How To Get Paint Off Wood Floors [Wet & Dried Stains]

When people renovate their house, the obvious solution is to apply a fresh coat of paint to restore the quality and luster of the walls.

But any renovation project comes with its fair share of perils, especially when you have hardwood floors. While the elegant colors make the floors pop and add vigor to the interior decor, paint spillage can damage the floorboards. In fact, the property’s valuation may rise or fall depending on the quality of the flooring.

To ensure that the hardwood flooring is as good as new, you need to remove the paint quickly and eliminate large stains. Luckily, today’s guide discusses how to remove paint stains from floor, in particular wooden floors.

how to remove paint stains from wood floors

How Easy it is To Remove Paint Stains From Wood Floor?

While the charm and appeal of a hardwood floor are undeniable, it’s challenging to maintain the quality, texture, and color of the floor for a long time. This is especially true during home improvement projects as the floors are at most risk from spills and paint stains.

Despite adequate safety measures, a tiny bit of paint may creep through and make the floors look messy or untidy. Most importantly, this may lead to damage by degrading their quality.

It’s not surprising then that homeowners want to know how to remove paint from wood floors. But it’s not as easy as scraping the surface with a putty knife because efficient paint removal depends on the type of paint and whether it has dried. As a rule of thumb, it’s much easier to clean wet paint stains rather than dried paint. And the two most common household paints are:

1. Oil Paints

The primary advantage of oil paints is that they adhere to the surface much better than water-based paints, which makes them suitable for coloring exterior walls. They also take longer to dry, so you can easily remove oil paint spills, but they are much harder to clean once they do.

2. Water-Based Or Latex Paint

A coat of latex paint is ideal for interior applications since the paint dries fast as the moisture in the formula evaporates quickly. Hence, they aren’t as glossy or durable as oil-based paints, which makes it easier to remove paint stains. All you’ll need is some soap and water to clean the surface in most instances.

Other techniques to remove paint stains include commercial paint removers or DIY solutions. Some people even use isopropyl alcohol or lemon juice for removing oil paint from hardwood floors.

In the absence of lemon juice, you can use cleaning vinegar to loosen water-based paint stains. You can also apply heat or purchase a paint thinner to clean the surface. To know more, read the following sections, where we have explained the various techniques in greater detail.

How To Remove Wet Paint Stain From Wood Floor

We have narrowed down the steps to help you easily remove wet paint stains from a wood floor. When you notice a paint spill, use a clean rag to wipe the surface while the paint is still damp. You should note that even though it’s time-consuming in some cases, it’s possible to restore the quality of a wood floor with a little patience.

Things You Need

Here we have listed down the things you need to clean the floors, which you can find at home or in most home improvement stores.

  • Soft cloth
  • Clean rag
  • Cotton ball
  • Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol
  • Plastic putty knife
  • Lemon juice
  • Dishwashing soap
  • Small bowl
  • Chemical paint stripper
  • Heat gun or hairdryer
  • Mineral spirits
  • Scrub brush

Removing Wet Water-Based Paint Stains

Step 1

The first step is determining the type of paint staining your floor. If you were painting the walls yourself, it’s easy to know the paint type; otherwise, you’ll have to perform a simple test.

Use the rubbing alcohol to wet a cotton ball and wipe it over the paint stain. When there’s paint residue on the ball, it means the paint is water-based or latex paint, while no residue means that the paint is oil-based. The former is easier to remove, so let’s focus on that for the time being.

Step 2

Once you’re sure about the paint type, take a bowl of warm water and add a few drops of a dishwashing liquid. Wet the microfiber cloth just enough in this soapy solution and wring it to remove excess dampness. Then scrub the paint by gently rubbing in the direction of the wood grains.

You should find the paint loosening, which will make it easier to wipe the surface with a clean cloth. In case the paint loosens but you still find it challenging to clean the surface, it would be best to use a putty knife. Use it to gently scrape the floor and avoid applying too much pressure to prevent scratch marks.

Step 3

When the soap solution doesn’t work, it’s time to make your own homemade cleaner by adding isopropyl alcohol and lemon juice in a 3:1 ratio. Then, once the solution is ready, you need to get hold of a clean rag or piece of cloth.

Dip the rag in the alcohol solution and let it sit over the paint stain for a few minutes. You can use another clean damp rag to remove all the paint, but sometimes the stain is just too persistent.

In moments like this, a nylon brush comes in handy as you can dip the bristles in the solution to carefully scrape the stain. When you feel the stain loosening, use a rag dipped and wrung in plain water to wipe the flooring before drying the area with a microfiber cloth.

Step 4

Sometimes, you’ll need an agent stronger than lime juice, and we suggest using cleaning vinegar. The main advantage of vinegar is its ability to loosen even tough stains, thanks to the presence of acetic acid, provided you don’t mix it with other solutions. Also, make sure you buy only cleaning vinegar and not apple cider or distilled/white vinegar variants.

Step 5

An innovative technique to remove latex paint stains is using a combination of heat, soap, and water. The heat will help soften the paint, for which you can use a heat gun to loosen the stain. This will make it easier to lift the stain with a putty knife, after which you can use a cloth dipped in soapy water to clean the area.

But using a heat gun is challenging because continuously operating it over a single spot may cause hardwood floors to melt. You need to be quick or use a handheld hair dryer to enjoy similar success while removing stains.

Step 6

A paint remover or a paint stripper comprising mineral spirits or turpentine will also prove useful for removing stains. Before spraying the stained portion, make sure to open the doors and windows for ventilation, and don’t light candles or flames in the vicinity to avoid fire hazards. But this technique is more suitable for oil-based paints, so we’ll discuss that next.

Removing Wet Oil Based Paint Stains

Removing wet oil-based paint stains is slightly different, for which you’ll need more professional equipment.

  • Electric sander
  • Palm sandpaper
  • Mask
  • Goggles
  • Vacuum cleaner

Step 1

For starters, you need to get the sander ready, for which you’ll require a reliable power source. We recommend operating with a 60-grit sander as they are more capable of removing dried paint splatter. This will leave behind paint debris, so you’ll have to clean the surface with a vacuum cleaner or broom. The next step is switching to an 80-grit sander to remove as much paint as possible.

And once again, you’ll have to scoop up the debris by vacuuming the area clean. You can also use a 120-grit sander to eliminate tough stains since advanced sanders feature finer sandpaper that delivers a smoother finish on most wood floors. Sand down the remaining paint stain conveniently to remove all of it without any hassle.

Step 2

Once you’re satisfied with the sanding, it’s time to shift to manual means by using sandpaper. It will allow you to scrape the paint between the wood planks, crevices, and wood grain depressions.

Step 3

After removing the remaining paint stains from the floor, dampen a paper towel with warm water to gently rub the surface. Doing so will eliminate sanding marks from the hardwood flooring and remove all paint particles.

Step 4

But if you’re not confident about operating a sander, we suggest using paint thinners to keep the grainy texture of the floor intact. For that, you’ll need:

  • Commercial thinner
  • Gloves
  • Respirator or mask
  • Cotton rags

You can take the required amount of liquid cleaner in a bowl before dipping a clean rag into the solution. Let the rags soak while you get ready with the gloves in the meantime.

Then take the rags and gently scrub on the paint stains to remove them entirely. It might take some time, roughly 2-3 attempts to wipe the floor clean, so remember to be patient. The last step involves cleaning the surface with warm water and a dry rag to remove all paint and chemical residues.

Related Read: How to Remove Glue from Wood Floor?

How To Remove Dried Paint Stain From Wood Floor

Removing dry paint from wood is possibly more challenging because it sticks to the surface tightly, which increases the chances of damaging the floors while scraping them. To keep the luxuriousness of a hardwood floor intact, the two most common techniques are sanding or scraping.

You can also use soap, water, or rubbing alcohol to penetrate the stain deeper and remove the paint. We’ll even tell you about lesser-known cleaning agents, such as denatured alcohol and a cleansing pad, along with easily available products, like a paint remover or thinner. For your benefit, we have even highlighted the safety precautions you need to take, so continue reading to learn all about these methods.

Things You Need

  • Sander
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint scraper
  • Dish soap and water
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Liquid paint remover
  • Paint thinner
  • Cleansing pad

These are some of the basic things you’ll need for removing paint spills to keep the floor in top condition.

Removing Dried Water-Based Paint Stains

The main reason painters used oil-based paints is that they are durable and don’t deteriorate even after exposure to the elements. They can consist of a pigment, synthetic oil, resin, or natural oil to make the walls appear vibrant, and here are the steps you need to follow to remove dried paint.

Step 1

Choose a suitable 60-grit sander to get rid of a large amount of paint from the floors. But using a sander often leaves marks on the surface for which you need to sand the floor further with an 80-grit and 120-grit model. This will also help level the floor to deliver an elegant finish, after which you’ll need to use a manual sander to remove residues.

It will allow you to clean the crevices and cracks between the flooring boards, while the paint scraper proves suitable for reaching deeper grooves. Once you clear all the paint stains, it’s easier to complete the renovation by waxing, repainting, sealing, or staining the surface with other paints.

Step 2

When you find that the dried paint is flaking, it will help if you switch to a paint scraper. Using a scraper will allow you to remove the stains quickly but if the paint still clings to the surface, sand it again before scraping for a second time.

Step 3

Yet another effective technique is when you mix warm water with soap, as you’ll need nothing more than clean rags for this purpose. Mix a mild dish detergent with warm water and use a clean cloth to dampen the entire stained area.

It shouldn’t be dripping wet but just enough to loosen the tough stains. Leave the flooring like this for a few minutes before using a damp paper towel to scrub the area clean. Gently keep scrubbing until all the paint comes loose, and wipe the surface clean with a dry cloth. Ensure there’s no lingering paint residue; otherwise, you’ll have to sand, scrape, and clean that area again.

Step 4

When none of the above methods bears fruit, your only option is to use rubbing alcohol. You’ll have to use it in combination with lemon juice by adding three parts alcohol and one part juice. Depending on the area you need to clean, it’s possible to change the quantity of the mixture.

So remember to have enough to cover all the stains and dip an absorbent rag into the solution. Let it rest for 5 minutes while the stains loosen, and use the rag to scrape the surface clean. You can also use a nylon brush or old toothbrush with soft bristles to remove residues from the cracks or gaps in the flooring.

Removing Dried Oil-Based Paint Stains

The basic steps for removing dried oil-based paint stains are similar with slight differences, and we have highlighted all the methods below.

Step 1

With a 60-grit electric sander, start working on the stain so that it comes loose. Try to get rid of as much paint as possible, but it would be best to use a heat gun or hairdryer if you can’t.

Turn the hairdryer to the maximum setting and blow on the dry paint by holding it 3 inches from the surface. The paint will loosen as the surface gets warm, and the sander will easily clean the flooring.

Switch to an 80 or 120-grit sander to level the flooring and remove paint residues. In some cases, you’ll have to use sandpaper or a plastic scraper to remove oil-based paints from hardwood floors. And once the surface is clean, vacuum up the paint debris before applying a new finish to the flooring.

Step 2

When a hairdryer, heat gun, or scraper doesn’t work, you can use paint removers, as they are ideal for cleaning a hardwood floor without causing any damage. Remember to purchase a product specific to oil paints from your nearest hardware store and keep some clean rags close by before work.

At the very outset, wet one of the rags with the removal solution and place it over the floor to cover the stains. Most bottles will mention the duration for which you need to let the solution rest, so don’t rush. But allow the mixture to seep into the surface and loosen even the tough stains.

As it breaks the paint down, you can take a soft cloth to wipe the hardwood floors and remove any paint traces. Also, make sure to dry the surface so that it isn’t wet with the solvent. Despite this, if you still find persistent stains that won’t budge, sand the floor again and use a scraper.

Step 3

The only available option is to use paint thinners if nothing works since the harsh chemical formula will effectively remove paint from wood. But it would help if you were careful because the chemicals could easily damage the surface.

Soak a clean cloth in a paint thinner and cover the stained area. The thing with paint thinners is that they evaporate quickly, and you’ll need to wet the cloth constantly. After wetting, proceed to remove paint from the floorboards by scrubbing gently. Keep going until all the paint is gone, then use a paper towel to wipe away the excess paint thinner.

In case you don’t want to use a paint thinner, try mineral spirits, as they deliver similar results when you need to remove oil-based paint. Even then, you may have to repeat these methods several times to restore the hardwood floors to their former condition.

We recommend opening the windows to promote ventilation and remove toxic fumes or harmful odors from the room while doing the above. You should also wear gloves and masks to take adequate safety precautions prior to working.


Are you now confident about removing paint stains on hardwood floors without damaging the surface?

Some people even blot the area with a nail polish remover but using our techniques, you can quickly clean the surface without applying a fresh coat of paint. Also, take proper care of your hardwood floors and cover the surface entirely during any home renovation project.

We recommend starting with the simplest techniques for removing stains, such as soapy water or heating and scraping. Only when these techniques don’t work should you think about using a paint remover, thinner, and other commercial products to clean the surface.

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