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How To Remove Chalk Paint From Furniture: Five Methods

A hand sanding white paint off of a table.

Chalk paint is a marvelous medium for renovating or remodeling furniture. It’s easy to apply, quick-drying, and perfect for paint techniques such as distressing, dragging, or antiquing. However, because of its matte finish, it tends to stain and get dirty.

Removing chalk paint from furniture is not super easy, but it can be done using one or more of these reliable methods:

  • paint stripper
  • sanding
  • heat
  • solvent
  • water

This article lines out which methods to use to remove chalk paint from furniture as well as step-by-step instructions for each one. As a bonus, find out how to remove chalk paint from fabric, and how to partially remove chalk paint for a distressed look.

Method #1: Using A Paint Stripper

Using a paint stripper is the most effective way to remove chalk paint in terms of time and effort.

You will need the following equipment, (all can be found on Amazon and I’ve linked to the product where available):

Step #1: Choosing A Suitable Paint Stripper

Ideally, try to find a bio-degradable or eco-friendly paint stripper such as Smart Strip which is sold on Amazon, or Autentico Bio-strip. These products are both:

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  • user-friendly
  • less smelly
  • less toxic
  • very effective

Step #2: Applying The Paint Stripper

Especially if you’re using a chemical-based paint stripper, before you begin be sure to wear:

  • goggles
  • gloves
  • face mask

Stir the paint stripper before application, and apply a thick coat to the chalk paint using a paintbrush or sponge brush. Leave the stripper on for about thirty minutes, or as per the manufacturer’s instructions, by which time you will see the chalk paint has begun to soften and bubble.

Step #3: Removing The Paint Stripper

 Using a plastic scraper, peel the softened paint off the surface of the furniture. The scraper works well on flat surfaces, but if you need to get into grooves and difficult-to-reach nooks, try using a wire brush or a scrubbing pad. Most of the chalk paint will be removed using this method.

A can of paint remover with a bowl of water, a sponge brush, a wire brush, and a metal brush.
A paint stripper is the best way to remove chalk paint

Step #4: Finishing Off The Paint Removal

The remnants of paint can be removed using scrubby pads or wire wool, and hot soapy water. Dry off the wooden surface and repeat if necessary. Then gently sand it with fine sandpaper, to prepare the wood for whatever new coating you are going to apply.

If you need to get paint off of a cabinet without hurting the finish, read this article for everything you need to know!

Method #2: Sanding To Remove Chalk Paint

Sanding works particularly well on large flat surfaces, such as a:

  • wooden floor
  • dining table
  • large cabinet

However, care needs to be taken since a certian amount of wood is removed as well as the chalk paint.

You will need these items:

Step #1: Cover All Objects In The Workspace

Dust will fly all over the room, so it’s important to:

  • wear a facemask to prevent inhaling it
  • cover everything
  • keep the ventilation going

Step #2: Prepare The Furniture For Sanding

The chalk paint may have been sealed with a polyurethane or wax finish which must be taken off before sanding. This is done by dipping a cloth in turpentine and rubbing the chalk-painted surface until the wax has been mostly removed.

Step #3: Sand With Coarse Sandpaper

Using an electric sander, and going with the grain, remove as much of the chalk paint as you can with the coarsest grit of sandpaper you have. Depending on how thick the paint is, you may have to replace the sandpaper a few times.

Step #4: Use Finer Grit Sandaper As You Reach Wood

Once you have taken off as much paint as possible and reached the wood surface, using coarse grit sandpaper is no longer necessary as it is likely to damage the wood.

The finer grits will clog up quicker, so don’t use them until the paint is mostly removed. Eventually all the chalk paint apart from the most stubborn or hard-to-get-at sections will be gone.

Step #5: Switch To Hand Sanding

After you have thoroughly wiped down the surface with a damp cloth to remove chalk paint residue, use a small hand-held sanding block or just your hands to sand off all the remaining chalk paint. This can be a long-winded process but be patient, the result is worth the effort!

A woman with a mask and goggles using a small electric sander to sand a drawer.
Sanding to remove chalk paint is worth the effort

Step #6: The Final Sanding

To prepare the wood surface for a new finish, sand the entire piece of furniture by hand, using the finest grit of sandpaper you have (180 to 220 grit is good). This will remove scratches and provide a perfect surface for the new coating.

Method #3: Using Heat To Remove Chalk Paint

Apart from the slight danger of overheating the wood and scorching it, and if taken to extremes potentially starting a fire, heat is a clean and eco-friendly method of removing chalk paint.

You will need these items, which can all be bought on Amazon:

Step #1: Heat Small Areas Of Paint At A Time

Holding the heat gun a few inches away from the surface, heat the chalk paint until it softens and begins to wrinkle. It’s essential to only work on small areas at a time, as the paint cools quickly and makes removal difficult.

Step #2: Use A Metal Scraper To Remove The Paint

Going with the grain, carefully scrape off all the preheated paint possible before repeating Step 1 until you have removed all the chalk paint that you are able to.

Step #3: Remove Residue Paint With Sandpaper

There’s probably going to be quite a bit of paint in difficult corners and grooves. Use sandpaper to remove these remnants by hand, or alternatively use a scrubby or wire brush and soapy water or turpentine to do the job.

Step #4: Remove Paint Dust From The Surface

Using a damp cloth, wipe down all surfaces to remove the last remnants of paint. If necessary, use fine-grit sandpaper to prepare the surface for its new coating.

3 metal scrapers laid on a dark wood surface.
Metal scrapers come in handy when removing paint

Method #4: Using A Solvent To Remove Chalk Paint From Furniture

A solvent is far gentler than a commercial paint stripper and can actually be made using household ingredients. Since it’s not as harsh as a paint stripper, you’ll need to put in a lot more time and effort to remove the chalk paint.

To make the solvent, you need some of these items, found on Amazon:

Other necessary items, also found on Amazon:

Step #1: Wet The Wood Thoroughly

Wet the wood with a hose or just use a bucket and sponge (this kit is super convenient on Amazon) to begin the process of softening the chalk paint.

Step #2: Start Rubbing And Keep Rubbing

Use one of the solvents listed to break down the chalk paint, it’s going to take a lot of rubbing and a lot of patience. Using a coarse cloth, rub with the grain and constantly clean off the cloth in hot water to remove the paint that has accumulated.

HOT TIP: If you’re using white vinegar as the solvent, it works best if heated before applying it to the chalk paint.

Step #3: Use The Scrubby For Difficult areas

As well as rubbing the surface, you can also scrub the obstinate paint off or combine the use of the solvent with sanding to speed up the process.

Step #4: Clean Off The Solvent

Although you’ve used a lot of water during the removal process, rinsed out the cloth regularly, and removed the chalk paint, wipe down the furniture with soapy water or turpentine to get rid of any residual paint.

Step #5: Prepare The Surface For A New Coat

The wood needs to be totally dry, which may take some time. Next, a final sanding with fine sandpaper and wiping down to prepare the surface for re-coating.

A person using a sanding block to sand furniture.
Sand to prepare the wood for its next phase

Method #5: Using Water To Remove Chalk Paint From Furniture

The gentlest solvent of all, and the most eco-friendly, is water. As chalk paint is water-based, it can be removed by water. This is not a method we recommend for anything but the most minor projects.

You will need the same equipment as in Method #4, the only difference is that the solvent is hot water, not:

  • vinegar
  • acetone
  • washing soda

The steps are the same as for other solvents, so we won’t repeat them here. The amount of elbow grease increases in direct proportion to the gentleness of the solvent. So only use water when there is a minimal area of chalk paint to be removed.

Removing Chalk Paint From Plastic Or Metal Furniture

We’ve assumed that the furniture in question is wood. In most cases, that is the correct assumption since chalk paint is popularly used in re-purposing old furniture. But there may be an odd exception, so let’s briefly look at other possible materials: plastic and metal.

Removing Chalk Paint From Plastic

Try removing chalk paint from plastic with these methods:

  1. The best method is with a paint stripper and a plastic scraper.
  2. Try gently sanding down to the plastic and then use the scraper to remove the remaining chalk paint.
  3. Or, break down the paint with a solvent, which should make the removal much more straightforward.

Removing Chalk Paint From Metal

Removing chalk paint from metal is easy because the paint doesn’t bond well to the smooth metal surface. Try these simple methods:

  1. A coarse damp cloth may be sufficient.
  2. If that doesn’t work, a scrubbing pad or wire brush almost certainly will.

Removing Chalk Paint From Fabric

If the furniture in question is partly upholstered, it’s possible that while painting the exposed wood (for example, the wooden arms and legs of a chair), some chalk paint accidentally splashed onto the fabric.

Removing the paint shouldn’t present a problem. All you need are these items easily bought on Amazon:

Follow these simple steps:

  1. Apply the alcohol to the painted fabric.
  2. Scrub with the brush.
  3. Remove the paint with the cloth.
  4. If necessary, repeat the process.

The fabric will come up paint-free and good as new!

Distressing: The Partial Removal Of Chalk Paint

We’ve discussed the total removal of chalk paint from furniture, which may be for several reasons:

  1. The paint hasn’t weathered well, has become grimy, has chipped off, and become discolored.
  2. The color no longer works with other furnishings, or you’re just tired of the look.
  3. You want a gloss or lacquer finish, which is fashionable but not possible with chalk paint.
  4. To restore the original wood finish to the particular piece of furniture

Another possibility that we should mention is the partial removal of chalk paint. One of the significant advantages of chalk paint is that it can transform furniture without a tremendous amount of preparation:

  • no primer
  • no sanding
  • it dries very quickly
  • it is very easy to apply

It also lends itself to some creative painting techniques. Chalk paint is perfect for getting a “distressed” look on a piece of furniture, giving it that popular aged and antique look.

Several techniques are used to create a distressed look, but it basically requires the painting of the furniture with a solid coat of chalk paint, which is then sanded on the high points and ridges, as well as on the flat surfaces to partially remove the chalk paint.

HOT TIP: This is done to reveal the wood underneath and gives the impression of having been worn off over time.

A headboard that has paint partially sanded off to reveal a distressed look.
Create a distressed look by partially removing chalk paint

It’s also possible to paint two solid coats, the first in one color and the second in another. When one partially removes the top coat, it reveals a hint of the bottom color. This is a very striking form of the distressed effect.


There are many good reasons why one chooses to remove chalk paint from furniture, but the motive is less important than the method. We’ve looked at the five methods that are generally suggested by experts and detailed how to put them into practice.

The quickest and easiest method, using a paint stripper, is also the most toxic to the environment and the person using it. Conversely, the most eco-friendly method, using water and lots of elbow grease, is not very effective.

Whatever method you choose depends on your priorities, but we hope we’ve helped you make the right decision!

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