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6 Effective Ways to Remove Paint From Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets that are painted pink with a blue wall behind.

Kitchen cabinets are the most expensive part of a kitchen. Reusing existing ones by removing paint is a very good way to keep the cost of remodeling a kitchen down. It can also be a way to cut costs on a new kitchen if you reuse old kitchen cabinets. 

Sometimes, you may just feel like a change and want a different color for your kitchen cabinets. Kitchen cabinets are typically painted so the first step is to remove the paint. In this article, I will explain 10 of the most effective ways to remove the paint completely from kitchen cabinets.

NOTE: To learn more about if you should paint cabinets before or after installing countertops, check out my article!

Kitchen Cabinet Paint Removal Methods: Pros and Cons

First, here’s a summary table of the pros and cons of each method:

Chemical paint removerWorks very well without much effort.Uses harsh chemicals, needs to be left to sit on the paint overnight, and is reasonably messy.
Oven cleaners such as Easy OffWorks very well without much effort.Needs a well-ventilated space, needs to sit overnight, reasonably messy.
VinegarAn all-natural product that works extremely well, and doesn’t require much effort.Needs to be left to sit overnight. Doesn’t work on all paint types, reasonably messy.
Heat gunDoesn’t require harsh chemicals, and works very well.It requires you to have a heat gun and takes a long time.
Steam cleanerWorks extremely well, and doesn’t use any harsh chemicals.Very labor intensive, applied to only a small area for 30 seconds to a minute. Requires you to have a steam cleaner.
Orbital sanderWorks very well.Very labor intensive, creates a lot of dust, and requires you to have an orbital sander.

Now you’re aware of the pros and cons of each method, here’s a list of exactly how to do each method. This way you can choose the one you like the best and execute it flawlessly!

#1: Chemical Paint Remover

Chemical paint removers like Citristrip Paint Remover use chemical reactions that break down the paint, allowing it to be scraped off using a paint scraper, both of these can be found on Amazon. 

Note: This post may contain affiliate links which will take you to online retailers that sell products and services. If you click on one and buy something, I may earn from qualifying purchases. See my Affiliate Disclosure for more details.

The Pros of Chemical Paint Removers:

  • Very easy to use, just apply it, let it sit, then scrape the paint off.
  • The paint comes off very easily.
  • Doesn’t take a lot of time after soaking.

The Cons of Chemical Paint Removers:

  • They use harsh chemicals.
  • Some have a strong odor.
  • They need to be left overnight.
  • They don’t remove 100% of the paint. Necessary to wipe with mineral turpentine after scraping.

Chemical paint removers are available at hardware stores, and online. They are labeled as chemical paint removers. One of the most well-known and highly recommended chemical paint removers is Citristrip.

A metal scraper scraping white paint off to show a layer of blue and wood underneath.
Chemical paint removers with a scraper work well

The Method For Paint Stripper/Chemical Paint Remover:

These linked items necessary can all be found on Amazon.

  1. Apply a very thick layer.
  2. Put a layer of cling film over the top to stop it from evaporating.
  3. Allow it to soak in overnight.
  4. Use a non-metal paint scraper to scrape off the paint.
  5. Wipe the remaining paint residue using rubbing alcohol, or mineral spirits.

Here’s a really good video that shows how well this method works:

Typically, cabinets will have a layer of primer underneath the paint. However, all of these methods will remove both the primer and the layer of paint.

#2: Oven Cleaner: Chemical-Based Method

Interestingly, oven cleaners like Easy-Off (Amazon link), do an amazing job at removing paint from kitchen cabinets.

The Pros of Using Oven Cleaner to Remove Paint:

  • Very easy to use.
  • Not very labor intensive.
  • Easy to find at your local grocery store.

The Cons of Oven Cleaners to Remove Paint:

  • It’s a harsh chemical you need to be wary of fumes for some brands.
  • It needs to soak for a long time.

Some oven cleaners have strong fumes. So, it’s very important to read the label so you know if it needs to be sprayed outside or have all the windows and doors open. This method is an incredibly easy way to remove paint from kitchen cabinets.

The Method to Apply and Use Oven Cleaner to Remove Paint:

  1. Spray on a thick layer of oven cleaner that makes the paint completely damp.
  2. Cover the area in cling film and tape.
  3. Let it soak overnight.
  4. Scrape off the paint with a paint scraper.

The paint will come off extremely easily using a paint scraper. If the paint has two layers or is very thick it can be necessary to scrape off what’s loose and then apply the oven cleaner again.

#3: Any Type of Vinegar: Chemical Reaction Based Method

Interestingly, vinegar works extremely well to remove paint from cabinets. The good thing about vinegar is that it’s completely natural. Different types of vinegar vary a bit in strength, cherry vinegar is the strongest. But, any type of vinegar will be strong enough to strip the paint off kitchen cabinets.

Various people recommend warming it up in a bowl first for about 30 seconds in the microwave, although it’s unclear whether this is more effective than cold vinegar.

This video shows how well it works when the vinegar is warmed in the microwave. 

From the video, you can see that vinegar makes the paint very easy to remove, and almost outperforms chemical paint remover. This is surprising since vinegar is such a common ingredient to have around the home.

The Pros of Using Vinegar to Remove Paint:

  • It’s a completely natural ingredient.
  • Very easy to use.
  • It works extremely well, without a lot of scraping necessary.

The Cons of Using Vinegar to Remove Paint:

  • It needs to soak for a very long time, from at least 30 minutes to overnight.
A close up of a tub of white vinegar and a small bowl filled with it.
Vinegar works surprisingly well to remove paint

The Method to Use Vinegar to Remove Paint from Kitchen Cabinets:

  1. Place a cup or so of any type of vinegar in a bowl.
  2. Warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute.
  3. Use a dishcloth or paper towel to apply it to the paint.
  4. Apply enough that the areas are completely wet with vinegar.
  5. Put cling film over the top and let it soak for 30 minutes up to overnight.
  6. Scrape off the paint using a paint scraper.

#4: Heat Gun to Soften the Paint With Heat

A heat gun is a method that is a bit hit-and-miss. It works on some types of paint but not on others. Therefore, try this method on the cabinets to see if it will be effective. However, this is a tried and true method that is recommended

The one drawback of this method is you will need a heat gun, options to consider are:

  • buy (this one on Amazon is great value)
  • rent
  • borrow

This can be more costly than using a liquid such as a chemical paint stripper, especially since it’s very likely you’ll only use it once.

But, if you need one for work, or if you’re a DIY and tinkerer type of person you may want to get one of these.

The Method For Using a Heat Gun to Remove Paint:

  1. Apply a heat gun to the surface.
  2. Once the heat softens the paint, scrape it off.

Here’s a really good video from Home Depot that shows how to do it:

The advantage of this method is that it doesn’t use harsh chemicals, and isn’t as messy as using a liquid.

#5: Steam Cleaner: Heat-Based Method

A steam cleaner works very well to strip paint from kitchen cabinets, although unless you already own a steam cleaner like this one sold on Amazon, it may not be worth it to buy one.

The Pros of Removing Paint with a Steam Cleaner:

  • Does not require harsh chemicals.
  • Is very effective at stripping paint.

The Cons of Using a Steam Cleaner to Remove Paint:

  • It requires complex equipment.
  • Not everyone has a steam cleaner on hand.
  • It requires holding the steam cleaner to the paint for quite a long time. 

The Method to Use a Steam Cleaner For Paint Removal:

  • Apply the steam cleaner to the paint for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Scrape the paint off using a paint scraper.

NOTE: A steam cleaner works very similarly to using a heat gun.

This video shows how well this method works:

This method requires working on your cabinets for much longer than if you use a liquid that you leave on, such as:

  • chemical paint stripper
  • oven cleaner
  • vinegar

But, like the other methods, it does require a lot of scraping to remove the paint.

#6: Orbital Sander: Mechanical Method

An orbital sander like this one is a tool used in woodworking to finish wood. It also works very well for stripping paint. An orbital sander is a piece of sandpaper attached to a rotating disk.

An orbital sander sanding a surface showing it removing paint with wood underneath.
An orbital sander works well but is labor intensive

The Pros of Using an Orbital Sander to Remove Paint:

  • Takes all of the work out of sanding by hand.
  • Works extremely well.
  • Is very simple.

The Cons of an Orbital Sander to Remove Paint:

  • Creates a tonne of dust.
  • Very labor intensive.
  • Takes a long time.
  • You need an orbital sander.

A lot of dust isn’t a major issue but doesn’t happen at all with the other methods. Therefore, you need to use this method in a very well-ventilated area, and there will be some clean-up afterward. The other main thing is an orbital sander tool will need to be:

  • rented
  • borrowed
  • bought

The Method to Use an Orbital Sander to Remove Paint

This method requires a lot of work. An orbital sander needs to be on the areas with paint for reasonably long periods of time to remove it completely.

These are fairly common pieces of equipment for woodworking or for various trade professionals. But, other methods such as using these methods don’t require one at all:

  • chemical paint stripper
  • vinegar
  • oven cleaner


These are all effective ways to remove or strip paint from kitchen cabinets that will give them a good finish. Now they can be repainted or decorated in another way!

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