Does Rubbing Alcohol Remove Paint? Only by Doing This

There are several ways to remove paint from wood when refreshing your furniture. Each approach has its pros and cons. 

Sanding may cost little, but it takes the most work and cleanup. Paint stripper can save you some time, but it’s not necessarily a solution you would already have in your house.

But what about rubbing alcohol? Yes, it is cheaper and safer, but does rubbing alcohol remove paint? 

Fortunately, it does. In this post, you will learn how to use rubbing alcohol to remove paint and a few other effective paint-removing solutions.


Rubbing alcohol can remove paint on wood. It is a safer and cheaper alternative to chemical paint strippers. However, it only removes water-based paints. For oil-based paints, you’ll need mineral spirits. For thicker and more stubborn paint layers, it is best to stick with commercial paint strippers like Citristrip.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Remove Paint? 

Rubbing alcohol does help to remove paint. Rubbing alcohol, in particular, is a cheap home remedy for removing paint or stains from wood. However, it’s only effective for water-based paints. Oil-based paints tend to be too resistant to the substance. 

Rubbing alcohol works as a solvent that dissolves the polymer binders in water-based paint. When you apply rubbing alcohol to paint, it breaks down your paint to some extent, making it easier to scrape off the paint. 

However, note that rubbing alcohol won’t simply dissolve paint down to mush that can be wiped off with a towel. You will still need to put in some elbow grease to remove the paint with a scraper. Rubbing alcohol just softens the paint, making the job easier. 

Related: How to Remove Veneer Glue From Wood

How to Use Rubbing Alcohol to Remove Paint from Wood

While rubbing alcohol is not the most effective option for removing paint from wood, it will do if you’re in a pinch. It’s a great paint stripper alternative and works well on thin paint or stain layers.

Read on to ensure that you’ll successfully strip paint with rubbing alcohol.

Tools and supplies

Before we begin the paint-stripping process, gather these supplies:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Plastic scraper
  • Clean cloth
  • Sponge or paintbrush
  • Soap and water for cleaning
  • Extra supplies: Drop cloth or tarp, trashcan, and gloves
  • Optional tools: spray bottle, thin plastic bag (polythene bag)

Step 1: Prepare the area

After securing the materials, put your drop cloth or tarp under the wood to protect your floor.

During the process, bits of scraped-off paint may fall to the floor, making the cleanup process more complicated. With a tarp or other coverings, you can just let the paint dry or throw the covers after use. Moreover, rubbing alcohol can damage hardwood floors, so it is best to err on the side of caution when stripping.

While rubbing alcohol isn’t the harshest solution out there, it still has an odor. Ensure that you’re stripping paint on a well-ventilated area. We also recommend using gloves during the process to avoid drying out your skin.

Step 2: Apply the rubbing alcohol

There are several ways to apply rubbing alcohol to your wood furniture.

You can put the alcohol directly on the surface, spreading it with a paintbrush to ensure you cover every inch. 

Alternatively, you can moisten a clean cloth or sponge with rubbing alcohol. Then start rubbing over the painted area to generously disperse the solution all over your furniture. 

You can also use a spray bottle. This might not necessarily be the most efficient option to generously apply rubbing alcohol, but it works nevertheless. Additionally, you can easily control the amount of alcohol you put on the surface.

Step 3: Let the rubbing alcohol sit on the surface

After making sure you applied the alcohol on the whole surface, let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. During this time, it will start to dissolve the binders in the paint.

Step 4: Start scrubbing and scraping

After the rubbing alcohol has sat on the surface for some time, take a plastic scraper and scrape the softened paint. Do this gently to avoid gouging or damaging the wood.

Then, throw the softened paint in a garbage bag (as opposed to your drop cloth to make the cleanup easier).

If you find it very difficult to scrape off any paint. Reapply more alcohol and let it sit for longer. 

Step 5: Clean your surface

Once all the paint has been removed from the surface, grab a clean cloth. Dampen it with water and a splash of dish soap and start removing the residue. After, let the furniture air dry before use or repainting.

You can also start cleaning up the tarp or drop cloth and wash your sponge or paintbrushes.

Related: Sanding vs Stripping Wood Furniture

Similar Solutions for Removing Paint from Wood 

Rubbing alcohol works best on thin paint layers. Otherwise, it is best to consider the following solutions for thicker or more stubborn paint coats or coats of oil-based paint.

Isopropyl alcohol

For reference, isopropyl alcohol is a more concentrated form of isopropanol (2-propanol), the same organic compound found in rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol has 70% isopropanol only, mixed with water and other chemicals (like methyl salicylate).

Since isopropyl alcohol is more concentrated, it is more effective on stubborn paint layers. However, note that it will also evaporate faster. So you’ll need to work in smaller sections or reapply frequently.

You can also follow the steps above if using this method to remove paint.

Mineral spirits

If removing oil-based mediums, it is best to use mineral spirits. It is made of petroleum distillates and is mainly used for thinning oil-based paint and stains. It is less toxic and odorous than other paint thinners, making it a popular option. Nevertheless, this product is more toxic than rubbing alcohol, so it is best to follow proper safety precautions when using it. Always wear safety goggles and rubber gloves when using it. 

Paint stripper

The most tried and true chemical solution for removing paint is paint strippers. After all, these products are designed to break down oil and water-based paints and stains.

Brands such as Citristrip and Klean Strip are quite popular for their effectiveness. Citristrip in particular is applauded by DIY enthusiasts for how quick it works and for its environmentally-friendly qualities as well. 

Does regular alcohol remove paint? (vodka, rum, etc.)

No. Regular alcohol or alcoholic beverages cannot fully remove paint from wood. They have a completely different chemical makeup than rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. And they certainly aren’t corrosive enough to break down paint. 

Furthermore, alcoholic drinks are significantly more expensive than the other options we’ve included in this post. So, we don’t recommend wasting a perfectly good bottle of vodka trying to remove paint from wood. 



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