There’s more to painting a wall than slapping on a new coat of emulsion. Before you start, you should prepare the surface so that it’s clean and free from lumps and bumps. This may mean you need to strip the wall of old, chipped paint.
But removing emulsion paint from plaster walls can be tricky. If you do it wrong, you could damage the wall underneath. That’s why it’s important to familiarise yourself with the proper tools and techniques first.
In this article, we’ll discuss when you might need to remove paint from a wall before redecorating. We’ll also explain how to strip paint from walls effectively, using three different methods.
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Should I Remove Old Paint Before Repainting a Wall?
When redecorating an interior wall, it’s not always necessary to remove the old paint job first. In most cases, you’d simply apply your chosen brand of emulsion over the existing layer.
However, there are some circumstances in which you may need to strip paint from a wall before adding a fresh coat. For example:
- It’s been several years since the wall was last stripped back, and there are many layers of paint
- There are one or more areas of chipped, flaking or peeling paint
- The emulsion has bubbled or blistered, creating pockets of air underneath the paintwork
- The wall was previously painted a dark colour, and you want to cover it with a lighter shade
It’s never a good idea to paint over damaged or uneven paintwork. If you don’t have a flat, smooth surface, it will be difficult to achieve a professional finish. This is particularly true if you’re using silk emulsion – its slight sheen will highlight every little imperfection.
How to Remove Paint from Walls
The best way to remove emulsion paint from walls depends on many factors, such as the condition of the paintwork and how many layers there are. Some types of emulsion may also be more stubborn and difficult to shift than others.
There are three main ways to remove paint from wall surfaces: scraping the emulsion off, applying steam, and using a chemical paint stripper.
Whichever method you choose, start by donning a dust mask and covering your flooring and furniture with a dust sheet. You’ll also need to prepare a refuse sack to dispose of the stripped paint.
Method 1: Paint Stripping with a Scraper
The simplest method of paint removal from walls is to scrape off the paint by hand. This technique is ideal for small areas of loose paint that has started to flake away.
You can use a scraping blade or a metal or plastic putty knife. Start by holding the paint scraper parallel to the wall, against the direction of the peeling paint. Then, gently tap it along the surface, removing pieces of emulsion as you go. Take care not to be too rough or dig into the plaster beneath.
Once you’ve peeled off as much paint as possible, sand the area using fine grit sandpaper to create a smooth surface.
Method 2: Removing Paint with Steam
If the paint is firmly attached, it may require a little more persuading to remove. Fortunately, most emulsion paint will loosen quickly and easily when heated with a handheld steam stripper.
Steam small areas at a time, using a scraper to coax the softened paintwork away from the plaster. Make sure to wear heat-proof gloves and goggles, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Once you have removed all the paint, sand the wall until smooth.
If you’re stripping a plaster wall, be careful not to expose any one area to heat for more than 30 seconds. This is because plaster can crack if exposed to extreme temperatures for too long.
Method 3: Removing Emulsion with Paint Stripper
The most efficient way to remove emulsion from walls is to apply paint stripper. This method is particularly useful if you’re stripping a large area, or the paintwork is extremely stubborn.
Choose a paint stripper that is specifically designed for emulsion and safe for use on plaster. Read the instructions carefully before you begin, and wear protective equipment. Then, follow these steps:
- Using a wide paint brush, apply the emulsion remover directly onto the areas of paint you wish to remove
- Let the formula sit on the wall for as long as the directions state – for multiple layers of paint, you may need to leave it overnight
- When softened, use a putty knife or scraper to gently remove the emulsion paint
- Use fine sandpaper or a sanding block to create a smooth surface
We recommend using a water-based, solvent-free emulsion paint remover such as Home Strip Paint & Varnish Remover These are safer to use and lower in toxic VOCs (chemicals that create foul-smelling fumes).
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If you’re looking for natural, eco-friendly paints and paint products, look no further than Greenshop Paints. Our UK-based online shop is a trusted source for sustainable paint, including emulsions, gloss and more. We only stock the highest quality products that are better for you, your home and the planet.
We also sell a range of decorating tools and accessories, from emulsion paint stripper to paint brushes, rollers and trays. Head to our website today to browse our full range. If you have any questions about our products or how to use them, contact Greenshop Paints today – our team will be happy to help.