Best Paint Strippers for Wood & Metal 2019 – Reviews & Top Picks

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removing paintEveryone has times when they need to remove some old paint from metal or wood.  When that happens, what do you use?  How do you choose what to use?

Making that decision can be a daunting prospect due to the sheer number of options on the market.  You could wade through them for days trying to find the right one for your purposes.  We’ve set out to make it easier for you.

We’ve researched all the different paint removal methods, examined how well they work, compared them to each other, and shared the results in these reviews.  We’ve given you a shortcut so that you don’t have to do all the work yourself.

A Quick Rundown of our Favorite Picks

ModelPriceWarrantyEditor Rating
Wagner 0513040 PaintEater
Wagner 0513040 PaintEater(Best Overall)

Check Price
1 Year4.8/5
Citri-Strip QCG731 Stripping Gel
Citri-Strip QCG731 Stripping Gel

Check Price
4.6/5
Excel Blades K11 Razor Blade Scraper
Excel Blades K11 Razor Blade Scraper(Best Value)

Check Price
None4.4/5
PORTER-CABLE PC1500HG
PORTER-CABLE PC1500HG

Check Price
1 Year4.2/5
Klean-Strip Paint Stripper
Klean-Strip Paint Stripper

Check Price
4.0/5

5 Best Paint Strippers

1. Wagner PaintEater Paint Stripper – Best Overall

Wagner 0513040 PaintEater

This rotating sander/paint remover works like a champ.  It chews through paint without damaging the surface beneath it.  After that, it can be used to smooth rough wood to prepare it for being stained, varnished, or painted.  It takes off latex without difficulty, and after only a few passes it takes off enamel too.

It’s quite easy to use, although occasionally it requires the use of two hands to hold it steady.  In fact, it’s much easier than using a traditional belt sander.  It works equally well for scraping paint off of wood or metal.  It’s lightweight and quiet.

This tool chews through paint without damaging the surface underneath it.  Stays cool most of the time, keeping your hand cool.  If it does get too hot (200º) a thermal fuse will trip until it cools down.  This is the only drawback.  It really needs to have a reset switch for when the fuse trips.

We’ve the Wagner PaintEater more in-depth here.

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight
  • Keeps your hand cool
  • Does a good job of sanding
  • Stays cool most of the time
Cons
  • Stops when it gets hot

2. Citri-Strip Paint Stripper Gel

Citri-Strip QCG731 Stripping Gel

This is thick, yogurt-like gel.  Slather it on the surface you want to strip, let it sit for several hours and then wipe it off.  It really is that simple.  It stays wet and active for almost twenty-four hours, and you can strip multiple layers of paint in one step.  It also adheres to vertical surfaces, which is a nice surprise.

This is a chemical mixture containing N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone, which is known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.  Standard latex, rubber, or nitrile gloves will NOT protect you because the stripping solvent will penetrate them.  You must use butyl rubber gloves for protection.

The fumes are also hazardous.  Open windows aren’t enough to disperse them.  You must have a positive airflow through the room where the gel is being used, to blow them outside.

This stripping gel works very well, but the biological hazards make it a perpetual runner-up.

Pros
  • Works well
  • Very simple to use
  • Adheres to vertical surfaces
  • Penetrates multiple paint layers
Cons
  • Hazardous fumes
  • Can cause birth defects

3. Excel Blades K11 Paint Remover – Best Value

Excel Blades K11 Razor Blade Scraper

This manual scraper uses replaceable razor blades set in a lightweight steel body.  It’s flat and efficient at scraping away soap scum, old caulk, burned on cook-top spills, glue, and paint.  This is especially useful for small jobs where a large power scraper or sander would be overkill.  There’s little or no cleanup to worry about.

Because of its size, it can be difficult to hold it securely.  It uses a spring to hold the razor in place.  When any pressure is put on the indented button the razor unexpectedly retracts.  It’s also hard to insert and remove the blades.

This scraper works and is the “best for the money,” but it will never win any awards for first place.

Pros
  • Flat and efficient
  • Excellent for small jobs
  • Uses replaceable razor blades
Cons
  • Difficult to hold
  • Blade retracts unexpectedly
  • Hard to insert and remove blades

4. PORTER-CABLE Paint Remover Heat Gun

PORTER-CABLE PC1500HG

This heat gun puts out a lot of heat, enough to set paper on fire if you aim the head at it.  It has dual speed and variable temperature controls to get just the right settings for your job.  It does strip paint effectively, but you have to be slow and methodical, so it’s very time-consuming.  If you’re in a hurry, this heat gun won’t be your cup of tea.

One of the problems is that the temperature doesn’t remain constant.  It moves up and down at random without any warning.  It also has a short lifespan.  It dies soon after being purchased, so this isn’t a long-term answer to anything.  Last but not least, it’s too loud.  When it finally does die, you’ll discover that customer service won’t replace it.

This paint stripping heat gun works—while it works.  You’ll have to put up with its limitations though, so this tool will have to stay in fourth place on the list.

We have also have an article where we rank our favorite heat guns on the market from #1 to #5.

Pros
  • Lots of heat
  • Nice controls
Cons
  • Too loud
  • Very slow
  • Temperature varies
  • Short lifespan

5. Klean-Strip Premium Paint Stripper

Klean-Strip Paint Stripper

The old product may have worked, but the manufacturer seems to have changed the formula because now it doesn’t work at all.  The aerosol can is convenient to use, but that’s the best that can be said for it.

It won’t remove paint from metal.  Paint occasionally becomes soft, but none of it is easy to strip.  Additionally, the nozzles on the can are terrible.  Hardly anything comes out.  Once it starts doing that, the remainder of the chemical in the can is essentially beyond retrieval.

Spraying multiple layers of the chemical has no effect, even before the nozzle clogs up.  This product doesn’t work, and couldn’t be delivered even if it did.  It deserves to be in the last place on the list.

Pros
  • Convenient
Cons
  • Nozzle clogs
  • Chemical doesn’t work
  • Requires chemical resistant gloves

Buyer’s Guide

Warranty information is generally something you need to think about, but some of these tools are so inexpensive they don’t come with warranties.  With other tools, the manufacturers don’t seem inclined to honor their warranties as presented, so for the time being you should assume there aren’t any warranties worth mentioning in this category of tools.

You should also assume your purchase won’t qualify for free shipping if you’re buying it online.  Some of these tools are so inexpensive they don’t meet the guidelines.  That being said, it might be easier on your budget if you purchase them at a brick-and-mortar hardware store.

What makes a good paint stripper?

A good paint stripper should strip the paint off of wood or metal surfaces quickly, completely, and consistently.  Slow methods can take too much time, and any tool that only works part-time, or works only under certain conditions, isn’t worth spending your money on.  Chemical paint strippers can be hazardous to your health and manual ones can wear you out.  The whole point of using tools is to make life easier for you, not harder or more dangerous.

Paint strippers should protect the surface under the old paint without you having to take special precautions.  If they work as designed, they shouldn’t damage the wood or metal you’re uncovering.  Tools that damage the underlying surface defeat the whole point of using them.

Tips when buying

On smaller purchases such as these, manufacturers might not always honor their warranties, but retailers could be convinced to do so.  They have a far more direct stake in the transaction than the manufacturers do.  Their reputation is on the line, especially if they’re a local hardware store.  If something doesn’t work the way it should, or if it breaks, and you still have the receipt, retailer outlets will often exchange an item or even accept it as a return.

Depending on what you choose as your paint stripper, the shipping charges from a web-based company might be more than paying the sales taxes at the store.  Take a look at it before you pull out your wallet.

Available Options

Most paint strippers will need replacement pads, sanding paper, or razors.  You might as well get them at the same time as the stripper.  You’re going to need them eventually.

Goggles to protect your eyes are a requirement when you’re using any kind of paint stripper.  Whether they sand the old paint off, use chemicals, or scrape it off mechanically, there will be particles in the air which can damage the eyes.  Goggles are dirt cheap, and if you bundle them with your purchase, it will help qualify you for free shipping.

Chemical resistant gloves (specifically butyl rubber gloves) will be needed when using chemical strippers, even if they’re aerosol ones.  Respirators to protect your lungs should also be included as an important accessory to your purchase.

As strange as it might sound, a good shop fan is also a smart option to include when getting a paint stripper of any kind.  It can blow away hazardous fumes or particles in the air and protect your health.

Conclusion

Our reviews show that the Wagner 0513040 PaintEater is easily the top pick on the list.  It’s fast and efficient, lightweight, and easy to use.  Plus it has a long lifespan.  This is a great tool.

The Excel Blades K11 Razor Blade Scraper is the “best for the money.”  It’s a manual scraper so the price is minimal.  If you don’t mind spending a little extra time and elbow grease, this tool will get the job done for you.

These reviews have, hopefully, made your decision much easier than it would have been otherwise.  Now that you’ve got all the information about the different methods out there, you’ll be able to sit down and pick out the tool you want to use for your project(s).

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