Whether paint has become damaged or worn through the passage of time, or if you simply want to change the appearance of your window trim, you may at some point find yourself needing to remove the current layer of paint covering the window trim. Since the trim itself may be made of wood, metal or some other material that you do not want to damage, you will need to be careful and follow the proper steps to ensure that you remove the existing paint without damaging the surface below.
Do Not Use Harsh Chemicals
Although your first instinct when charged with the task of removing old paint may be to reach for the turpentine, we would strongly caution against the use of harsh chemicals in the interest of preserving the surface of the window trim under the paint. While strong chemicals may be effective at removing the paint itself, they also can be very destructive to the surface below the paint.
Do As Much By Hand As Possible
The key to taking paint off of a window trim without damaging the surface underneath is doing as much of the work as possible with perseverance and arm strength. It can be significantly more tedious than dissolving the paint with chemicals, but the payoff in the end will be a surface that is relatively undamaged. To do this, purchase an inexpensive plastic (not metal) paint scraper from your local hardware store. Actually, removing as much paint as possible with your fingernails is perhaps the safest way of ensuring that there is no damage to the underlying surface, but many of us will not have the time or the patience to do this.
With your plastic paint scraper, carefully scrape away the paint that is on the window sill. If you absolutely must use some sort of chemical solution to help loosen the paint, hardware stores sell latex paint remover that is significantly less caustic than turpentine or other common solvents. Use this if the job necessitates the use of any chemical compound. To use latex paint remover, apply a small amount to a clean, dry cloth and carefully rub on the window sill to soften up latex paint. Then, use your plastic paint scraper in the same way that we have instructed above.
Remember to keep the area ventilated while using the paint remover. To make sure the paint remover won't damage the window, take a small piece of the same material as the window (metal, wood, whatever) and see how it reacts when you apply the remover to it. Use this same trick when using any kind of solvent.
Bathroom Window Trim
If you are attempting to remove the paint from a window in your bathroom, chances are that you will be working with mildew resistant paint, which has slightly different properties than other types of paint. First, make sure the surface of the paint is as clean as possible by washing it with a solution of ¼ cup baking soda in 1 gallon of water. Once you have cleaned the surface, make sure the area is as dry as possible before removing the paint. Use a hair dryer or fan to circulate warm air around the window trim in order to dry it completely. Then, apply a mild solvent to the window trim and scrub with a clean, dry cloth until paint begins to soften or flake. Finally, use your plastic paint scraper to scrape off the remainder of the paint.