Citristrip vs Klean Strip: The Key Differences

In some cases, priming an already painted surface is enough to ensure a new paint coat of paint will adhere well. However, if the old coat of paint is deteriorating, it is best to strip the paint. It’s also best to strip old layers of varnish before reapplying paint. 

Perhaps the two popular paint strippers on the market are Citristrip and Klean Strip. Each solution is highly effective in removing multiple layers of paint, yet the solutions work in slightly different ways. 

In this post, we’ll compare Citristrip vs. Klean Strip and discuss ingredients, application, and price.


Citristrip is an eco-friendly, slow-drying paint stripper popular for its distinct citrus scent. Klean Strip is similarly effective but more toxic and gives off a strong chemical odor.

Key differences

Citristrip and Klean Strip are popular paint strippers that work on multiple surfaces, including wood and masonry. They are designed to break down mediums such as latex-based paints, oil-based paints, and stains. However, these well-known brands have distinct differences regarding their environmental impact, consistencies, application, and odor.

Citristrip (available here on Amazon) is the more eco-friendly option as it has low-VOC (volatile organic compound). As a less-toxic paint stripper, it doesn’t have the strong bad odor of other more toxic paint strippers. In fact, this product has a distinct citrusy scent that makes it great to use indoors. You can also get Citristrip paste or gel. Also, Citristrip dries slower, so it is great to use on large surfaces.

In contrast, Klean Strip (available here on Amazon) has a thick paste-like consistency with a very strong odor. So, it’s not great for indoor use. It also has more VOC and is highly flammable than Citristrip and generally more toxic. This product dries fast, so using it on smaller surfaces is best to avoid health and fire risks.

Below, we’ll discuss other differences between these two products.

Related: Sticky Residue After Paint Stripping? How to Clean it Off


When choosing between Citristrip vs. Klean Strip, it is important to consider the ingredients.

The gel and paste versions of Citristrip are widely known for their low-VOC content, so they are generally safer and less toxic to use at home. These products are primarily made of natural solvents that help break down paint and give off a citrusy odor.

However, they are still strong chemicals, so they can cause mild eye, nose, and skin irritations. To be extra safe when applying Citristrip, use rubber gloves and a respirator mask. 

The ingredient of noted concern is n-methyl pyrrolidone, a solvent that aids in paint removal. Other ingredients include dimethyl adipate, PEG-15 cocamine, and citrus extract. 

On the other hand, Klean Strip Premium Stripper is considerably more toxic with stronger odor and chemicals like:

  • Stoddard solvent – colorless, flammable liquid often found in paint striper, thinners, and degreasers; causes eye, skin, and nose irritation, headaches, and dizziness.
  • Methylene chloride – colorless liquid with mild odor often found in solvents and paint strippers; may cause skin and eye irritation and, in large amounts, can lead to skin burns.

The harmful effects of Klean Strip and other strong paint strippers can be mitigated with proper application in well-ventilated areas and with protective gear (rubber gloves, and a mask and goggles). Klean Strip has a green product line, which is a great Citristrip alternative. However, it is still more toxic than Citristrip products based on ingredients.

Related: How to Apply Wax to Chalk Paint

How to apply

When using Citristrip and Klean Strip, preparing your space and covering the floor with a drop cloth is important. Stripping paint is a messy process, and the products can potentially damage the floor. Always use either product in well-ventilated areas so harmful vapors can escape the room, especially when using Klean Strip. Better yet, use these products outside. 

Here are more specifics on the Citristrip application:

  1. Shake well, and pour however much you need for your project into a separate container.
  2. Apply Citristrip with a brush. Citristrip can damage paint brushes so use a cheap brush that you don’t mind ruining. 
  3. Leave the stripper for 30 minutes to start.
  4. After about 30 minutes, you can test scrape a small area to see if the paint can be easily removed before tackling the entire surface. If the paint can be easily removed, use your putty knife or scraper to remove all of the paint. If it doesn’t, wait a little longer.
  5. For multiple coats of paint, varnish, or highly durable paints like oil-based paint, it is best to leave the product on for a minimum of 24-48 hours. Wrap the surface in saran wrap to keep the stripper moist during this time. Otherwise, you may need to remove dried Citristrip residue, which can be quite challenging. 
  6. Then, use your scraper or putty knife to remove the paint.

Citristrip stays wet for a relatively long time, so it is great to use on surfaces with thicker and more paint layers.

In contrast, Klean Strip dries faster. So, it typically needs frequent reapplications for thicker paint coats. Here’s how to use this product:

  1. Shake well, then transfer however much you need for your project into a separate container.
  2. Apply Klean Strip thickly with a brush, brushing in one direction only.
  3. Wait for 15 minutes to 30 minutes for the product to work. Then, do a bit of test scrape on a small area to check if the paint or finish is ready for removal.
  4. If the paint is stubborn, add more Klean Strip and wait a bit longer.
  5. Once the paint has sufficiently softened up, use a paint scraper to remove the loosened paint, making sure to scrape along the wood grain.

Both paint strippers are prone to leaving residue. Wait for the gunk to harden, then use mineral spirits or sandpaper to remove any residue. As a reminder, both products may cause irritation, so always wear protective gear when stripping paint.

Difference in price

Citristrip gel and paste are available in different sizes, including 32 oz (1 quart), 64 oz (1/2 gallon). It also comes in aerosol form, which is easier for smaller projects. Klean Strip typically comes in a 32 oz bottle.

Citristrip and Klean Strip are extremely comparable in terms of price. At the time that this post was published, a 32 oz bottle of Klean Strip is available for $13.43 on Amazon and a 32 oz bottle of Citristrip is available for $13.48 on Amazon. To state the obvious, Klean Strip is only 5 cents cheaper than Citristrip. The cost savings are negligeable so it’s best to take into account other factors when considering Citristrip or Klean Strip for your project. 

Aside from Amazon, both paint strippers are highly accessible and available to buy in big hardware stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware.



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