How To Clean Paint from Wood
Fresh paint spills and dried paint spills are very different challenges no matter what surface they occur on. Paint that is still wet can be removed relatively easily, so as with many other types of stains, prompt treatment is preferred and is sure to save extra time and effort later on. Dried stains on wood can be a bit of a challenge to remove from wood surfaces because the dried paint and the finish can be similar in strength and will adhere to each other tightly. Even so, these techniques will help you feel prepared to address even the most stubborn of paint stains on wooden surfaces. Keep in mind that wood types and surface finishes can vary widely so even the simplest methods should be tested prior to use in a wider area.
The main issue with fresh paint spills is to keep them contained, and to wipe them up before they have a chance to dry. For large spills such as a spilled container, quickly throw shredded paper on top of the spill, and set up a barrier of clean newspaper, rags or paper towels around the perimeter of the stain. When the spill has been successfully contained, remove and discard the dirtied newspaper, rags or paper towels. Treat the remaining paint residue with a clean rag dampened with a retarder (a material which will slow the drying of the paint), and a mild soap appropriate for use on wood finishes such as Murphy's Oil or Castile soap. For oil paint, there are commercially -based alkyd retarders which you may have easily at hand if a neighbor or a member of your household is a painter. If not, use turpentine, poppyseed or walnut oil as substitutes. For acrylic, use glycerin, a clear viscous material which is suggested for many cleaning applications on this website. Follow paint removal with a light overall cleansing using a soft cloth, and whichever wax, polishing compound or everyday cleaning solution is the appropriate and usual choice for your finish type.
There are a number of choices for dried paint. Stains that are built up quite high, like some drips on vertical surfaces, can be lightly sanded at first to help remove bulky material. If the paint has fallen on a polyurethane coated wood surface, you can simply use cotton swabs dampened with acetone to remove the paint residue, as the polyurethane will resist the acetone. Otherwise, make a soft paste of rottenstone and linseed oil (for oil finishes) or lemon oil, and rub gently in the direction of the grain using a soft cloth and a small amount of paste. Follow paint removal and remove the paste residue with a light overall cleansing using a soft cloth, and whichever wax, polishing compound or everyday cleaning solution is the appropriate and usual choice for your finish type. Harsher chemical strippers can also be used according to the manufacturer's instructions to address persistent stains. Remember to follow with an over all cleansing to remove any residue of the stripper.
Caution: Never mix cleaning agents or chemicals, the result can be dangerous or deadly. Before cleaning, always test the agent on an inconspicuous location to determine its suitability and to make certain it does not damage the material. Wear appropriate clothing such as gloves and protective eyewear, and work in a well-ventilated area. Accidental inhalation or ingestion of cleaning agents can be hazardous and even fatal, particularly to pets and children.