How to remove paint from walls

Keep painted walls looking fresh with preventive maintenance and these simple cleaning methods.

You frequently mop your floors and vacuum your rugs, but when was the last time you cleaned the walls? Considering how much we lean against and touch them on a daily basis, keeping your walls clean is just as important as cleaning other household surfaces. Plus, over time, painted walls can accumulate stains, marks, shoe scuffs, and dust that give the surface a dull, dirty appearance. To preserve that freshly painted look, plan to wipe down your walls regularly. However, walls with different paint types and finishes require special care when scrubbing. Before you add this chore to your whole-house cleaning schedule, read our tips to learn how to clean walls without removing paint.

How to Clean Painted Walls

The first thing you should consider when washing painted walls is the finish. If needed, reference our handy guide to paint finishes. Whether the finish is glossy or flat will determine how scrubbing will affect the look of the wall.

How to Clean Walls with Flat Paint

Duller paint finishes, including flat, satin, and eggshell finishes, are less durable when it comes to cleaning. Do not use harsh chemicals or degreasers when cleaning flat painted walls. When washing with a sponge, be sure not to scrub too hard. The sponge should be wrung out almost completely before putting it on the walls.

How to Clean Glossy or Semigloss Painted Walls

Because these paints are highly durable, they're most commonly used in high-traffic areas like the kitchen and bathroom. It's OK to use a mild degreaser on glossy kitchen backsplashes or vanity doors. Although glossy and semigloss paint is durable, it will still scratch, so always use a soft sponge when cleaning walls.

How to Clean Walls with Latex Paint

The best way to clean walls painted with latex paint is to use warm water and a nonabrasive all-purpose cleaner. Dip a clean sponge in the water, then wring it dry. Gently rub the wall. Pay special attention to areas that get touched often, such as around doorknobs and light switches. Rinse with a second sponge and clear water. Take care not to wet areas around outlets, light switches, telephone jacks, and other electrical connections. If scrubbing those spots is necessary, turn off electricity at the circuit breaker box.

For stubborn spots, such as fingerprints, newspaper smudges, or scuffs, make a paste of baking soda and water and rub the area with a nonabrasive pad. If cleaner (or white vinegar and water) doesn't remove the grime or stain on painted woodwork, wipe the woodwork with a rag dampened with rubbing alcohol.

How to Clean Walls with Oil-Based Paint

Wash walls painted with oil-based paint in the same manner, substituting a detergent solution (see recipe below) for the cleaner or white vinegar mixture. Wring the sponge or cloth until only slightly damp. Texture-painted walls, such as those with a troweled finish, can be dust catchers and might require deeper cleaning. Add 1 ounce of borax to each pint of water to clean the wall.

How to remove paint from walls

Painting your walls might seem like the most elemental home remodeling task, a project that amateurs can perform just as easily as professionals. Even if you're a bit daunted by the idea of painting your own walls, the cost savings you might realize by doing it yourself could easily push you into trying out your skills.

While interior painting does not rise to the level of skill-heavy jobs like electrical work or plumbing, not everything about painting is abundantly obvious. That’s a key point to remember for this project: Take your time. You might not create a perfectly smooth painted wall on the first go. Be realistic about that, but also know that with careful consideration and practice, you can turn out professional quality work in your own home.

Over the years, professional painters develop certain procedures that make their jobs go faster, look better, and finish cleaner. By adopting professional painters’ methods and insider tricks, you too can turn out a fantastic wall paint project. Let’s get started.


To prepare the room for painting, first remove any obstructions. This includes everything from furniture to light switch covers. The more you can remove, the more space you'll have to move around and create a better paint job, and the less opportunity for accidental paint splatters on things you'd rather not paint, such as the sofa or bookcase.

Move out the big obstructions. If there are things you can't move out, move them to the center of the room and cover them well with plastic sheets.

Then look to the little things. With the correct screwdriver, remove light switch plates, outlet plates, pictures, hanging hooks or nails, and hooks for towels or clothes. After the plates have been removed, place tape over the remaining switches and outlets to avoid slopping paint on them.

Some wall obstructions, such as trim, require too much time and effort to remove and later replace. Besides that, you may cause damage to the walls by removing them. Unless you are making extensive whole-room remodels, you may find it easier to mask off baseboards, crown molding, or trim around windows and doors.

Few professional painters will be found without a set of work lights. By shining white light on the wall you are painting, you get a true and clear visual representation of how well the paint is going on. Ceiling lights just don't do the job. Find two inexpensive LED work lights, each rated at 4,000 lumens, at your local home center.

Run long, uninterrupted strips of painter's tape along the juncture between the wall and ceiling, wall, and adjacent walls, and along the top of the baseboards. If the wall has a door or window, run the tape around the door or window trim to protect them from spattering paint.

Tackle textured finishes with the right techniques to make your walls flat and smooth again.

By Glenda Taylor and Bob Vila | Updated Dec 4, 2020 12:16 PM

How to remove paint from walls

Texturing walls is a time-honored method of adding character to a wall or covering such imperfections as drywall taping inconsistencies—but not everyone loves the ridges and swirls of knock-down or the soft ripples of orange peel. Luckily, if you prefer flat surfaces, it is possible to get rid of an old textured finish, though this tends to be a messy, time-consuming project. Before you even put on your work clothes and pick up a scraper, you should get to know the two methods for how to remove texture from walls depending on whether or not your walls are painted.

  1. Wall texture that has never been painted can usually be removed with a soak-and-scrape process.
  2. Painted texture requires skimming the surface with drywallcompound. Paint acts as a sealant against water, so soaking wouldn’t be effective very effective in softening the texture—you’re better off covering up. The skimming process requires a fine touch, too, so you’ll need to be patient and allow a few hours, or more, per wall.

If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves, we’ve got the guidance to take your walls from textured to totally smooth. Keep reading to find the method for removing wall texture that works for you.

How to remove paint from walls

You love your sunshine yellow walls, but that crayon masterpiece your 2-year-old created might not be your favorite.

Before grabbing a scrubby sponge and your favorite spray cleaner, here’s what a professional painter has to say about safely cleaning those colorful walls. It’s so simple, you may be surprised!


Home Your 2021 spring-cleaning checklist

How to clean latex-painted interior walls

According to Wil Bias, owner of MB Painting and Maintenance Services, LLC, in New Orleans, cleaning walls depends primarily on whether the paint is oil-based or latex. To safely clean latex-painted interior walls, follow these steps.

What you’ll need:


Home TODAY’s 2021 A to Z stain removal guide

What you’ll do:

  1. Mix three or four drops of dish detergent in half-filled bucket of water. (Or you can go “old school” and do the cleaning with vinegar: Use two or three tablespoons of distilled white vinegar to a gallon of water. Using vinegar to clean a painted room can be surprisingly effective.)
  2. Wet a sponge in the mixture and wring it out to dry. (This is important as you don’t want to mess up your walls with lines of dripping water.)
  3. Wipe off the dirt, rinse the sponge and repeat as needed. This works for all types of latex paint — flat, semi-gloss and gloss.
  4. Make sure the sponge is wrung out dry before cleaning around electrical outlets, light switches and telephone connections. Before cleaning dirty outlet covers, turn off electricity to those areas to avoid shocks.

Bias cautions that you should never use a degreaser or any other harsh chemical cleaners on latex-painted walls.

“If marks don’t come off using just soap and water or white vinegar and water, you’ll have to repaint.”

How to remove paint from walls

How to choose a hue that's right for you when repainting a room

How to clean oil-based painted interior walls

Because oil-based paints are a bit hardier, in addition to using the detergent or vinegar and water mixture, you can safely use a mild degreaser to remove grease, especially on kitchen walls.

What you’ll need:

What you’ll do:

  1. Follow the instructions for latex walls above.
  2. Follow the instructions on the degreaser’s packaging to safely use it to get rid of any grease or buildup on the walls in the kitchen.

As with latex-painted walls, never use a scrubby sponge, Teflon pad or harsh chemicals to clean walls painted with oil-based paints. “If you do, you’ll leave permanent streak marks every place you wipe,” Bias said.

And, of course, follow the above precautions when cleaning around electrical and phone outlets.

How to clean exterior walls

To clean exterior painted walls, whether latex or oil-based, follow these steps.

What you’ll need:

What you’ll do:

  1. Start by wetting the walls.
  2. Then, using a pump garden sprayer, lightly spray the walls with a mixture of 1/2 cup Jomax, 1 cup of bleach and enough water to fill the container.
  3. Allow the mixture to work for 15 minutes, then scrub with a soft-scrubbing brush. This will remove mildew, mold and other dirt.
  4. Rinse with a garden hose.

When cleaning a two-story house, a garden hose may not reach high enough to completely rinse the walls. In that case, you can use a pressure washer but only if it’s fitted with a 25-degree nozzle and you don’t use pressure. Just spray the water as it comes out. Using pressure could damage the paint and cut into the siding.

How to remove paint from walls

Tips to organize a messy garage

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How to remove paint from walls

Nicotine from heavy smoking can penetrate through the paint and settle into the pores of drywall, leaving what seem permanent stains and odors, which can only be alleviated by repainting. You will have to clean and prepare the walls properly before you paint, to prevent the smoke and nicotine from bleeding through again. Wash the walls with an aggressive cleaner and then seal them with stain-blocking primer to ensure that stains don’t creep through later. Apply two coats of top-quality latex paint to get the walls looking, and smelling, good again.

Move the furniture away from the walls. Remove the outlet covers, pictures and wall hangings. Use the claw end of a hammer to remove the nails.

Cover the floor with drop cloths and mask the electrical outlets with painter’s tape.

Put on a pair of rubber gloves and mix a cleaning solution of trisodium phosphate, or TSP, and warm water. Prepare the solution in a bucket, using the manufacturer’s mixing instructions. Prepare a second bucket of clean, warm rinse water.

Wash the walls with a large sponge soaked in the TSP solution. Rinse the sponge as often as needed, and prepare a new bucket of TSP when the water becomes brown with dirt and nicotine. Continue to wash the walls until they are free of dirt and nicotine. Rinse the walls with clean water and allow them to dry completely.

Fill nail holes and gouges with spackling compound, using a putty knife. Sand the spackling smooth with a fine-grit sanding pad and remove sanding dust with a clean, damp cloth.

Apply a bead of painter’s caulk to the seams between trim molding and the wall, using a caulking gun. Don’t use silicone because paint won’t adhere to silicone. Smooth the caulk with your finger and wipe any excess, using a clean, damp cloth. This step is optional, but it will ensure a seamless appearance when you paint.

Mask the bottom of the crown molding and the top of baseboards using painter’s tape. Apply painter’s tape to the door and window facings.

Pour stain-blocking primer into a paint pail. Dip the tip of a 2-inch angled paintbrush into the primer. Tap the bristles on the sides of the paint pail to distribute the primer evenly. Don’t drag the bristles over the side of the pail. Using the brush, cut-in the perimeter of the walls and every place where a roller won’t fit.

Place a pan liner into a paint pan. Insert a medium-nap roller cover onto a roller handle. Fill the paint pan with primer. Submerge the roller in the primer and roll it back and forth over the grid lines to load it evenly.

Apply a coat of primer to the walls with the roller, ensuring to roll over the cut line. Use a paint pole to extend the reach of the roller. Smooth out drips or thick lines with the roller. Allow the primer to dry for the amount of time shown on the can, as times vary among products.

Apply a second coat of primer in the same manner, and allow it to dry completely.

Clean the paintbrush and the pail with soapy water if you used water-based primer, or paint thinner if solvent-based.

Stir a can of paint with a stir stick to blend the color pigments evenly. Don’t shake the can; shaking could introduce air bubbles into the paint. Replace the paint pan liner with a new one, and insert a new, medium-nap roller cover onto the roller handle. Pour paint into the paint pail and pan.

Load the paintbrush and cut in the perimeter of the walls with paint. Use long, smooth strokes and apply paint everywhere the roller won’t fit.

Load the roller evenly with paint. Roll over the cut lines to blend and texture the brush marks. Apply a coat of paint to the walls using long, smooth rolls while maintaining a wet edge to prevent dried roller marks. Smooth out thick lines and runs with the roller. Allow the paint to dry for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.

Apply a second coat of paint and allow it to dry for 24 hours before replacing the outlet covers and pictures.

Tastes change and fashions change, so the white-painted brick that looked so great ten years ago may seem a little dated now. Though it’s no easy feat to remove paint from brick, a determined DIYer can tackle the project with the right product ands enough time.

By Bob Vila | Updated Dec 28, 2020 4:01 PM

How to remove paint from walls

If you’ve ever tried to remove paint from brick, you know that it can be a painstaking process. Depending on the scope of the job, it might take you several hours or several days to complete the work. Because of the time and effort involved, many homeowners are unable or unwilling to commit their schedules to the project and choose instead to hire professionals.

If, however, you’re dealing with only a modest expanse of brick, or if you relish a challenge, there’s some good news: Paint-stripping products have improved over the years, making the work friendlier to your health and to the brick itself. These new, safer formulations are the way to go. Many pros and DIYers recommend Citri-Strip. SmartStrip has its devotees, as well. None are cheap, but all are comparably effective.

You may be tempted to try a shortcut, possibly sandblasting or power-washing the paint, but this may do more harm than good, leaving the building material in a vulnerable condition. Many caustic chemical-based paint-removal solutions compromise brick in a similar way. If you remove paint from brick using any of these potentially damaging methods, you may end up with a problem that’s much more serious than paint.

Particularly if you’re dealing with old brick, it’s critical to not to clean the brick in a way that does lasting harm. Today, the best solutions are gel or paste compounds, followed by fabric-based peeling strips. The paint stripper triggers a chemical reaction that causes the paint to soften and adhere to the fabric. In the final step, the fabric strips are peeled away, taking the paint with them in the process and exposing the natural brick. Know what you’re getting into, though. The right paint stripper can do much of the work for you, but most situations call for a great deal of further scrubbing and/or scraping by hand.

  • Paint stripper
  • Paint removal strips
  • Work gloves
  • Protective glasses
  • Respirator mask
  • Drop cloths
  • See full list «
  • Painter’s tape
  • Trowel
  • Stiff-bristled brush

How to remove paint from walls

How to Remove Paint from Brick

  1. Before applying a stripping agent to remove paint from brick, test the stripper on an inconspicuous part of the installation. You may find that the stripper you’ve chosen does not work as well as expected, or you may discover the brick was painted to conceal its poor condition. Another good reason to start with a test: Doing so gives you a sense of how much effort the job is going to take. You may still opt to hire a pro, or you may decide you can put up with the paint, after all!
  2. No doubt about it, this is going to be messy. Minimize cleanup by setting up your work area in a thoughtful way. First, lay down a series of drop cloths or some thick plastic sheeting to catch the peeling and flaking paint that will fall away from the brick. Don’t forget to tape the drop cloth or plastic to the bottom edge of the brick. If you don’t want to disturb the finish of nearby painted areas—the adjacent wood trim, perhaps—take the time to cover it up completely with painter’s tape.
  3. Don the protective gear recommended by the manufacturer of the paint stripper you’ve chosen. Before applying the gel or paste, start out by scraping away any paint that’s already loose. Next, using a trowel or a specialized tool provided by the paint stripper manufacturer, apply the compound to the brick. Be thorough, making sure to push the gel or paste into all the little crevices in the brick and mortar. Layer by layer, build the stripper up to the thickness recommended by the manufacturer.
  4. With the compound in place, start positioning the peeling strips. Typically made of fabric, these strips should be pressed and held against the stripper until firmly attached. Overlap the strips so that no brick remains visible. Once the strips have been applied, let them set for the period of time stipulated by the manufacturer. In many cases, particularly when multiple paint layers are involved, it takes a full 24 hours for the compound to cure and really work its magic.
  5. Once sufficient time has passed, return to the work area and begin lifting off the strips. If necessary, use the trowel to gain purchase behind any sluggish strips. Peel the strips in a slow and deliberate fashion; don’t rip them. As you peel, the paint beneath should come off too. Wherever the strips leave behind either compound or paint, use the trowel to flake off as much residue as possible. If the trowel doesn’t cut it, scrub with a stiff-bristled brush and rinse with water. If it wasn’t already clear, now it is: Removing paint from brick is a labor-intensive, if not grueling project.

Dispose of the used strips according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For some products, the chemical reaction stops on its own, while for others it stops only after the addition of a neutralizing chemical. Also important: Do not attempt to remove paint from brick if, within a month or so, there’s any chance that the temperature is going to fall below freezing. If the brick doesn’t dry completely before the frost, it will be especially likely to succumb to damage.

Bring new life to metal by stripping old, stuck-on paint using one of these easy-to-follow methods.

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Removing paint from metal isn’t difficult, but it can be tedious and potentially dangerous. Thankfully, there are many ways to strip paint from metal—including safe and eco-friendly ones—that will have your object looking as good as it did before someone decided to take a paintbrush to it. So, what’s the best paint remover for metal? A lot of it depends on the item. Consider the options below, before tackling your next project.

Methods for Removing Paint from Metal

Paint Scraper

This handheld tool, with a plastic or metal blade similar to a putty knife, can remove paint with just a little elbow grease. If you are working with a softer metal like brass, choose a plastic blade over a metal one to make sure you don’t damage or scratch the metal’s surface. Scrapers come in various sizes; choose one that’s comfortable to hold and well-suited for the job (a wide blade for flatter, wider surfaces and a narrower blade for smaller, harder-to-reach areas).

Ideal For: Flat surfaces and small jobs where the paint flakes and comes off easily, without the need for chemicals.

Heat Gun

Heat guns “melt” the paint, causing it to pull away from the metal surface. Start on the lowest setting and hold the heat gun a few inches away from the surface, moving it back and forth slightly. Warning: High heat can warp metal. Begin slowly and avoid overheating the area. Once the paint begins to bubble or pull up from the surface, scrape it off using a putty knife or paint scraper. If the paint doesn’t bubble, slowly increase temperature until it does. Make sure to use heat-resistant gloves and do not touch the metal piece until it has thoroughly cooled.

Ideal For: Targeting small areas and for projects where you plan to work in small sections.

Angle Grinder with Strip Disk

A quick and easy, albeit noisy and dusty method is to attach a strip disk to your angle grinder and let the handheld machine do the (dirty) work. Strip disks come in various abrasive materials, so look for one that is designed to remove paint from metal and won’t cause damage to the surface.

Ideal For: Stronger metal pieces like steel, beams, pipes, fences, metal furniture, and larger, flat surfaces.

Baking Soda (or Vinegar) & Heat

A natural way to remove paint from metal surfaces is to combine baking soda and water or white vinegar and water over a heat source. You can do this on your stovetop with a disposable pot or pan. For every quart of water, add 1/4 cup of baking soda or vinegar and bring the water to a boil. Add the item to the pan and let it boil for about 15 minutes or until the paint falls off. While wearing heat-protective gloves, use tongs to remove the metal pieces. Scrape off any remaining paint with a putty knife or hard-bristle brush.

Ideal For: Smaller metal pieces like hardware and hinges.

Paint Stripper

Paint strippers come in different forms, including a low-odor version made from soybeans, but the steps are the same. Pour the stripper into a container and, using a chip brush, apply a thick layer to the object, allowing the chemical to react with the paint and bubble (anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight). With a rag or scraper, wipe and remove the liquid, along with the unwanted paint, repeating as necessary. Work in a well-ventilated area and remove any potentially flammable items before using this method.

Ideal For: Outdoor projects, large pieces, spray paint on metal, and items with hard-to-reach nooks and crannies.

Paint Removal Tips

  • Avoid using coarse sandpaper or wire-bristled brushes on metal; otherwise you may damage or pit the surface.
  • Old toothbrushes come in handy when attacking hard-to-reach corners or crevices.
  • Follow the paint stripper’s instructions and adhere to the recommended time of for leaving the chemical on the painted metal—layers of stuck-on paint are hard to penetrate and breaking through those bonds can take time.
  • After all the paint has been removed from the item, wipe down and clean the metal with mineral spirits and a clean rag.
  • Dispose of the paint, any chemicals, and materials properly.

Safety Tips and Tools

When removing paint from any surface, employ the following safety measures:

It could be that you want to give your apartment an invigorating new look, or maybe it is because the walls are looking a little worse for wear, and it is about time you do some maintenance work. Whatever it may be, when it comes to painting walls, you can either do it yourself or hire help.

If you’re up for the challenge, here is how to properly paint over a painted wall yourself.

1. Prep the area

How to remove paint from walls

This first step is crucial in achieving your dream look. There is no point in giving your walls a fresh coat of paint only to get paint all over the existing decoration. Always clear the area and remove all furniture and appliances.

Next, line your floors with either newspapers or a canvas sheet for protection. For power sockets and other things that cannot be removed, tape over them to prevent paint splatter.

Read this extensive guide on how to prep your area before a paint job.

2. Scrape Off Old Paint

How to remove paint from walls

Tomas Mikl /

Tempting as it may be, do NOT paint over old paint. Yes, it’s a tedious process, but remember that old axiom your parents used to drill into you? The one about doing it once and doing it well? I’m pretty sure they had wall painting in mind when they said it.

So, in case it wasn’t clear: do not paint over flaking old paint! If you have walls that are peeling paint, pick up the scraper and remove the flaking pieces, no matter how long it takes. This will prevent the newer coats of paint from flaking.

3. Fill in Holes and Cracks

How to remove paint from walls

Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH /

Apart from scraping off old paint, filling in holes and cracks in the wall helps to ensure a smooth, consistent surface for your new coat of paint. Use a filler and a filling knife, or scraper, to patch up any visible holes and cracks. Deeper holes may have to be filled more than once.

End by sanding the filled areas flat to allow even application of the new paint coat.

4. Clean the Walls

How to remove paint from walls

After sanding the walls, vacuum up the debris. It’s also good to wipe the walls with a cloth and some detergent. Repeat the wiping process with clean water. This removes the grease and dirt from the walls and makes it easier for painting.

5. Prime Darker Walls

How to remove paint from walls

If you are painting over a darker wall (like in the picture above) with a lighter colour, use a primer.

A primer is a light coat of paint that retains colours well. Covering a dark coloured wall may require multiple coats of paint. Using a primer is more cost-efficient than covering the wall immediately with a light coloured paint. If you can still see the original wall colour after your first layer of primer has dried, apply another coat of primer.

6. Let it Dry

How to remove paint from walls

To achieve a flawless finish, apply two coats of the new paint. It is important to let each coat dry thoroughly first before adding another layer.

Insufficient drying time can result in poor colour pay-off and the primer may not be able to properly conceal the darker-coloured wall. For drying time, refer to the paint can for instructions. To play it safe, wait a minimum of two hours before applying the next coat.

Those were the essentials of how to properly paint over a painted wall. By the time you’re done reading this, you should be better prepared to tackle this DIY feat. Good luck and have fun!

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Learning how to paint a room properly is essential for beginning DIY’ers, new homeowners, and veteran home improvement experts alike. After all, it’s pretty painless, relatively inexpensive, and—should something go horribly wrong—easy to fix. But before you grab your roller and get started with your first coat, it’s essential to have a plan of attack. So we asked a handful of experts for their best painting tips and tricks to get you started. Read on to learn how to paint a room and see step-by-step what you’ll need to do to make sure your project is a success.

1. Plan your approach

Start by thinking about how you want the finished project to look and remember that you’re not limited to four walls or an entire room in the same color. Consider painting an accent wall in a bold hue or highlighting moldings in a contrasting shade or finish. And don’t forget to look up and see whether the ceiling could use a refresh as well.

Alexander Gorlin used Parma Gray by Farrow & Ball on an accent wall in a New York apartment.

2. Choose your color

Browsing through fan decks and paint chips can be overwhelming. Start by figuring out the general color characteristics: Do you want a warm or cool shade? Neutral or saturated? If you have existing furniture or art, you’ll also want to consider how the shade will complement them. Once you have a sense of what you’re looking for, pick a few shades and get samples—lots of direct-to-consumer brands, like Backdrop and Clare, will send you adhesive swatches you can slap on the wall for a better sense of shade (and it’ll save you a trip to the store). Test the colors to see how they look in the room at different times of day.

Many paint companies also have tools on their websites that will let you upload a photo of your space and preview different colors on the walls. But colors can look different in real-world conditions, so you’ll still need to try it out in the space.

Test samples of your color choices in the room to see how they look in different lighting conditions.

Photo: Richard Drury/Getty Images

3. Pick out your tools and materials

Every project is unique and you may need different tools depending on the paint you choose and the condition of your walls, but there are a few must-haves:

  • Paint
  • Paint roller
  • Paint roller extension pole
  • Drop cloths
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint tray
  • Sandpaper
  • Painter’s tape
  • Rags
  • Putty knife

Click here for a shopping list to order all the paint supplies you’ll need to get started—from sanding and priming to your very last touch-ups.

Gather all the essential tools before you start.

Photo: Anika Salsera/Getty Images

4. Determine how much paint you’ll need

Whether you’re painting a powder room or the exterior of your house, the general rule of thumb is one gallon per 400 square feet, says Carl Minchew, vice president of color innovation and design at Benjamin Moore. But that’s just a rough guideline: To get a more precise number, which you’ll definitely want for large projects, use a paint calculator like the ones provided by Benjamin Moore or Pratt & Lambert; they take into account window and door measurements. (And both assume two coats of paint per project.)

Planning on whitewashing a charcoal gray wall? You’ll likely need additional paint when going from dark to light. On the other end of the spectrum, a deep color base tends to require more coats of paint than a lighter color, says Carolyn Noble, color marketing and design manager at Pratt & Lambert. She recommends applying a gray-tinted primer to the surface before you paint your walls a saturated color to help reduce the number of applications. When it comes to finish, you may have heard that the glossier it is, the higher the coverage rate, but it’s not enough of a difference to change the number of gallons you need to buy, Minchew says.

If you’re painting a highly textured surface rather than a smooth one, buy a little extra, says Julianne Simcox, Pratt & Lambert associate brand manager. Cabinets with complicated millwork require more paint, too; Minchew suggests purchasing about 10% more than calculated.

Calculate the correct amount of paint you’ll need to spare yourself trips back to the store and wasted paint.

Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images

5. Prep the walls and the room

You don’t want to damage your favorite sofa or that heirloom Grandma gave you, so empty the room of all the furniture. If you don’t have enough space to relocate everything you own, push it all to the center of the room. Cover the pieces with a drop cloth or lightweight plastic sheeting and do the same with the floor, as well as any cabinetry or countertops that might be in danger of excess splatter. “Don’t skip the drop cloth—paint will splatter, we promise,” say New Jersey contractors—and cousins—John Colaneri and Anthony Carrino, the stars of the HGTV series Cousins Undercover and Kitchen Cousins as well as The Build Up and Grand Design on Ellen DeGeneres’s Ellentube.

Grab a roll of painter’s tape—the cousins recommend FrogTape—and firmly apply it to the edges of the room’s corners, base and crown moldings, and door and window casings, using a putty knife to seal if needed. “Getting a good seal so paint doesn’t get under the tape is everything, plus it will pull away clean after everything is dry,” Colaneri and Carrino say. If you dare (or have an artist’s steady hand), you can skip taping entirely. Remove light switch and outlet covers and apply painter’s tape to protect outlets and switches from paint drips.

How to remove paint from walls How to remove paint from walls

Cigarette smoke isn’t just bad for your lungs. It can cause tar and nicotine stains on walls and just about anything it comes into prolonged contact with. Tar and nicotine stains hold the stale odor of cigarettes, so cleaning them is the most effective way to get rid of cigarette smoke smell in a room.

Use the tips below to remove nicotine and tar stains from your walls.

Cleaning Nicotine Off Walls

  1. Begin by lightly cleaning the walls with a vacuum and an upholstery brush attachment. This will help remove any loose debris. Next, make a cleaning solution with one gallon of hot water, three tablespoons of dish soap, and a half cup of baking soda. Use a rag to scrub the walls with this solution. Work in small sections, and dry each section of the wall with a cloth right afterward to prevent the drywall from becoming saturated.
  2. Pour a cup of undiluted vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar), lemon juice or ammonia into a spray bottle. Put on gloves and protective eyewear, and open your windows and/or use a fan to encourage ventilation. These safety measures are especially important when using ammonia, which is dangerous to inhale and causes skin and eye irritation. Spray your chosen solution on the wall, and use a sponge to scrub the stains. Once finished with your initial clean, rinse the sponge in fresh water, wring it out and wipe the walls down with fresh water. Dry the walls as you go to prevent damage to the drywall.

Removing nicotine stains can be a very difficult process, especially if the room was smoked in for a long time. You may need to repeat these steps over the course of a few days. Still stained? Hang in there. Even if you’re not seeing any progress, these cleaning steps are required if you want to paint over the stains.

Professional Stain and Odor Removal

Rainbow International’s IICRC-certified technicians are trained for odor and stain removal. If you need professional odor or stain removal, just give us a call. Our commercial equipment is much more effective than what most consumers have access to. We can remove nicotine stains from walls and deodorize rooms to restore them to like-new condition. Just call 855-724-6269, or request an appointment online.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you scrub, the nicotine stains just can’t be removed. When this is the case, Five Star Painting can help. Their experts can prime and paint the room with odor-absorbing paint, maybe even a new color. Five Star Painting is part of the Neighborly network of home service providers. From their painters, you can expect the same attention to detail and quality customer service the Neighborly brands are known for.

When it comes to storing paint leftovers, there are best practices as well as mistakes you can make – from temperature conditions to the choice of container to even placement of the can.

Many people don’t give much thought to how they store paint, but then become disappointed when the paint they’ve been counting on has gone bad and become unstable, or even worse – ruined the floor underneath and created a big mess.

Properly stored, paint will remain usable for at least 5 years, so here is how to do it right to keep those leftovers fresh until you need them again for repainting or touch ups.

Tips and Instructions
for Storing Paint Properly

Mark it

How to remove paint from walls

Before you put your paint away for storage, don’t forget to mark each paint can with a permanent marker – what room or surface the paint was used for, and the name and number of the paint (if this information on the lid has become smudged or covered by paint).

It’s best to mark the body of the can because the lids are often lost, damaged and replaced, or mismatched (especially with similar paint colors – you don’t want to accidentally use trim semi-gloss to touch up your ceiling, for example).

Also, make sure there is a paint dab on each can (both on the lid and side) to show you what color is inside for easy identification, and to verify that the lid matches the can correctly.

Repackage it

How to remove paint from walls

Paint keeps better in full containers where it has less contact with air.

So when you have just a little bit of paint left (for example, just enough for touch ups), it often makes more sense to transfer it to a smaller container for storage than keeping it in the original packaging.

Those 1-gallon cans are not only bulky and take up a lot of space, but they also allow more paint surface to come in contact with air due to their size, so the paint dries up faster. 

And professional painting contractors often buy paint in 5-gallon buckets (which are even worse for storing paint), so if you get to keep the paint leftovers, ask your contractor to decant the extra into a more reasonable container, or do it yourself.

You can reuse an old quart-sized can for that purpose (that has been completely cleaned out and thoroughly dried) or buy a new one in any paint or home improvement store. 

Storing paint leftovers in canning jars also works fine – you may already have them around the house in various sizes to fit the amount of paint you have (the glass jars let you easily see the contents and are just pretty to look at).

Seal it

How to remove paint from walls

Before closing a paint can or a jar, be sure to wipe clean all paint residue from the groove/rim – that will make it easier for you to open it when you need to, and not let the air in by making the lid fit tight.

To create an even tighter air seal and prevent metal-to-metal corrosion, you can take a plastic bag and cut out a circle larger than the opening of the paint can, and use it as a gasket under the lid.

Also, don’t hammer the lid directly (and especially in the middle) when trying to close the can – this can distort the lid and disrupt the air seal.

Instead, use a rubber mallet to tap around the edges of the lid, or place a block of wood on top of the lid and hammer the block to set the lid firmly into place.

Cool it

How to remove paint from walls

First of all, paints in tins should be stored in a dry place, off the ground or concrete floors (that includes glass jars with tin lids) – to keep the metal from rusting and ruining the paint inside or the surface underneath.

It’s also best to store paint in a cool area – but don’t allow it to freeze, or it will permanently separate and become unusable.

Keep it away from direct sunlight or other heat sources (water boilers, radiators, heaters, etc) that will speed up paint’s deterioration.

The above requirements usually mean that storing paint in an unheated garage, crawl space, shed, wet basement or hot attic is not a good idea, but a cool and dry utility closet, mud room or laundry room should be fine.

Re-use it

How to remove paint from walls

Do not shake an old can of paint before opening it to avoid mixing the contents with any dust, rust or debris from the deteriorated interior of the can.

And when you open it, first always check for paint “skin” that may have formed on the top (especially if the paint has been stored for longer than a year, or wasn’t sealed properly).

Carefully and thoroughly remove this film (check the edges) with a stick or spoon before stirring the paint, or you’ll end up with a paint full of junk.

Sometimes this paint “skin” is impossible to remove in one piece (the thinner the film, the more likely it is to break into many pieces) – in that case, you need to strain the paint before using it.

Actually, it’s a good rule of thumb to strain old paint any time you are not sure about its purity – it is a messy step but it surely is much easier than having to pick out a million of bits and pieces from your freshly painted walls.

How to remove paint from walls

NOTE: some house painters recommend storing paint cans upside down, but here’s the problem with this method: the paint may leak, or the “skin” may form on the bottom of the can when it is stored this way. And when you open the can, this “skin” – not visible to you – will inevitably get stirred into the paint, and ruin your new paint job.

It’s very important to stir paint really well (by hand or with a mixer attached to a power drill) every time before use to recombine all the ingredients that may have separated or settled on the bottom – otherwise the paint color will not match (which is a disaster for touch ups).

And if the paint can’t be re-blended to look normal no matter how long you mix it, it means it’s turned bad (become unstable). You shouldn’t use such paint because it will not perform or look as it should, and may even create a lot of problems.

If some of your paint has gone bad or you have leftovers that you are not going to need again, please learn about  the right paint disposal methods and different options before just throwing it away.

Sanding walls before painting is a crucial step with any painting method but it becomes even more important if you’re using a paint sprayer. Unless you are painting a popcorn ceiling, you will want the surface underneath to be as flat and clean as possible.

Besides sanding the surface, any holes or cracks should be covered, too. For that, you have the choice between painters putty vs spackle and we recommend painters putty for a smoother surface.

Sanding Walls Before Painting

Read on for our how-to guide on sanding walls before painting so you can get pro results with your paint sprayer.

Why Is Sanding Walls Before Painting Necessary?

How to remove paint from walls

We have to sand a wall before starting the painting process to get the smoothest finish. It can be a time-consuming job but the final results are worth it.

Sanding a wall before painting is part of the cleaning process. It takes away any bumps and impurities which would otherwise cause an uneven painted surface, even if you are using the best paint sprayer for walls or a basic roller.

You can always tell when an uneven surface was painted because you will see darker and lighter patches on the wall. It also creates an inconsistent texture, an unintentional one, that is.

Besides a less professional finish, it is also more costly to paint an uneven wall. To make up for the uneven finish, you will have to use extra layers of paint to make up for the difference.

Paint layers are generally very thin anyway so you can imagine how many extra layers you will have to add to make the surface seem smooth. Not only is this more expensive but it is also time-consuming.

In short, it is better to spend a little extra time prepping a wall for painting instead of having to spend time and money on having to cover up the impurities later.

Required Materials

  • Several sheets of sandpaper of different grades
  • Sanding block or tool*
  • Bucket
  • Cleaning solution
  • Sponges
  • Safety goggles
  • Work gloves
  • Filler
  • Filling knife
  • Masking type

There are several sanding tools available, both manual tools and electric tools. The most basic option is a sanding block which is basically a rectangular wood block that you wrap the sandpaper around.

The advantage of using a sanding block is that you get a better grip and simply flip to another side once the used sandpaper side is used up. However, these blocks don’t sit as comfortably in your hand.

There are also sanding boards with a handle but it is more difficult to make circular motions with these tools. The fastest and least straining option is using an electric sanding tool but these cost more.

The final choice is up to personal preference. Professionals and those with large scale DIY projects will prefer an electric sanding tool because they get the job done faster but the manual tools can get you good results, too.

How to Prep a Wall by Sanding

How to remove paint from walls

Step 1: Prepare the room for painting by removing as much furniture as possible and covering the furniture that cannot be moved. Also, cover the floor with drop cloths and cover moldings, switches, window frames, handles and so on with masking tape.

Step 2: Dust all the surfaces to be painted with either a cloth or a long duster that lets you reach up high.

Step 3: Prepare the sugar soap solution in the bucket. Soak up some of the solutions with the sponge before using it to clean the walls.

Sugar soap is the preferred cleaning solution for prepping walls for painting because it does not leave residue. However, make sure to use the solution sparingly because you don’t want wet streaks on the wall either.

Step 4: Let the soap solution sit for a few minutes per the instructions on the package. In the meantime, wash out the used bucket and refill it with regular tap water.

Step 5: Using a new sponge, wash down the wall using plain water. Again, make sure that the sponge is only moist and not so wet that it will leave streaks on the wall.

Step 6: Let the wall dry while preparing the sanding tool. This step will differ depending on which type of tool you use.

When using a sanding block, wrap the sanding paper around the block. You will have to hold it in place with your hands (wearing gloves, of course).

Most sanding boards have a feature to attach the sanding paper, such as clips, for example. Electric sanders usually have a velcro layer to keep the sanding paper in place.

Step 7: Choose the right sandpaper for the surface and the step in the process. The differences in types of sandpaper and grit are explained below.

When prepping a wall for painting we generally recommend a softer sandpaper to avoid damaging the wall. If there are rougher patches on the wall use an 80 grit but generally, a 100 is enough for preparing a wall before painting.

You might also want to finish off the wall by sanding it again after painting. For this use a 240 grit or even higher.

Step 8: Work in circular motions when sanding the walls. This creates the smoothest surfaces and makes damage to the surface less likely.

Different Types of Sandpaper

How to remove paint from wallsSandpaper is a simple material but knowing how to use it properly requires knowledge of the differences. We could write a complete guide on sandpaper explaining the different grits, materials, and purposes.

To keeps things simple, understand what grit means. Grit refers to the size of the ‘sand’ or synthetic material used to make the paper rough.

The general rule of thumb to remember is that the higher the number the larger the grains and the softer the sandpaper. There are two measurement systems with the CAMI scale being the most common in the US and the FEPA scale in Europe.

Always check whether the sandpaper is described in CAMI or FEPA before purchasing.

How to remove paint from walls

For the past 9 years, I’ve worked as a professional paint sprayer on both small home projects and large commercial buildings. Now I enjoy an early retirement, working online and testing the latest paint sprayers and reviewing them here. It’s a dream come true, as I now get to spend more time with my wife and 2 girls. If you have any questions, just drop a comment and I’ll do my best to help you directly.

A basement is a valuable space in any home, with its year-round cool climate and easy access from both indoors and outdoors.

But whether you use it as storage for your excess pantry items or as a family hangout, you need to maintain it regularly to prevent moisture damage.

Your basement will either have a concrete foundation or cinder block foundation. By painting the walls or foundation, you increase the appeal of the space, but also it improves the moisture control from the wall.

Concrete is a porous material that can absorb water from the ground and transfer to the basement through the foundation. By using a waterproofing paint, you prevent some of this transfer from happening.

Let me share how to paint cinder block walls in a basement or concrete to help you waterproof your basement.

How to remove paint from walls

This tutorial is for a cinder block foundation because this is the type of walls we have in our basement, but this works for a concrete wall too. Also, our walls were painted before, but they were starting to flake, and we wanted to make sure they were waterproofed before finishing the space.

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links or referral links for your convenience. It is a way for this site to earn advertising commissions by advertising or linking to certain products and/or services, click here to read my full disclosure policy.

Painting Cinder block walls in a basement



  • paintbrush
  • paint roller frame
  • 1/2″ to 3/4″ nap roller
  • step stool or ladder
  • face mask
  • safety glasses
  • wire brush
  • shop-vac

You can print the material list and instructions below.

STEP 1 – How to prepare a cinder block wall for painting

With every project, there is always prep work, and this is an essential step to give you the finish you want. But before starting, I put on my mask and glasses – safety first!

How to remove paint from walls

Start by scraping off all dirt, loose grit in cracks, and (if you’re repainting), the old flaking paint, with a painter’s tool and a wire brush. Use a shop-vac to vacuum up the scraped off material.

How to remove paint from walls

After, you will use hydraulic cement to patch any holes or cracks where water could seep in. Follow the instructions for the hydraulic cement, or if you want some extra help, see how to waterproof cracks in a foundation.

How to remove paint from walls How to remove paint from walls

Once the cement has dried, it’s time to clean the walls. Use a shop-vac again to vacuum up any loose materials.

Make sure to remove Efflorescence (a white, powdery, crystal-like deposit) by using Drylok Etch or muriatic acid to clean the area. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Then, using a mild detergent, clean the walls to remove any extra dirt or residue.

How to remove paint from walls

STEP 2 – Paint cinder block with paint

Now you’re ready for paint! Choose carefully because the type of paint you use will make a difference in waterproofing your walls. I have used two different types and I would recommend using Drylok.

SIDE NOTE: Drylok is tint-able, so you can color it!

Apply the paint according to the manufacturer’s instructions, but here are some basic guidelines.

Stir the paint thoroughly before and during painting.

TIP: Use a drop cloth to protect the floor from paint.

How to remove paint from walls

Apply the first coat of paint by cutting in around the edges of the wall with a paintbrush and also between each joint of the cinder block. You want to paint the joints with a paintbrush because it is challenging to paint with a roller, and every pore of the cinder block needs to be covered.

SIDE NOTE: You could paint the whole wall with a paintbrush if you are worried about filling in each pore.

How to remove paint from walls

Next, use a high-quality 1/2″ to 3/4″ nap roller to paint the rest of the wall with paint. Again, you want to fill every pore and void on the wall’s surface with paint, so check that this is happening as you roll on the paint.

Let the paint dry according to its instructions. Then, you can apply a second coat the same way as the first coat (with a roller). Make sure you are covering any pores you missed with the first coat.

How to remove paint from walls

Allow the second (and final) coat to dry; then, confirm that the pores are each painted. If you happen to miss some, use a paintbrush to cover these areas; then, let it dry.

How to remove paint from walls

And that’s how you can paint (and waterproof) your cinder block interior walls.

Interested in more basement projects? Here are some other posts you might enjoy: