Redecorating plaster walls is usually as simple as applying a new coat of paint on top of the old one. Yet, there are cases when removing emulsion paint from plaster walls is a necessity. For instance, if the old paint is peeling or flaking, you have to strip it off before repainting. Stripping may also be necessary if the wall has already been repainted several times and you want to remove some of the old layers.
How To Remove Emulsion Paint From Plaster Walls
While there are different ways of stripping paint off plaster walls, the procedure is similar. So, here’s how to remove paint from walls fast.
1. Gather The Necessary Supplies
Stripping paint off walls is a tedious yet easy-to-accomplish task that only requires a handful of tools and materials:
- Chemical paint stripper (optional)
- Heat gun (optional)
- Paintbrush or roll (optional)
- White vinegar or sugar soap
- Drop cloths
- Dust sheets
- Latex gloves
- Medium- or fine-grit sandpaper
2. Prepare The Area
No matter what paint removal method you use, the old paint coming off the wall will make a mess. Laying drop cloths on all surfaces can make cleaning easier.
Drop cloths are also necessary if you decide to use a chemical paint stripper, as these products can damage your floor or furniture. Moreover, some paint strippers also liquefy old paint, which can also stain your surfaces.
Not many people put much thought into choosing drop cloths, but you should go for the canvas variety, at least for the floor.
These drop cloths are not only more resistant than plastic sheets, but they are less slippery and reduce hazards as you’re moving (non-slip canvas drop cloths are also available for slippery floors). If you’re concerned about liquid spills, use rubber-lined drop cloths, which are impermeable.
Plastic dust sheets are a great choice for covering the furniture if you want to save a quid.
3. Clean The Wall
Cleaning the wall before stripping off the paint could sound counterintuitive but is necessary because grime and grease on walls can interfere with the stripper’s action.
To remove dust and gunk, you can wash the walls with a white vinegar solution (about 50:50 white vinegar mixed with hot water) or sugar soap.
Use a sponge to wash the wall. Rinsing is unnecessary if you’re using white vinegar, but you should rinse sugar soap thoroughly before moving to the next step. Don’t dry the wall – soaked paint is easier to remove.
4. Remove Emulsion Paint From Plaster Wall
You can now remove old emulsion from walls using the most appropriate stripping method.
Scraping off old paint is generally the simplest way. It is very effective if the old coat is already peeling or flaking.
Hold a scraper or putty knife against the wall at a shallow angle and use vertical or horizontal motions to remove the old paint layer.
A chemical stripper or heat gun may be necessary to remove old paint that isn’t peeling or flaking. You might also have to use a paint stripper to remove paint from new plaster.
To remove paint with a chemical stripper, apply the product liberally with a paintbrush or roller and wait as instructed on the package. When the bubbling stops, you can use a scraper or putty knife to get rid of the paint.
If you decide to use a heat gun, work on small sections at a time. Heat the paint and scrape it off the wall, then move to a new section.
Removing textured paint from plaster walls generally requires a soak-and-scrap technique. Fill a spray bottle with hot water and spray it on the texture. When soaked, scrap the textured paint with a putty knife.
5. Sand And Clean The Wall
The final step once you’ve removed the old paint is preparing the wall for new emulsion. To do that, you have to sand the surface and remove any traces of old emulsion that might still be on the wall.
Use medium- or fine-grit sandpaper (80-150-grit) and an oscillating tool for quicker and better results.
Then, wash the wall with sugar soap and water to remove the dust. Rinse with clean water and let the wall dry completely before applying a plaster primer and a new coat of paint.
Why Remove Paint From Plaster Walls?
Most DIYers know that you can paint walls without removing the old emulsion. However, there are situations when stripping old paint from plaster is necessary:
- Old paint is too damaged: If the wall wasn’t treated properly or the old paint is of poor quality, the emulsion might start to peel off or blister. Stripping might be unnecessary if the damaged area is small. However, new paint won’t be able to cover extensive damage.
- Wall was painted too many times: New paint looks good on top of an old paint coat, but only if there are few coats under the new one. Too many layers of paint cause imperfections that are difficult to mask. In this case, stripping the old paint layers can improve the end result.
- Drastic colour change: If you have dark walls and want to paint them in a lighter hue, you may find it easier to strip off the dark colour layer. Otherwise, you might have to apply way too many coats of new paint to cover the dark shade completely.
Can You Use Paint Remover On Plaster Walls?
Yes. Chemical paint removers are suitable to use on plaster walls – as long as the product is formulated for this type of surface.
Among the best paint removers for plaster walls, we can mention:
- PeelAway 1: This budget-friendly option is ideal to use on plaster and a variety of other surfaces, including brick, wood, ferrous metals, and plastic. The product has excellent results on thin and thick layers alike. For the best results, you should leave the product on for about 24 hours, then scrape off the paint with the included spatula.
- Rustins Strypit: Ideal for plaster, glass, metal, and wood, this non-caustic chemical stripper is another excellent choice. The gel formulation makes the application a cinch. It also reacts fast with the paint – you’ll usually be able to scrape it off after about 40 minutes from application.
- Nitromors All Purpose: This paint stripper isn’t as aggressive as PeelAway 1 or Strypit but is easy to apply and still provides great results if you’re patient. Its greatest advantage is the green colour that makes it easy to check what surfaces you’ve already covered and where to apply next. Regarding the application, we recommend ignoring the instructions and waiting for at least six hours before scraping off the paint.
3 Paint Removal Methods
Removing emulsion from plaster walls requires you to use one of the following three methods:
Scraping is the cheapest and simplest way to remove paint from walls. However, it is only a suitable method for paint that is already peeling away. If the old paint is in good condition, scraping alone can be a very tedious process.
To prevent damaging the wall, make sure to hold the scraper at a shallow angle. If you’ve damaged the plaster in the process, you can repair it with caulk.
Stripping is a chemical process that involves aggressive substances formulated to soften or liquefy hardened paint.
This method works on all paints, but the products are toxic. Most paint strippers are also caustic, so you should handle them with care to prevent injuries.
Depending on the product, you have to wait up to 24 hours after application before scraping off the paint with a paint scraper or putty knife. As a rule of thumb, the more you wait, the softer the paint coat and the easier it is to remove it.
If you don’t feel like waiting too much, you can check and see when the bubbling stops. This is a sign that the stripper has reacted with the paint and softened it for removal.
An alternative to chemical stripping, heat can also soften or liquefy hardened paint. This method is a better choice if you have kids or pets and don’t want to use toxic chemicals around them. However, the process is slower and more tedious.
You should also keep in mind that heat guns can be as dangerous as chemical strippers. Never leave the heat gun unattended if you have young children.
To strip off paint with a heat gun, you should hold to the gun at about 5-10 centimetres from the wall and move it back and forth on a small section. Wait until the paint starts to bubble, then scrap it off with a paint scraper or putty knife. Move to the next section when you’re happy with the results.
Removing emulsion paint from plaster walls requires a lot of patience and some elbow grease, but the process isn’t complicated. The best method if you want to avoid hazards is scraping the paint without employing chemicals or a heat gun. However, chemical strippers or heat can speed up the process. We hope this guide can help you find the best paint stripping method for you.