How to Remove Paint From Wood Paneling

Photo courtesy of Hannah and Simon.


As easy as it is to paint over wood paneling, removing paint is a bit trickier. You can’t merely scrape or sand the paint off, because you might damage the wood underneath. Removing paint from wood paneling is a delicate process, requiring paint remover, a soft bristled brush, and a decent amount of patience. Fortunately, it can be done in just a few steps.

Step 1. Apply Paint Remover

You will need a bucket for this step, in order to mix up the paint remover as directed (on the paint remover’s package.) Starting from the top, use a paintbrush to apply to a small, square area of the wall, about one or two feet. Apply generously.

Step 2. Peel  the Paint Off

Once the solvent has been applied to the wall, press a piece of old fabric firmly over it. Saturate the fabric, and carefully remove. The paint should peel off with the fabric. If fabric doesn’t remove paint on the first try, simply reapply the fabric to the wall and let it sit for 10 minutes before trying again.

Step 3. Continue Moving Paint

This is where patience comes in. You are going to have to manually apply paint remover to small areas (about one or two feet) and continue to peel the paint off with an old rag, until most of the paint has been removed. Afterward, apply paint remover to any missed spots and let sit for 10 minutes.

Step 4. Remove Remaining Paint

Use the soft-bristled brush to gently scrub away any remaining paint spots. Use a circular motion to get all the paint off.

Step 5. Rinse the Paneling

The fifth and final step is to rinse the wood paneling of any remaining paint or paint remover, using a clean rag and clean, cold water.


  • Test a small area with the paint remover before proceeding with the entire wall.  You may not like the appearance of the wood paneling beneath the paint.
  • If the wood paneling is in pretty bad shape, it’s ok to sand and scrape the paint off. You might want to consider refinishing the wall, or removing it and installing a new sheet of drywall.
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