As I mentioned previously, we have been working on stripping the paint/stain from our 160 year old doors/windows/trim/casing. We tried every possible option and found one that works well. Maybe this tutorial will save you some time, some money and some serious frustration.

We did initially start with calling a couple of professional businesses and clearly did not go that route. Partially, because it was extremely expensive. Also, the entire concept of simply having things “dipped” is not how it actually works (plus, most of the shops around here don’t recommend that method). Even with dipping, there is a lot of work scraping the paint off afterwards.

Whatever method you choose to use, the first step is removing all the hardware. Doorknobs, hinges, locks…everything. Get it down to the one and only wood.

We tried several different stripping products. They worked. Slowly. Besides being slow, they were seriously hard work. Lots of scraping with lots of effort. We started by just trying to scrape off the old paint. It SEEMED like it should work. The paint was practically already falling off. Until the moment we went to scrape it…the stuff hung on for dear life.

So we bought numerous products that claim to do the trick in “1 coat!” Lies…they are all lies.

Naturally, we consulted with Google and found that lots of people use heat/steam. So we bought some rather expensive gear to try these methods. Again, they work. But they take WORK. The steamer did give me a nice little facial while I was trying to strip off the paint, but that was the only positive. And when you consider the facial is including the lead paint it just doesn’t feel all that great.

By this point, Trent and I were both nearing the end of our patience. We left for the evening and I went to consult Pinterest. I noticed a few sites commented about CitriStrip and it was available at the usual home improvement stores. I decided this was it. This was the last thing I was going to try before giving up. (Trent decided that we should divide and conquer…so he had moved on to installing more trim pieces upstairs at this point.)

This bottle (2L) was $17 at both Home Depot and Lowes.

The process was simple: shake the stripping product, pour a pile onto the door, use a paint brush (cheap one) to smother the door and cover with plastic.  **Note: I did NOT follow the instructions on the container. Not at all. This is what worked for me. If you are stripping your great, great grandmother’s baby bed, you should test this out in a small area first.**

I did start with a test area and only did half of a door. After lathering the orange stuff on, I covered it immediately with plastic bags. Good ol’ plastic grocery bags. I then pushed the bags down and squished all the orange goodness around. Do NOT lift up the bag once you have  placed it on top of the CitriStrip. Do NOT! You can continually squish it around…but don’t lift. Don’t peak at all.

The various tutorials I read said to leave it sit for a few hours. The bottle of CitriStrip says to leave it for 30 min – 24 hours. I tried leaving it for 3-4 hours and while it worked, I could tell it was still working. So, I re-lathered it up and left it alone until the next day!

When I returned and lifted the plastic bags off, this is what it looked like. I was giddy! I used a plastic scraper and simply lifted the old paint off.

I then decided to get this system down to something more efficient. For $4, I purchased 3 plastic drop cloths (in the paint section) and cut all of them in half.

Then I did this exact process:

1. Shake the product.

2. Pour a pile onto the door.

3. Use an old paintbrush to lather it up.

4. Immediately cover the entire exposed area with plastic.

5. Walk away for 24 hours (or even 48 hours).

I did use gloves for part of the time, but then I did the unthinkable. I actually used bare hands with this product and you will not believe this: it doesn’t do anything to your skin! It doesn’t burn, it doesn’t peel off the top layer of skin, it doesn’t even leave my hands feeling dry. I have NO clue how this can eat through 160 year old paint and not impact my skin, but that’s the truth. Plus, there are no chemical fumes! The bottle says it is safe for indoor use and I believe it. I was working in the garage and had the door open (because it’s a summer day), but the only smell is a light orange smell. It’s very pleasant and doesn’t leave you lightheaded at all.

This is how it will look after you remove the plastic covering. It’s like a piece of cloth draped across the door.

And it just pulls off!

This is the finished product. Our plan is to wipe with mineral spirits, apply one coat of primer and then paint white. If you were stripping a piece to stain (and not re-paint), I would recommend doing this process twice – just to get every single thing.

Good luck with your project! And pin this on your Pinterest board…my hope is that I can save many people from the headaches that I had!


  • August 24, 2017 Reply

    Nancy Nicholas

    Wow, what a labor of love!
    Bless your hearts.

  • August 24, 2017 Reply

    Ellen Trainor

    Citristrip is amazing! I used it to strip wax/finish off of about 1000 as ft of hard wood floor last summer ….it works!!! Love following along with your project!

    • August 24, 2017 Reply


      Good to hear!! I am getting ready to painted all of our hard wood doors that are 40 years old white.. I was thinking I would have to sand the crap out of them.. so this would work?!

  • August 24, 2017 Reply


    Good solution! You might add a spray of a citric acid/water mix to neutralize the very high Ph residual from the stripping chemicals. (or even vinegar in a pinch) You will get better long term performance from your finish if you avoid painting over a high Ph substrate.

    Also, for vertical surfaces or very complex surfaces like dental moldings (that cannot be laid flat per your example) you might look into Dumond “Peel Away 1” which is a similar process but with a MUCH thicker medium that stays in place regardless of the targets position. It goes on like thick frosting. It is expensive but highly efficient much like your example. For certain applications it is the only way to go.

    Thanks for showing your method!

  • August 24, 2017 Reply


    Such entertaining directions! I will remember this for future use.

  • August 24, 2017 Reply

    Michael Lannoo

    Wow, you really did your research and so happy to hear that you found the “right stuff” to work with. I am wondering if it will work with car finishes. Good job!

  • August 24, 2017 Reply

    Danielle Gipson

    Would this work on a vintage dining table covered in tacky varnish (not paint)? I know you haven’t tried that, but do you think it might?

    • August 24, 2017 Reply

      Leah Hudson

      Actually, our doors had varnish underneath about 5 layers of paint (seriously). It did work!!

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