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How To: Use CitriStrip (Kinda)

how to use citristripPreface: 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

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.

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:

  1. It’s bio-degradable
  2. No neutralizing needed
  3. No-harsh fumes (pleasant citrus odor)
  4. Very effective
  5. 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.

Getting Started

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:

  1. Wear safety glasses
  2. Wear nitrile gloves NOT latex since this dissolves latex
  3. Have good ventilation (open all windows and use fans to exhaust air if possible)
  4. 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.

citristrip plasticStep 2 Cover with Plastic (Optional)

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!

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107 thoughts on “How To: Use CitriStrip (Kinda)

  1. How do I get old stain off bar twist legs in antique table.
    Will it loosen enough to get off with cotton rags and wiping , since I cannot scrape this…?

  2. I have found since the formulation it doesn’t work is well as the old one. I’m very disappointed in the new formula.

    1. Oh I so agree! The new formula doesn’t work half as well as the former formula. It has given me a complete dread of stripping anything! I have been searching for a different brand of stripper or something to make citristrip work better but no answers as of yet. Anyone have a good idea?

      1. Klean-strip works great. I regret just purchasing the citristrip today at Home Depot. Should have stuck with what works but wanted to try the less chemical version and am so ANGRY. this stuff is terrible in comparison to Klean strip.

    2. Help! I used Citristrip on a table top, and it worked well for most of it. I put on a second coat, covered it and intended to leave it overnight…but that turned into several days due to the weather. I went out yesterday to remove it, and now I have orange splotches that soaked into the wood! Any ideas if I’ll ever get it out???? PLEASE!

  3. I used CitriStrip to remove paint from what turns out to be a metal table top (I thought it was wood because the legs are definitely wood.). I think the paint that remains is baked on enamel. The CitriStrip did absolutely nothing to it, and I’m wondering if that’s why the paint I took off was peeling so badly, which was the reason I had to remove it. Anyway, the back of the CitriStrip bottle says to use “paint stripper cleaner” to clean up afterwards. What do you recommend? I’ve read several things as mild as soap and water to a vinegar and water wash to a chemical cleaner like Klean Strip Paint Stripper After Wash. I really don’t want to use the Klean Strip stuff. The instructions and warnings are a bit overwhelming. I may or may not repaint this table top. I just might leave the baked enamel, but I do want to make sure I remove all of the CitriStrip residue, which is dry by now since I did this yesterday. Please help! Thanks!

    1. I removed CitriStrip from baseboards and floors that were dried on one day by using mineral spirits and then mopped with hot water until no more residue came off the floor. Keep changing out the water as it gets cloudy.

  4. Well, it works but it made me pretty sick in the process. While maybe it has a pleasant odor it’s as toxic as anything. I highly recommend using a paint project respirator.

    1. This stuff is garbage. I tried using this on an antique vanity due to running out of kleanstrip and Omg did I make a huge mistake. It made a huge mess, and left everything so oily and sticky. But that was just the beginning. Once I cleaned the stripper off, I started sanding the surface always to make it smooth for staining and the stripper had soaked into the wood. Now spots of oily residue are coming through no matter what I do. Steer well clear of this garbage. Use something better. Anything is better.

  5. After using citrus strip on my deck Can I power wash after scraping the majority off? Will it take the final residue off?

  6. I have used Citristrip for a long time on many different pieces.
    Recently I have notice they have change the formula to citristrip. It no longer has that nice orange citri smell and it takes longer to strip .Also there customer Service is very bad, I have tried calling a couple times but gave up after being on hold for longer than 20 minutes, and when I put my number in for a call back…They never call back..Bummer, I might have to try something different. Very disappointed.

  7. I’m redoing my front porch , my citrusstrip calls for a paint thinner wash followed by mineral spirits . I can not find any in formation in what a paint thinner wash is ?

    1. Hi Rhonda, a typical solvent-based stripper wash formula is:
      Acetone 50%
      Xylene 30%
      Methyl Alcohol 10%
      Ethylbenzene 10%

      Very flammable!!

  8. How good a job does it cleaning dried paintbrushes with either oil or acrylic paint? Does it do any brush damage?

    1. To clean up brushes, especially those caked with dried paint, I have had excellent luck soaking the brushes in the laundry product “Shout” I have saved many brushes with latex, acrylic and oil based paints. I shared this with a neighbor painting his house. He accidentally let a brush dry and soaked it in “Shout” and saved his paint brush. I have saved my good oil paint brushes in the same manner. And no damage to anything I’ve cleaned with this product. Good Luck. BTW, I love Citristrip, I’ve always had good luck with removing paint on walls and furniture with it. Good Luck

  9. I’m currently using this stuff to strip paint off from a steel bike frame and fork.

    As others have stated it does take
    Longer for it to kick in.

    I’m in day 2 of applying is and letting it soak in..

    Thanks for the useful infos folks!

  10. When stripping an old desk with a lot of detail, I used a wire brush, but the brush continues to get clogged up with stain. Any suggestions on how to clean that gunk out of the wire brush? I have been running a small screwdriver through the bristles which takes forever. The finish is really thick and I don’t want to throw out the wire brush after every panel (not cost effective). Any suggestions are appreciated.

  11. I just used it on my deck that had multiple thick layers of deck paint. It work like a charm, took it back down to bare wood, which I was hoping for because I’m going to stain it. Not sure why some people are having issues with it? Thanks for the post though!

  12. Citristrip recently changed the formula for this product, and now it’s a total disappointment. I fear I may have to revert back the toxic strippers I used before discovering citristrip many years ago. It’s seriously impacting my business prospects at the moment.

    As I understand it, someone passed out and had a fatal incident while using (not in accordance with the recommended guidelines) the product.

    I hope they bring the old formula back‼️

      1. Just bought some from Lowes for another mid-century restoration project. I noticed the packaging was different and that it was a slightly darker orange.

        It’s useless. Even after 2 whole 12-hour soaks I’ve only pulled maybe half of the stain out of the wood. I’m working on thin veneers so I really don’t want to abuse it any further.

        Mineral spirits don’t help.. I’ve heard denatured alcohol might be able to finish the job.

      2. What do you all use now that the new Citristip formula is out and doesn’t work as well? Is any other stripper out there better? Scott, can you do an updated post on chemical strippers?

    1. I’m using CitriStrip right now on a old table and it’s working perfectly. It’s actually my first time using it and I’m more than happy with the results!

      Another one I’ve used is Multi Strip paste… however I’m really liking the CitriStrip for this project!

    2. Are you saying that the new formula caused the fatal incident or the old one? It is a little confusing.

      I had a bottle of the old formula that I recently used. It did the job. I now have a bottle of the new one. I hope it does what the other one did.

    3. I wish I had seen this string before I purchased the product. We have used it often in the past and am so very disappointed in the new formula. We’ll never use it again, unless they bring the old formula back.

  13. Used Citristrip overnight on a office desk. Some areas i applied a thicker layer and alllwed the varnish to come off. I had to reapply this morning only allowing the gel to sit for 3 hours. When i removed all the gel it left the wood with a stained look. Unfortunately i cannot sand too much of the desk or it loses its texture. Any suggestions on how to make the wood not spotty and stained? [email protected] if you need photos

    1. I had the same staining effect on my oak floor. It’s very dark where I applied it to sanded wood where I was trying to get the varnish off around the edges. Anyone know how to deal with this?

  14. hi i used citritsrip to strip the varnish off my front entry stained oak door. i wanted to restain it and put fresh varnish on it. After applying the citristrip and scraping the varnish off, i did not use mineral spirits like you said to clean the surface. I actually left the front door like that for a few months ( long story why!). so any remaining citristrip on the surface dried up. After a few months, i came back to the project and i wasn’t sure if i could just sand any potential dried up citristrip away (nothing visible) or not so i washed the door with a stiff plastic brush (scrubbing toilet brush) dipped in water and wiped it down with a wet towel. I kept getting a tan color gummy stain on my towels when i wiped them. I wasn’t sure if that was the original stain still coming off or if i was actually taking off wood with stiff brushing ? i was worried that citristrip could still be active ? or is that a non-issue after many months of drying out? i was going to let the door dry, sand lightly and stain it. now i just read your post and it says to use mineral spirit to clean after scraping citristrip off, what are the chances that i still may have active citiristrip after months of drying and wiping the surface down with water? (i didn’t hose down the door)

    and also, i am in CA 60 degree weather these says and trying to manage the stain and varnish in between the rains ! how much time in 60 degree weather do i need to give the (minwax) stain to dry before applying varnish? and if i apply a spar polyurethaine varnish and it rains the next day, is that not enough time for it to dry?

  15. I used CitriStrip on 30 years old oak cabinet door panels and drawer fronts. The color turned out darker and more uneven than the pieces I stripped with Jasco Paint and Epoxy Stripper using the same technique. I was disappointed with CitriStrip, but do not like using the highly toxic alternative.

  16. Hi Scott, I intend to use CitriStrip on a cedar timber garage door coated with Sikkens Cetol HLS. I’m hoping you can confirm whether CitriStrip will dissolve this paint. Also I cannot find the CitriStrip Paint Stripper After Wash product. However you noted that Mineral Spirits (we call Methylated Spirits in Australia) which is Denatured Alcohol, is all that’s required. I hope so !!! Much appreciated if you can confirm.

  17. I’m stripping a merry go round horse. Parts are wood and cast aluminum. . How in the world do I scrape all the curves and crevices!!!

  18. I have water in a bucket to rinse things. What is the safest thing to do you do with the water you rinse your brushes and tools off with?

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