Paint strippers EDIY: Types and Techniques

Wood paint strippers are chemicals that easily removes paint or varnish from wood. In this article, we will discuss when to use paint strippers, the different types, best wood paint strippers, and how to use paint strippers.

Why use paint strippers

The most simple reason to use wood paint strippers is because you want to remove paint or varnish from the wood.

There are, however, several methods to remove paint from wood which include using a chemical paint stripper, sandpaper, or heat.

When to use wood paint stripper

  • Assembled wood projects
  • Highly varnished wood projects
  • For easy paint/varnish removal

Heat may not be desirable for assembled woodworking projects because heat causes the wood to expand. Apply excessive heat can lead to splitting and warping.

Sandpaper may not be effective for highly varnished projects, even if you use 40 grit.

Chemical paint strippers are essential to removing paint and varnish for projects that are not ideal for heat and not effective using sandpaper.

Types of wood paint strippers

Citristrip stripping pasteKlean strip green stripperMinwax furniture refinisherJasco premium paint remover
Stripping level★★★★☆★☆☆☆☆★★★☆☆★★★☆☆
Application methodBrushBrushClothBrush
Very messy
Not too messy
Not too messy
Slightly messy
No methylene chloride or NMPN/A
VOC51% WT0% WTN/A50% WT
Materials removedPaint, varnish, lacquer, polyurethane, shellac, acrylic, epoxyPaint, varnish, lacquer, stainVarnish, lacquer, shellacPaint, varnish, lacquer, shellac, epoxy
* Acute Toxicity: Inhalation

Citristrip paint and varnish stripping gel


Citristrip is the most powerful paint and varnish stripper that I have tried out of the 4. It was the only paint stripper that was actually able to effectively remove the varnish from my dining table.

My dining table was heavily varnished and 40 grit sandpaper was not effective.

Additionally, Citristrip did not have as strong of a smell as the other paint strippers. It is, however, still toxic and does require a mask.


Citristrip is by far the messiest paint stripper out of the 3. The paste is very difficult to clean up and the product requires a liquid paint stripper or mineral spirits to remove dried up paste.

Klean strip green paint and varnish stripper


Klean strip green stripper liquid is supposed to be an eco-friendlier stripper solution. Klean Strip green is supposed to have 63% renewable content, be 100% HAPS Free, have zero VOC and no NMP.


Klean strip green is not a very powerful stripper and has not worked for me. It may work on lighter projects with less paint and varnish, but it is definitely not suitable for heavier varnishes.

Even though this Klean Strip paint and varnish stripper is not very powerful, it is marketed as the lightweight paint stripper. Klean Strip do sell more heavyweight paint strippers.

Minwax furniture refinisher


Minwax furniture refinisher that is very easy to clean up and apply. You will apply and remove the refinisher with a cloth and it leaves little mess behind.

The Minwax furniture refinisher has a medium stripping level. It easily removes varnish, lacquer, and shellac from the wood.


Minwax furniture refinisher is the only product listed that does not remove paint, but can remove laquer and varnish.

Jasco premium paint remover

Jasco premium paint remover is a paste-like stripper that is similar to citristrip. Jasco premium paint remover can remove paint, varnish, lacquer, shellac, epoxy.


Jasco premium paint remover is a heavy duty paint stripper that is not as messy as citristrip.


Jasco premium paint remover is not as powerful as Citristrip. This product struggles with removing highly varnished items.


My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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