Sticky Residue After Paint Stripping? How to Clean it Off

Repainting old furniture is a great way to reinvent and refurnish your piece without breaking the bank. It is generally a straightforward process, and there are numerous products you can use to strip old paint and stains like Citristrip, and Klean Strip.

But sometimes, a sticky film or residue is left after using a paint stripper. Fortunately, it’s easy to get rid of and can even be removed using some common household products.

In this post, we’ll share the tried and tested methods for removing sticky residue after paint stripping.


The most common way to remove sticky residue after paint stripping is by applying mineral spirits on the surface. Likewise, denatured alcohol, vinegar, mild dishwashing liquid, or ultra-fine grit sand are also effective in removing the sticky residue from most surfaces.

Why is the sticky residue left after stripping paint?

Sometimes, after stripping paint, all you need is a quick wipe-down before painting. However, sometimes you end up with stubborn white, brown, or yellow gunk that can’t be easily wiped off. 

Here are some common reasons for this sticky residue after paint stripping:

There is still some old paint left: Sometimes there are still remnants of paint or primer left that the stripper hasn’t broken down. This is one of the most common reasons for the sticky residue.

Ultimately this issue can be easily remedied with another layer of paint stripper. Often, multiple coats of stripper are needed for particularly tough cases. 

Leftover oils from the old paint: Another reason for the sticky residue is oils left behind by the old paint, stain, or finish. 

The paint stripper has been left on the surface for a long time: Different paint strippers have specific dwelling times (how long to leave on the surface). If you leave the product on for more than necessary, it will harden or become sticky. Once it has dried, it can be difficult to remove dried Citristrip and other paint strippers, but it’s still certainly possible with the right methods. 

How to remove residue from stripping paint 

The sticky residue left after paint stripping can be disheartening. Fortunately, there are several ways to remove sticky residue after paint stripping.

Method 1: Mineral spirits 

Applying mineral spirits after stripping paint is a surefire way to remove the stubborn goo. This medium is an organic solvent that essentially dissolves paint and stains.

Mineral spirits, while safer to use than turpentine, is a harsh solvent that can irritate the skin and eyes. It also can emit a strong odor as it’s applied. That said, always use a respiratory mask, goggles, and rubber gloves to protect yourself when using mineral spirits. It’s also a good idea to wear long sleeves to protect your arms in case of spills.

  1. Dampen a portion of a clean cloth in the mineral spirits.
  2. Then, wipe the cloth in small circles on the painted or stained surface you’re treating. As you apply the mineral spirits, the residue should come off relatively easily.  
  3. As the mineral spirits get dispersed and your cloth dries out, wet the cloth again and apply the mineral spirits to another untreated area of the furniture. 
  4. Once the sticky residue is removed, wipe down the surface with a clean damp cloth to catch any remnants.
  5. Use a clean, dry cloth to completely dry the surface.

Mineral spirits are water-based and evaporate quickly, so we recommend working fast. If you find that the residue is particularly stubborn, you may need to use a putty knife to scrape it off after applying the mineral spirits. 

Method 2: Vinegar

If you don’t want to bother making a run to the store, but you have some vinegar lying around at home, you’re in luck. The acidity in vinegar can help to clean off paint stripper residue. This method is less toxic than mineral spirits and it is very inexpensive.

To use vinegar to remove paint stripper residue, follow these steps: 

  1.  Prepare a mixture of equal parts vinegar and warm water.
  2.  Apply the mixture to the sticky residue using a cloth or sponge. 
  3. For any particularly tough spots, by rubbing some baking soda into these areas, you can further break down any dried residue. A brush can also be helpful for really stubborn cases of dried paint stripper residue. 
  4. Gently wipe off the surface with a clean cloth and reapply the mixture as necessary.
  5. Once no residue is left, clean the surface with a damp cloth. Then, let it air dry completely.

Note that while vinegar is a natural solution, it isn’t the strongest solution out there. Definitely spot-test an area to see if it’s effective before applying vinegar to the entire piece of furniture you’re working on. 

Method 3: Denatured Alcohol

Denatured alcohol is also great for removing dried paint stripper and the sticky residue it can leave behind. Similar to mineral spirits, denatured alcohol is a harsh solution. That said, always wear goggles and rubber gloves to protect yourself when working with it. Follow these steps to remove paint stripper residue with denatured alcohol: 

  1. Use a lint-free cloth to apply denatured alcohol on the surface.
  2. Rub the cloth in small circles to remove the residue. Cover the same areas as many times as necessary. 
  3. Once the sticky residue is removed, wipe down the surface with a clean damp cloth to catch any remnants.
  4. Use a clean, dry cloth to completely dry the surface.

Always take precautions when using denatured alcohol for any DIY project. It is a highly flammable product, so avoid using it near sparks or flames.

Method 4: Mild Dishwashing Liquid 

A common yet versatile household item to remove sticky residue is mild dishwashing liquid. Follow these steps to remove paint stripper residue with dish soap: 

  1. Fill a bucket of warm water and a splash of dish soap. Mix until you create a soapy solution.
  2. Dip your clean cloth into the mixture and wring it out slightly so that it’s not soaking wet. 
  3. Wipe down the surface in circular motions. Regularly resoak your cloth in your dish soap solution and disperse your solution on your furniture liberally. 
  4. In cases where the residue is really stuck on, the soapy solution will soften the residue, but you may need a brush or putty knife to completely remove it. 
  5. Rinse the area with clean water. Then, dry the surface with a cloth or leave it to air dry.

Keep in mind that just like vinegar, dish soap and water isn’t the strongest solution. It’s worth giving this solution a shot. However, denatured alcohol and mineral spirits are much more powerful, so leverage these cleaning agents for really tough cases of stuck-on stripper residue. 

Method 5: Sanding

Finally, you may also sand the sticky residue with ultra fine-grit sandpaper to remove it. However, this is best for dried-out, hardened residue as opposed to wet gooey residue. Sandpaper simply won’t work well on wet surfaces. 

To use sandpaper to remove paint stripper residue, follow these steps:

  1. Start with 200-400-grit sandpaper, and sand lightly. If the residue is thick and clumpy, opt for coarser sandpaper. 
  2. Once most of the residue is removed, switch to finer-grit sandpaper and continue sanding lightly to remove the remnants of paint stripper. When working with wood, sand along the grain.
  3. Use a slightly damp, clean cloth to wipe off the dust. 

Be sure to wear a protective mask to avoid inhaling sanding dust. 



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