removed, wet a towel, ring it out, and wipe down the wood trim. This will open up the pores of the wood and help to condition it so it does not dry out.

You may be able to remove all of the paint this way but if not, use step three to finish the job.

Apply Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol loves to remove paint, of all types. Open a bottle, place the microfiber towel on top, and pour a small amount onto the cloth. Drape the towel over your finger and rub the trim with it. You will need to use some force to work the alcohol into the paint. Eventually, the paint will begin to smear and wind up on the towel, so you will have to switch out for a new one every so often. Also, if you have a particularly ornate trim, don't forget to work the alcohol deep into the grooves.

Continue until the paint is removed, and then wipe the wood trim down with clean water as you did in step two to rinse away any remaining alcohol and residue.