remove primer from wood

How to Remove Primer From Wood

It is important to learn how to remove primer from wood so that you can easily fix old or uneven paint. By removing it, you will be able to apply new primer and paint so that the surface looks perfect. Wood that isn’t properly weathered is quite unattractive and will take away from the beauty of your home. This can also cause your home to reduce in value.
Thankfully, this is a problem that can be easily solved. All you need to do is remove the old primer from the surface using a couple of particular steps. We will now get into the details of what you can do.

Removal For Water-Based Or Oil Based Primer

In order to remove primer that is oil-based or water-based, you will need to use the same methods. The easiest method is to sand the surface as this works on both water and oil-based primers. You can also use organic paint strippers for removing primer. An excellent organic paint stripper that you can use is Citristrip.

If you are utilising a solvent, then you may need to use a different method. In order to get rid of wood primer coating with a solvent, the solvent needs to be able to actually dissolve the primer. This means that the base needs to be the same as the primer itself.

Therefore, if the wood surface is covered in water-based primer, then you can simply use water to remove it. However, if the primer is oil-based, then a water-based solvent would not be able to remove this type of primer since it is not strong enough to do so.

With an oil-based primer, you will need to use a solvent that is petroleum based. A good example is mineral spirits. This solvent will be able to remove any oil-based primer. You can also use an alcohol-based solvent to remove both water and oil-based primers.

Tools Required To Remove Primer

You can use a heavy-duty solvent or a biochemical paint stripper. The biochemical stripper typically contains ingredients that are plant-based in order to remove the primer. This is a very safe way to remove primer without causing any damage to the surface of the wood. If you have primer that is very thick or old, then you should consider using a heavy-duty solvent due to its strength.

Other tools you would need include:

Liquid cleaner


Dust Mask

Paint scraper or putty knife – This will help to peel the primer from the surface.

Rubber Gloves

Protective Eyewear


Mineral Spirits – To clean and neutralise the surface

Water/Vinegar – These will only be needed if the particular stripper you’re using needs them. So, make sure to check the label.

Sandpaper – The best option is likely 220 grit sandpaper.

pH Testing Strip – Required when neutralizing the wooden surface.

Sanding Block

How To Get Rid Of Primer From Wooden Surfaces?

In the event that the primer hasn’t fully dried, then you can simply use a clean cloth and apply water or rubbing alcohol to it. Then, use the rag to wipe the primed surface and the coating should be easily removed. In the event that the primer is dry, you will require a solvent or use another method of removal.


One of the best ways to safely and easily remove primer is by sanding it. Many painters do this since it prevents the wood from getting damaged. It also makes the surface a lot smoother so that when you need to apply new primer and paint, you’ll get a great finish.

Tools required:

Liquid cleaner such as dish soap

80-220 grit sandpaper

Plastic putty knife or paint scraper

Orbital sander


Safety Goggles


We will now discuss how to use these tools to remove primer.

1. Thoroughly Wash The Area

The very first thing that you need to do is prepare the surface and clean it with a liquid cleaner. This will remove any dirt from the surface.

All you need to do is place a clean cloth in soapy water or even a mixture made of dish soap and water. Then, use the cloth to remove the dirt from the surface of the wood. Be sure to dry the surface when you’re finished cleaning it.

2. Scrape The Primer Off

In the next step, you will need to remove the primer using a plastic putty knife. However, keep in mind that you likely won’t be able to remove all of it. Simply try to remove as much as you can. This will ensure that the sander can get the remaining and that it won’t need to work too hard to remove all of the primer.

Once you’re done scraping the primer, make sure to clean the surface using a clean cloth.

3. Sand The Surface

If you need to remove the primer off of a large surface such as a wall, then you will likely need to use a power sander. Manually sanding the wall with be very tiring and will take up a lot of time. If you need to sand a small item such as a piece of furniture, drawer, etc, then you can sand it by hand.

When using a power sander, be sure to use 80 grit sandpaper. In the event that you’re sanding by hand, be sure to place the sandpaper on a sanding block and secure it.

The rough side of the sandpaper should be used to sand the surface. Make sure to sand with the grain of the wood and finish each area before moving on to the next.

While sanding, make sure to check the dust. If you see any wooden dust, then you should stop sanding. This would indicate that you’ve removed all the primer and are now sanding the wood itself.

Once you’ve removed the primer, use sandpaper with a finer grit to make the wood surface as smooth as possible.

4. Vacuum The Wood Surface

The last thing that you need to do is vacuum the surface. Be sure to also vacuum the floor and surrounding area to get rid of any dust

Using A Paint Stripper

Another method to get rid of the primer coating on a wooden surface is to use a paint stripper. You should avoid using any caustic strippers due to the fact that they typically contain sodium hydroxide. This chemical can damage the wood and lead to many other issues. It is best to use an organic paint stripper or a biochemical stripper since these won’t damage the wood. A good option is Citristrip.

Step 1: Stripping Agent Application

If the primer is particularly stubborn to remove, you can use a stripping paint agent. If you don’t want to start with the sandpaper method, you can simply use the stripping agent from the start.

Simply place some stripping agent in a paint tray. Then, place a clean brush or clean rag in it.

Apply the soaked brush or rag to the primer and brush or wipe in the direction of the wood grain. This will spread the stripping agent over the primer. You may need to re-apply the stripping agent a few times with the brush or rag since these agents are usually thick. If you don’t, then it will likely dry.

Step 2: Apply A 1/8 to 1/2 Inch Layer

According to the type of solvent you’ve chosen, this will impact the thickness of the stripping agent. If you have a heavy-duty solvent, then you will only require thin layers of not more than 1/8 inch.

In the event that you’re using a caustic or biochemical paint stripper, then you will require a thicker layer. This type of information can be easily found on the label. In most cases, you’ll require a 1/2-inch layer.

So, be sure to thoroughly spread the stripping agent so that it thoroughly covers the wooden surface. If the stripping agent has a plastic sheet with it, make sure that you use it as directed and lay it on the surface.

This will help the stripper to get into the surface even better. Once you’ve placed the plastic sheet on the surface, be sure to smooth it onto the paint that has been softened. This will help get rid of any air bubbles and assist in the stripping process.

Step 3: Wait

After you’ve finished covering the entire wooden surface with the stripper, simply wait for 30 minutes to 12 hours. This will give the stripper sufficient time to work so that the primer could be easily removed later.

Be sure to check the label of the stripping agent to see how much time you need to leave it to soak.

Keep in mind that once the time is up, the primer won’t simply fall off. It will loosen the primer which will make it easier to get rid of.

Step 4: Use A Paint Scraper Or Putty Knife To Scrape The Primer Off

In this next step, you will be able to remove the paint. Make sure to wear protective gear and get a putty knife. Use the knife at a 15 to 25-degree angle in order to scrape the primer off.

You should work in vertical or horizontal stripes so that you can move the stripping agent as well as the primer at the same time. Continue working until all of the stripping agents and primer are removed.

Step 5: Neutralizing The Surface With Vinegar And Water

There are many stripping agents that will need to be neutralized once you get rid of the primer. Be sure to check the label for this information and how to proceed. Once neutralization is required, get a spray bottle and fill it with equal parts water and white vinegar.

Then, spray the surface in order to neutralize the stripping agent. Allow the solution to soak for a couple of minutes.

Step 6: Use A pH Test Strip

Once the surface is fully neutralized, be sure to test it using a pH test strip. Simply place the pH strip on a damp area of the wooden surface so that the liquid can soak the strip. Wait until you can notice a colour change. Be sure to check the colour reference to determine what the colour means and the pH level.

If the pH is around 7 pH, then that is good. However, if the pH is too high, then you will need to neutralize the surface again using more water and vinegar. If the pH is under 6.5, then this signifies that the surface has too much acid.

Step 7: Use Mineral Spirits Or Water To Clean

You will likely need to clean the wooden surface using mineral spirits if you didn’t neutralize it. All you need to do is apply the mineral spirits to the surface to rinse it. It is possible to use normal water here.

Step 8: Allow The Surface To Dry

Be sure to allow the surface sufficient time to dry. It can take as many as 24 hours for the wood to dry. Use a vacuum to clean any dirt or debris around the area.

Using Solvents

You can also use a solvent in order to remove primer from wooden surfaces. The solvent will basically dissolve the primer and make scraping it off very easy.

If the primer is oil-based, then you can use turpentine or mineral spirits in order to remove it. In order to remove the water-based primer, you can use vinegar in water and dish soap. You can also use acetone to remove both types of primer.

The tools you would require include:

Clean rags

Safety Goggles


Paint Scraper

Liquid Cleaner

Plastic Bags

We will now dive into using these tools to remove primer.

Clean the surface

Pour the solvent or acetone into a bowl and soak a clean rag in it.

Then, use this rag to wipe the primer on the wooden surface. Make sure to thoroughly massage the solvent into the surface.

Allow the solvent to rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

Once the time has elapsed, the primer should be mostly dissolved and easy to scrape off.

If there is primer remaining on the surface, apply more solvent and wait for another 20 minutes.

Wipe the surface to get rid of any residue and allow it to dry.

Power Wash

In order to get rid of many layers of primer on a wooden floor, you should consider power washing the floor. In order to use this method, you will require a pressure washer or hose. You will need to wash the floor at high water pressure in order to remove the primer and to help removing paint from the floor.

Another option is to use vinegar and place it on the floor. Allow it to soak for about half an hour before power washing. The vinegar will actually help to make the primer loosen from the wooden surface. This will make it much easier to remove the loose paint by power washing.

With this method, allow your floor to dry for a minimum of 24 hours. You can also use a power sander before painting it again. This is necessary because power washing your wooden floors will cause wooden fibers to raise which will need to be sanded down.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Necessary To Remove Extra Primer?

After you’ve applied primer, you don’t need to wipe the excess off. This is because primer levels for itself once applied. Additionally, only one coat of primer is required. So, you most likely won’t place too much primer on the surface.

With that said, be sure to stick to the manufacturer’s instructions when using primer. If the instructions indicate that you should remove or wipe the excess, then do so.

How Long Do You Need To Wait Before Re-Application?

This would be dependent on the type of removal method that was used to remove the old primer. If it was sanded off, then you can re-apply the new primer immediately. This is due to the fact that the surface would already be smooth and ready to be primed again.

In the event that you used a solvent or paint stripper in order to remove the old primer, then it is best to wait a minimum of 12 hours before painting the surface again. This will provide sufficient time for the surface to become settled. It will also provide enough time for the stripping agent or solvent to become neutralized.

If you removed the old primer by power washing the surface, then you should also allow 24 hours to pass before re-painting it. This is necessary so that it could completely dry.

Is It Possible For Primer To Be Removed?

Yes, you can remove primer from wood surfaces as well as from all other types of surfaces such as plastic, metal, etc. However, it is important to select the best removal method since different surfaces would have a different reactions to the various removal methods. It is best to use sandpaper or a stripping agent to remove the primer.

How To Remove Kilz Primer From Wood Surfaces?

You will need a chemical paint remover and a clean cloth. Apply the remover to the cloth and massage it into the primer. Then, use a putty knife to remove the primer.

How To Get Rid Of Primer Without Sanding?

You can apply a stripping agent to the entire surface. This will cause the primer paint to loosen which you can remove with a scraper or putty knife.

Can Primer Be Sanded Off?

Yes, you can sand off the primer. However, it will require a lot of hard work. It is best to use 220 grit sandpaper.

Can You Use Isopropyl Alcohol Or Paint Thinners To Get Rid Of Primer?

It is easy to remove paint thinner. Simply use a clean rag to apply turpentine or mineral spirits to the surface until the primer is fully removed. You can even use a toothbrush and paint thinner to remove the primer.

How To Remove Oil-Based Paint Primer?

You can use a strip paint using paint strippers, mineral spirits, acetone, or paint thinner. If it is freshly applied oil-based paint primer, then it is best to use mineral spirits to remove it. You should use a paint stripper or acetone for larger areas.

How To Remove Water-Based Primer?

You can use rubbing alcohol to remove the water-based primer. Be sure to use a toothbrush to access hard-to-reach areas.