How to Strip Multiple Layers of Paint Off of Wood Doors

Stripping a door involves the use of harmful chemicals.

No matter how many coats of paint a door has, the most common way to remove them is with paint stripper. Caustic strippers can discolor the wood and aren't as good an option as solvent-based ones, although you must protect yourself from the harmful chemicals in the latter. If the door is very old, it's probable that one or more paint layers is lead-based. If you suspect the presence of lead, sand only after all the paint has been removed to avoid raising toxic dust.

Take the door down and lay it on a pair of sawhorses outside or in a well ventilated workroom. Remove all the hardware with a screwdriver. If it has windows, cover them with masking paper and masking tape.

Pour a quantity of solvent-based stripper into a bucket -- a clean, empty paint can works well. Depending on the stripper you buy, it may contain methylene chloride (DCM), toluene, acetone, N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) or dibasic esters (DBE). All are harmful to inhale and some are skin irritants, so wear a respirator, protective gloves, protective clothing and safety glasses while working.

Spread the stripper liberally over the side of the door facing up with an old paintbrush and allow it to work for about 20 minutes. When the paint softens and starts to bubble and peel, scrape off as much of it as you can with a paint scraper. Don't dig into the wood trying to get it all off. Just remove what comes off easily. Transfer the scrapings to a sheet of old newspaper.

Spread another coat of stripper, allow it to work, then scrape again. Repeat until you're left with bare but discolored wood on the flat areas and paint residue on on the sides of raised areas, such as molding.

Spread stripper on the paint residue and work it out of corners and from along the edges of molding with a wire brush. Brush lightly to minimize scratches on the wood but firmly enough to mix the stripper with the paint and loosen the paint. Dip the brush frequently in a pan filled with mineral spirits to remove paint that has collected on it.

Soak a rag with water or the recommended solvent for the stripper and wash down the entire door. The solvent will neutralize the stripper and remove much of the discoloration left on the surface of the wood.

Scrape off any flecks of paint that remain on the door after washing it with a pull-scraper. This job may be tedious, but if you suspect the presence of lead-based paint, its the best way to avoid raising toxic dust when you sand.

Things You Will Need

  • Screwdriver
  • 2 saw horses
  • Masking paper
  • Masking tape
  • Solvent-based stripper
  • Empty paint can
  • Respirator
  • Protective gloves
  • Protective clothing
  • Goggles
  • Old paintbrush
  • Paint scraper
  • Newspaper
  • Wire brush
  • Mineral spirits
  • Water or recommended solvent
  • Rag
  • Pull scraper


Stripping a door involves the use of harmful chemicals.


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When am I done scraping the old paint off?

I scraped the old paint, caulking and putty coating (in places) off my outside window trim. The caulking between the aluminum siding and wood trim is all dry and cracking on the sun exposed half of the house. I got everything that was loose, and some that took some effort to get off. Do I need to remove ALL the old paint?

Health issues aside it's a long, hard, dirty job

Back in the 70's when I was young n dumb I undertook the task of scraping several layers of paint off a bungalow with wood clapboard siding. I found that a hand-held butane or LP torch (can't remember) worked well at melting the paint and made it fairly easy to scrape off. This went okay for a couple days, but the gas tanks were a little heavy to hold after a while and it took many more than I ever considered (we don't think that far ahead in our 20s).
Your heat gun should be cheaper and safer to run than a torch with open flame and finite capacity. But it still seems like a lot of work

Ogdensburg home rehabilitation program gears up for phase two, on schedule  —
Some homes will receive extensive and visible rehabilitation, including the installation of vinyl siding, roofing and windows. Other homes won't have an obvious exterior update but will have new furnaces or flooring put in.

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  • Avatar outbackprophet What router bit would you need to make horizontal wooden siding?
    Apr 23, 2007 by outbackprophet | Posted in Do It Yourself (DIY)
    • You would be better-off getting a shaper with the head shapes that were recommended. Even with a router table it is hard to control the passage of the wood past the router cutters. The shaper makes it easy and keeps you from ruining a long piece of wood.