How to Remove Paint From Concrete? [5 Simple Steps]

There are few things more frustrating than getting paint on surfaces that you don't want it on. No matter how careful you are, there is always a chance that paint will get somewhere you don't want it to, such as the concrete in your garage or driveway. How can you remove that annoying, unwanted paint from concrete? We've researched and compiled the steps so that you can know the best way to do the job.

To remove paint from concrete, follow these 5 straightforward steps:

  1. Scrape away as much paint as you can
  2. Clean the area
  3. Apply paint thinner
  4. Remove the paint thinner
  5. Repeat as necessary

This is a tough task that requires some time and elbow grease, but don't worry, you can do it! For more details on each of the steps, recommendations for products, and chemical-free solutions, keep reading.

Master removes old paint from concrete wall with heat gun and scraper, How to Remove Paint From Concrete? [5 Simple Steps]

How To Remove Paint From Concrete

Please note that this process requires 10-20 hours of waiting for the paint thinner to work, so expect the job to take a couple of days. Before beginning, make sure to have the following materials handy:

  • Respirator mask
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paint scraper
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Shop-vac (optional)
  • Soap and water
  • Sponge or rag
  • Wire scrub brush (recommended)
  • Paint remover/thinner
  • Bucket, bowl, or paint tray
  • Old paintbrush
  • Garden hose or pressure washer

1. Scrape away as much paint as you can

The first thing you should do is to scrape away as much of the paint as you can by using a paint scraper. Aim for any pieces that are already peeling or chipping and go from there.

Most likely, even the paint you scrape away will still leave some stains. This is okay and will make it easier for the paint thinner to do its work. The idea is to clear as much paint as possible. The more you're able to get rid of here, the less paint thinner you'll need. 

2. Clean the area

Next, thoroughly clean up any excess dirt, debris, or scraped paint in the area. Again, the goal is to remove obstacles that will keep the paint thinner from reaching all of the paint.

First, use a broom or shop-vac to sweep up the large, obvious pieces, including the paint you've scraped away.

Then, use warm soapy water and a sponge or rag to wipe down the surface. You might notice some of the paint being washed away in this step. Depending on how gritty the concrete is, you also might want to use a firm brush to get the soapy water into the crevices.

Rinse the soap away and let the area dry thoroughly. This might take a couple of hours.

3. Apply paint thinner

Paint thinner is a chemical product that contains potentially harmful fumes and materials. Because of this, it is important to wear appropriate personal protective equipment such as a respiratory mask, gloves, and long sleeves. Always follow the directions on the container.

The term paint thinner is used to refer to a host of solvents: mineral spirits, acetone, turpentine, naphtha, and others. These solvents are powerful enough to weaken the adhesives in the paint.

We recommend using a mineral spirit paint thinner (as pictured below) since it is powerful enough for most paint stains and is safe to use. If the stain has existed for decades or is too strong for mineral spirits, you might need to use a stronger thinner such as acetone (more details on acetone below).

Click here to see this paint thinner on Amazon.

Apply the paint thinner by pouring it into a bucket, bowl, or some sort of tray. Use an old paintbrush to spread the thinner onto the paint. Use a generous amount of thinner, making sure that all the paint gets touched by it. 

We do not recommend pouring the paint thinner directly onto the spill, since this doesn't let you control the amount you're pouring. Again, follow the directions on the label to ensure you're using the product correctly. Let the paint thinner sit on the paint for 6-10 hours. This gives it enough time for the chemical reaction to occur.

Oil-based paint vs. water-based paint

Purchase a paint thinner that corresponds with the type of paint that has been spilled. Water-based paint is easier to remove than oil-based, so the thinner is cheaper and safer to use. 

However, if you don't know which type you're removing, an oil-based paint thinner is best to use. This is because it is stronger than a water-based thinner and will definitely remove either type of paint. 

Does acetone remove paint from concrete?

Acetone is one of the most potent solvents, so it can remove paint from concrete. However, it is more difficult to use than mineral spirits or other types of paint thinners since it is so powerful.

Its fumes are more harmful than mineral spirits, and if you use it incorrectly, it can strip away too much of the concrete. It is also considerably more expensive than other thinners. If your stain is stubborn or has been there too long for other types of paint thinners, it might be worth using an acetone paint thinner.

4. Remove the paint thinner

Using the same wire scrub brush or paint scraper as earlier, remove the paint and thinner. You might need to use an old rag to rub away some stains, but remember not to contact the thinner with your bare skin. 

Once you're content that you've gotten enough of the paint off the concrete, use a pressure washer, garden hose, or pitcher of water to rinse the thinner toward a drain. 

5. Repeat as necessary

If you are unable to remove all of the paint, repeat the third and fourth steps. If a stain is too stubborn and does not come off after repeated attempts, consider using a high-pressure sprayer. You can rent a pressure washer at your local home improvement store, or consider purchasing one for a host of other uses around the home.

How do you get paint off concrete without chemicals?

Master removes old paint from concrete wall with heat gun and scraper, How to Remove Paint From Concrete? [5 Simple Steps]

If you're looking for a chemical-free way to remove paint from concrete, there are a few things you can attempt. Be warned, however, that these non-chemical methods will require more time and effort than paint thinner.

These three methods all create tiny particles of paint, so be sure to wear a respirator mask.

Soda blasting

Soda blasting is similar to sandblasting, but it is safer and more effective. It works by using sodium bicarbonate which is shot at high pressure by a soda blasting machine. The soda is an abrasive agent that tears up the dried paint. After all the paint is ground up by the soda, you simply sweep and rinse it all away.

One major benefit to soda blasting versus sandblasting is that sodium bicarbonate is water-soluble, making it easier to clean up than sand. 

You can rent a soda blaster and purchase sodium bicarbonate from a home improvement store. 

Orbital sander

An orbital sander is a machine that uses sandpaper and a rotating head to grind down materials. It is often used to remove stain or varnish from wood, but can also be used to remove paint from concrete. 

Be careful when using an orbital sander, as too much pressure can cause divots or ruts in the concrete. Start with a fine sandpaper and very light pressure, then progress onto coarse paper and more pressure if necessary.

Click here to see this orbital sander on Amazon.

For more information on how to remove paint or stain from wood, read How To Repaint Or Restain Bedroom Furniture. 

Does vinegar remove paint from concrete?

Vinegar can remove paint from concrete but is not as fast or effective as paint thinner. For best results, heat the vinegar up to almost boiling. You can do this on the stove or in the microwave. Then, carefully use a paintbrush, sponge, or q-tip (depending on the size of the paint stain) to apply the hot vinegar to the paint. 

Allow the hot vinegar to sit for 10-20 minutes, then attempt to remove the paint with a paint scraper or wire scrub brush. Repeat as necessary.

Need to remove paint from bricks? Check out these 7 steps for removing paint from brick!

Can you paint over painted concrete?

For best results when repainting concrete, you should remove the existing paint before adding a new coat. The new paint will not adhere as well to previously-painted concrete, and primers are often ineffective due to the surface type. 

Follow the directions above, unless it is a large surface area. If that's the case, skip the paint thinner and use a floor buffer or orbital sander instead. 

The goal is to roughen up the surface and make it even. You do not want areas where some of the old paint has peeled and the rest is smooth. Paint adheres best to rough surfaces without divots or pits.

In Closing

The best way to remove unwanted paint from concrete is to scrape away as much as possible, clean the surface well, apply paint thinner, scrub the paint, and then remove the thinner. You can repeat these steps as necessary.

If you're looking for chemical-free ways to remove the paint, try a soda blaster, hot vinegar, or an orbital sander. Use these methods whenever you'd like to paint over previously painted concrete. With a little hard work and the right steps, your concrete will look as good as new!

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