Removing Paint From Wood With Vinegar?

A picture containing wooden, wood, door.

A splendid job at woodworking, be it turning, pressure-treating, staining, or any other function, not only happens by creating a masterpiece out of top-class products, skills, and other resources but also includes shrewd handling, maintaining, and revamping your wooden pieces. All of that may call for working on a project from scratch, fixing or improving a previously done job. One of such woodworks is removing paint from wood. More often than not, woodworkers end up disliking a color or make a mess while painting their wood that calls for removing the paint. While you can use paint strippers, there’s an easier hack you can do without investing in another product. What is that hack?

Removing paint from wood with vinegar! Read that again. Vinegar it is.

It is a years-old practice, and a tried and tested method embraced by expert woodworkers to get rid of stubborn paints from their wooden pieces in no time.

A Bit About Vinegar

Vinegar is the dilute liquid compound of acetic acid in water. Typically it is produced involving the process of the oxidation of a chemical substance called ethanol by the bacteria in acetic acid. In many countries, vinegar is produced commercially through the double fermentation of sugar using yeast.

Vinegar is a magical ingredient inside our kitchens that serves beyond mainstream cooking purposes and helps in various household chores and activities like cleaning, filtering, and making other useful DIY cleaning agents for treating stubborn stains and other substances stuck on a surface.

Using Vinegar For Removing Paint From Wood And How It Works

You must be wondering how paint and vinegar get along and how a simple ingredient from the kitchen gets rid of stubborn paints from the wood. Can vinegar replace wood paint strippers?

The answer is yes. While some people may not believe in a simple kitchen staple and want to stick to commercially produced paint strippers, vinegar can suffice and do just the right job.

Essentially, vinegar doesn’t work exactly like a paint stripper that directly removes the paint. What it does is help soften the rigid and stubborn paint patches and stains significantly, enough that the stubborn paint bonds loosen up.

Once the paint begins to soften and lose its rigidity, all you need to do is scrape off the paint in chips with optimum force and gentle strokes. And you’ll end with excellent results that may not appear any different from what you get with paint strippers. The paint will be removed for good, and your wood will be ready for a repaint or other woodworks.

Why Choose Vinegar Over Commercial Paint Strippers?

After reading this article so far, a question that may come to your mind is why you’d need to use vinegar when you already have a large variety of paint strippers available in the market. Here is a list of reasons, rather benefits to choose vinegar over commercially produced mainstream paint strippers:

Vinegar Is Economical

Vinegar is a lot more budget-friendly than the commonplace paint strippers. Getting a tin of paint stripper product will cost you more, require you to make the effort of stepping out into the market, find a suitable and least-damaging paint stripper brand, and make a buying decision you’d keep doubting along the way. Sounds off indeed.

But, when you decide to use vinegar, it will be a piece of cake. Vinegar is an essential, all-time present kitchen staple far less expensive than a typical paint stripper. Even if you require a larger quantity of vinegar for an extensive project, it’s not going to cost you too much, while getting more quantities of paint stripper may drill a massive hole in your pocket.

Vinegar Is Eco-Friendly

When compare vinegar and a paint stripper together, you’ll only find them to be polar opposites. Natural products or those on your kitchen shelves are always likely to be more eco-friendly than those composed chemically with intense industrial procedures. In our case, vinegar is easily the most eco-friendly, while commercially produced paint strippers will be harmful to the environment. Using vinegar may involve other household staples, while a chemically produced paint stripper may also need other solvents or products for usage.

Furthermore, the extensive commercial processing and packaging may be a disappointment for many users having concerns for the overall environment.

Vinegar Is Easier To Use

The best part about using vinegar instead of pain strippers is its immense convenience. It’s a user-friendly, super easy-to-use, and on-the-go product that neither requires a strict procedure and protocol neither other technicalities to take care of while using it to clean paint from your wooden structures.

Choosing to work with a paint stripper would require you to stay cautious and handle the product skillfully to prevent spillages all over and hurting yourself in any way. Unless you have got some experience working with wood products, you might struggle with handling paint strippers.

Vinegar Is Kind To The Wood

Vinegar is a side-effect-free ingredient, and given that it’s a kitchen staple used for cooking, you can pass it as safe and kind to your wooden structures without a doubt. Even if you go a little too much or a little too less with the quantity of vinegar while removing paint from the wood, you won’t have to worry about ending up with massive damage or even minor side effects.

As for the paint strippers, just like any other heavily industrially processed product, they have their side effects and hence may not always be kind to the wood. With paint strippers, you’ll always have to keep your guard high and be cautious of which product you’re using for what kind of wood. A slight mistake wrong product-wood combination, or mishandling can hurt the integrity of your wooden surface, which is the last thing anyone would want.

Vinegar Is Eco-Friendly

When it comes to eco-friendliness, commercially produced paint strippers are a disappointment. During the industrial manufacturing process of these paint strippers, a lot of harmful chemicals and toxic fumes are produced that are insanely lethal to human life and the environment. So, if you’re someone with sensitivity and high concerns toward the environment, you may want to switch to some option other than using a paint stripper to remove paint from your wooden items.

And, vinegar, here is the safest option. It’s super eco-friendly, and no harmful by-products and toxic fumes are released while producing vinegar. It’s kind to humans and the environment, which again implies being kind to your wood too.

Now that you have perspective and assurance as to how removing paint from wood with vinegar can be a better way to get the job done instead of relying on commercial paint strippers all the time, you might be wondering what the procedure looks like. We knew that, and hence we’re going to cover it all for you in this article.

How To Use Vinegar To Remove Paint From Wood

Removing paint from wood with vinegar is a fairly easy task as vinegar is a highly user-friendly household staple and doesn’t require a lot of skillful handling. Before we jump into the process, here is a list of things/tools you need to get the job done:

What You Need

Here is your checklist that enlists a bunch of the simplest tools-  always available at the comfort of your home- you need to remove paint from wood:

  • A bowl or saucepan, having a decent amount of white, distilled vinegar.
  • A heating source like a stove or a microwave. (Note: If you choose to work with a microwave, make sure that you use a microwaveable bowl or utensil for containing the vinegar)
  • A clean paintbrush or a piece of clean cotton cloth.
  • A paint scraper.
  • A clean, damp cloth.

Once you have all the stuff mentioned above, all you need to do is follow this easy-peasy four-step process to get rid of those rigid paint patches from your wooden structures. You can perform this easy procedure anytime, anywhere, and get the job done within only a few minutes.

Step 1

Take a decent amount of white distilled vinegar (depending on the surface area you want to remove the paint from) and heat it in a saucepan. You may also heat the vinegar using a microwave using a microwaveable utensil to contain the vinegar. Be careful with the heat and make sure it’s not too hot, making you unable to touch it.  


You can also alternately do this step by making a solution having ¼ of vinegar and ¾ water. You can skip the heating bit for this solution.

Step 2

Once the vinegar is heated, take a clean paintbrush or a clean cotton fabric and dip it nicely into the vinegar, ensuring that the cloth or brush fully soaks in and picks up the vinegar. Now, using the brush or cloth, dab the vinegar on the surface having dried paint. Make sure the vinegar goes generously onto the surface for the best results.

Step 3

This step is all about waiting. As discussed above that vinegar works on dried paint by softening it, you need to wait for almost 10 to 15 minutes to let the vinegar soften the painted surface. If the paint was too stubborn and you don’t see a lot of difference upon the first application after 10 to 15 minutes, you don’t need to worry at all. Just repeat Step 2 and wait again for the same amount of time, and you’ll see the results for sure.

Step 4

Now take the paint scraper and remove the softened paint from the wood surface. Begin with gentle strokes and increase force gradually. Try not to make harsh scraping movements lest your wooden surface damages. Once you have scraped off the paint debris completely, take a clean and damp piece of cloth and clean the vinegar and paint residues from your wooden surfaces. Wipe it multiple times to achieve a tidy, neat, and clean surface.

If you’re worried about the odor left by the vinegar, let us assure you that there’s nothing to worry about. The vinegar’s odor will dissipate within an hour, and you’ll love the results. One of the best things about using vinegar on your wood is that the scope of this combination extends beyond removing paint and serves various other purposes.

Other Applications Of Vinegar On Wood

Thanks to the high versatility of vinegar, it offers multiple applications for various wooden items in your house. Some of these applications are:

Vinegar For Cleaning Wood Floors (Not Hardwood)

To use vinegar to clean your wooden floors (not hardwood), all you need to do is take one gallon of moderately warm water and add a cup of vinegar to it. Once this mixture is ready, take a mop or a clean cloth and coat the floor with this solution. Mop and wipe your floor a couple of times to remove all the dirt and impurities from the surface. If you’ve been using oil-based cleaners frequently in the past, you should add more vinegar to this solution and use it to wipe the floor several more times.

Vinegar For Cutting Boards

Rigorous cutting and some vegetable/fruit peels often leave stubborn residues on your wooden cutting boards. For that also, vinegar is your easy-peasy solution. All you need to do is sprinkle some vinegar onto your cutting board and wipe all the residues off the surface using a cloth.

Vinegar For Furniture

Vinegar proves to be a multi-purpose solution for your furniture when you mix it with another solid ingredient which is olive oil. For that, you need to mix ½ cup of vinegar with a full cup of olive oil and mix both the ingredients nicely. Once the mixture is ready, put it in a spray bottle and spray it all over the surface of your furniture. Or, take a clean, soft piece of cloth and apply this powerful cleaning solution with it on your furniture.

The vinegar will help clean the surface without damaging the finish and stripping it off, while olive oil will work as a polish for your furniture and give it a sleek and shiny look.

Vinegar For Wood Paneling

Vinegar also serves as a great product for wood paneling. You need to mix vinegar with olive oil in a 1:1 ratio and add four cups of moderately hot water to the mixture. Mix everything nicely and once your solution is ready, take a piece of soft cloth to apply this solution to your wooden structure. Rinsing isn’t needed. Dry the surface using another piece of a clean and soft cloth. And voila! You’re done!

Vinegar For Cleaning Countertops

Countertops are one of the most used and exposed parts of your kitchen furniture and cabinetry, and hence, they tend to get dirty quickly and often. But by using vinegar, you can clean your countertops just as quickly as they get dirty. For that, you need to make a quick solution. To make it, take one cup of white distilled vinegar and add half a cup of water to it. Mix them well and add fifteen drops of essential oil (you can use lemon, lavender, orange, or peppermint oil) to this solution, followed by more mixing. Once this concoction is ready, transfer it to a spray bottle and shake it well before using it each time. Whenever you need to clean your countertops, spray a moderate amount of this solution on the surfaces and wipe gently using a clean and soft piece of cloth.

No matter what purpose you’re using vinegar for your wooden structures, it’s imperative to avoid certain mistakes.

The Dos And Don’ts Of Vinegar-Wood Combo

When we talk about using vinegar for woodwork, there are some dos and don’ts to this hack that must be kept in my mind to prevent new problems from popping up. Here are some mistakes to look out for and avoid:

Working With Waxed Surfaces

Vinegar works well with painted surfaces but not with waxed surfaces at all. If vinegar comes in contact with wax, it will dissolve it. Hence, never use it for removing wood wax. If you need to remove wax from a wooden surface, it’s highly recommended to use a cleaning solvent that works as a formal wax remover.

Getting Rid Of Grease

Vinegar is a great option for removing paint from wood. However, if your wood has greasy stains, vinegar won’t be the solution for you. Vinegar is acidic and hence, doesn’t happen to be a suitable substance for removing grease. For getting rid of grease, it’s best to use commonplace detergents you use to clean garments and other utensils.

Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Please note that vinegar is damaging to hardwood floors. If vinegar touches a hardwood surface, it will make dull and drab. If you need to clean hardwood floors, it’s recommended to either use cleaners made for this purpose or clean these surfaces using plain soap and water but never try vinegar on your hardwood floors ever.

For the record, it’s imperative to know other methods of removing paint from wood when you don’t have vinegar so that your woodworking job is never interrupted especially when you need to remove paints from the wooden surfaces urgently. Keeping reading to know other methods to remove paint from wood.

Alternate Ways To Get Rid Of Paint From Wood

Here are three other methods you can perform to remove paint from wood when you don’t have vinegar at your disposal:

Hot Air Gun

Using hot air guns is another effective way to remove paint from your wooden surfaces. However, you need to be careful with handling a hot air gun as the excess of hot air from the gun can scorch the surface of your wood. Hot air guns may be a great tool to get rid of paint, but that isn’t the case with varnishes on wood. If you use a hot air gun on varnished surfaces, it will become sticky and irritably gooey and form a glue-like texture.


Sanding is another effective and reliable way to remove paint from wood. However, it’s best for small projects only. But, if you own a commercial wood sander, you can get done with large-scale wood projects too and have paints removed from your wooden structures.

One thing to be careful about using a wood sander is that you must be careful and gentle as not to damage the wooden surface with aggressive movements. Make sure you’re using the appropriate sandpaper for the job. And no matter you’re sanding your woods manually or by the machine, ensure that you go by light, gentle strokes and not be too harsh.

Chemical Strippers

As mentioned several times above, commercially produced chemical strippers are always an option and come in handy when you need to get a task done urgently and don’t have any other means to remove paint from the wood. The good thing is that strippers don’t harden your wooden surfaces the way sanding does. Chemical paint strippers are ideal for carved wood. To get the best results from a chemical paint stripper, you should always do your research and invest in a top-quality brand.

The Bottom Line

Vinegar is a super versatile product that does an excellent job at removing stubborn paint from wood and serves various other purposes in your daily household living just as well. It’s a kitchen staple that can be found in every house and happens to be just as safe for your precious wooden structures as it is for your food. It’s an excellent cleaning agent with its effects multiplied when you pair it up with other ingredients.

For more details and assistance in using vinegar to remove paint from your wooden belongings and using it for other woodworks, contact Period House Guru.

Recent Posts