Preface: I had a great post all written about how to use CitriStrip effectively just like I have done in the past, but things often don’t turn out exactly like you plan. After writing the post I went to shoot a video of the process and even though I did the same process I always do it didn’t get the job done.
What to do? Scrap the video and pretend it never happened? That’s what I was thinking of doing until my brother talked me out of it and convinced me to share the reality of using CitriStrip rather than what I hoped it would do. The products and techniques I show you on this blog work most of the time but just like anything the can sometimes fail miserably.
So, that’s what I’ve done! I’ll show you how to do it properly in the post below, but definitely watch the video at the end to see how it sometimes doesn’t work out like you plan.
What happened: In the video the CitriStrip removed all the paint, but even after 2 applications it was completely useless against the linseed oil primer underneath the 90 year old paint. Lessoned learned for me and hopefully for you too. Now onto the post!
Paint stripping is always one of my favorite topics since there are so many ways to get the job done. The techniques and materials vary as much as the accents across this country. Ultimately, you need to find the way that fits best for your situation.
There are three main ways to remove paint. If your unsure where to even start I’ve written about each in the below posts you should check out first.
- How To Strip Paint (Part 1 Chemical Strippers)
- How To Strip Paint (Part 2 Scrape Like a Pro)
- How To Strip Paint (Part 3 Steam Heat)
If you know you are going to route of chemical strippers then one of the best places to start is CitriStrip.
How To Use CitriStrip
Here’s the skinny on CitriStrip. I like using chemical strippers for stripping delicate profiles that would otherwise be difficult to handle. I can use my ProScraper to strip flat pieces of wood in a flash, but it’s almost useless when it comes to detail work.
Of the countless chemical paint strippers on the market today CitriStrip is one of my favorites for a few reasons:
- It’s bio-degradable
- No neutralizing needed
- No-harsh fumes (pleasant citrus odor)
- Very effective
- Non-caustic (no methylene chloride!)
Like all non-castic chemical strippers it doesn’t work quite as fast as the really dangerous stuff so learning some tips about how to use CitriStrip effectively can make the process much easier.
CitriStrip can be used effectively to remove multiple layers of latex paint, oil-based paint, varnish, lacquer, enamel, polyurethane, shellac, acrylics, and epoxy from wood, metal, and masonry surfaces. Other than cured glues there is very little you can’t get off with CitriStrip.
While CitriStrip is a much safer stripper it is a still a chemical that dissolves paint so keeping it off your skin and out of your eyes is important. Here are some basic precautions you should take:
- Wear safety glasses
- Wear nitrile gloves NOT latex since this dissolves latex
- Have good ventilation (open all windows and use fans to exhaust air if possible)
- Wear a respirator with organic vapor cartridge (especially if adequate ventilation isn’t possible)
Step 1 Apply Liberally
CitriStrip needs a thick coat to work effectively. Too thin and it will dry out and stop working. I generally apply a coat of stripper using a disposable chip brush about 1/8″ thick. The best way to judge that you have enough is if the surface is mostly the orange color of the stripper. If you see a majority of the paint or varnish below then you probably need to go a little thicker.
If you have lots of coats of paint then you may need to let the CitriStrip sit longer and to prevent it from drying prematurely I have found that covering the surface with plastic can extend the working time of the stripper dramatically. Saran wrap, painter’s plastic or something similar will work great.
Step 3 Let It Sit
The length of time definitely depends on the number of coats of paint and type of coating you are trying to strip. It can take anywhere from 30 mins to 24 hrs to dissolve the paint. You can do a test patch first to find the right time.
Step 4 Scrape It Off
After the working time is done you’re ready to start scraping. You can use a disposable plastic putty knife or a regular pull scraper to clean the surface off. For detailed profiles the Hyde Contour Scraper works great, or you can use anything else that fits the profile of the woodwork in question.
Another great option I use on very intricate door profiles or mantles is a hand brass wire brush. It pulls the paint off easily and conforms to the surface enough that you won’t damage the profile.
If you are trying to get the wood completely clean of all paint consider using steel wool in the stripping process. You can use 00 or 000 steel wool dipped in CitriStrip to help clean the old primer out of the wood grain. Rub the steel wool and CitriStrip into the wood grain like applying wax to a car and you’ll get the wood clean of almost all paint residue making it ready for a varnished finish.
Step 5 Clean Up
Once you have the majority of the residue off you’ll want to get the surface clean enough for paint and the best way to do that it with some mineral spirits and steel wool. Use a finer 000 or 0000 steel wool and mineral spirits to scrub the surface down well and wipe it off with a cotton rag.
You should be ready for priming and painting now! You can dispose of the used stripper and paint residue in the trash, just wrap it up and put it into a regular trash bag. If CitriStrip sounds like something you’d like to try you can purchase it using my Amazon affiliate link right here.
Wanna see the process in action? Watch the short video below to see all the steps I just described in detail. Be sure to subscribe to our Youtube channel so you can see all of the helpful videos we release so you can get a head start on your next project!
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.