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How to Remove Old Paint from Interior Walls

Neha Deshmukh Jul 7, 2019
Removing old paint from walls is a job with its inherent risks. There are, however, safe ways to remove it. Here are some useful tips that will help you remove old paint and get your walls looking fresh again.

Protect Yourself!

Many pre-1978 paints were lead-based, which is known to cause permanent brain damage in children, and can also impact adults. Studies show that it can affect almost every organ and system in the body.
Ugly, peeling paint is quite an eye-sore. But, calling an expert over to remove it all is also a bit heavy on the pocket. And so, you have decided to don the overalls and do the job yourself. Well, this job is no cakewalk, apart from being very labor-intensive and time-consuming, it can also be a health hazard - to you, your family members, and neighbors.
So first things first - test the paint for lead. There are various lead test kits available, just head to the nearest Lowe's or hardware store. Alternatively, you can also get it inspected by an expert. If it's a lead-based paint, then it is strongly recommended that you leave the job to the professionals.
On the other hand, if the test shows negative for lead, you can proceed and remove the paint yourself. Do follow each and every instruction closely though, especially the ones concerning safety.

Removing Paint from Interior Walls

Removing paint will require lots of patience and a fair bit of perseverance, as it is a pretty tedious process. Some experience with painting and DIY will also come in handy. Here is a quick step-by-step guide on how to remove paint from interior walls.
▶ Start by preparing the room - cover or preferably remove all the furniture from the room. Then, cover the floor with tarp or old bed sheets to protect it from damage. Make sure the room is well-ventilated, you do not want to inhale any fumes. Get an electric fan to disperse them. Importantly, switch off the mains.
▶ Protect yourself - a respirator, protective eye wear and rubber gloves are a must when dealing with the powerful solvents and alkalies commonly used for this task.
▶ Gently remove loose paint with a scraper using even strokes. The first scraping is a bit tough, but once it gets in, most of the old paint will be scraped off easily. Move on to the next step, when you can not remove any more paint by scraping.
▶ There are two ways to remove old paint from interior walls - by using chemicals or by using heat. Liquid paint strippers work by weakening the chemical bonds of the paint. The method of use and disposal varies from brand to brand, so follow the detailed instructions given on the package.
Do make sure that you use a respirator, and the area is ventilated in such a way that the fumes escape out from the house. Another considerably safer method is to use heat to loosen paint off the wall. Either a heat gun or a hot plate can be used for this purpose. A heat gun heats air to a high temperature, which can be focused on the required areas.
Start the heat gun hold it about 5 inches from the wall, and move it in a circular manner in a small area till the paint blisters. Do not focus the heat at any one place for more than 5 seconds at a time. Scrape off the loose paint.
If there is some remnant, repeat the process. The temperature of the heat gun should be just high enough to dislodge the paint, so as to prevent damage and reduce the risk of fire.
Another, still safer method is to use an industrial hot plate (also called heat plate), which automatically maintains temperature and prevents overheating. The plate can be used in a similar manner to the gun. In both cases, understand that there is danger of a fire - ensure, there is no flammable materiel in the vicinity, remove the curtains and upholstery.
▶ Many people find that the majority of paint can be removed with scraping. If this is the case, just use a sander to give your walls an even surface. If, however, you have used a chemical stripper, you need to neutralize it.
Make sure the walls are clean, even, and dry before you paint them again. It is also a good idea to use a primer before painting, to get a good bond and finish to the walls.