Removing paint from brick can be an painstaking process, especially if you’re removing old and/or dry paint.
Still, removing paint from brick surfaces isn’t an impossible task.
With the right products, technique, and time, you’ll be able to restore brickwork to its original state without the help of a professional.
In this article, I’ll show you how to remove paint from brick surfaces in the most efficient way possible. Let’s dive right in!
Why Is Paint So Hard to Remove from Brick?
Although strong and solid, bricks are naturally porous.
They have minute, almost microscopic holes that absorb liquid and moisture.
When rain falls, it takes only about two hours for the water to completely soak through the material.
Same for sprinklers, which can leave behind deep efflorescent stains to remove from the brick after drying!
Paint isn’t as thin as water, so they don’t damage bricks when applied.
But since bricks are so porous, paint molecules merge into the construction material itself, making it difficult to remove.
Masonry, acrylic, and latex paint are highly resistant to environmental damage as they’re specifically designed to stick to surfaces permanently.
Water-based paint fuses together as it dries, so removing it with just water is near-impossible.
The same is said with oil-based paint because it contains binding agents that don’t dissolve in liquid.
How to Remove Paint from Brick: A Step-By-Step Guide
The success of this DIY project depends on your technique and the materials used.
It’s worth spending a couple of extra dollars on a high-quality paint stripper to lessen the effort required to get the cleanest looking bricks possible.
The below steps work well for both fresh and dried paint.
Remember: the longer the paint is on the brick surface, the more difficult it is to remove. This is true with removing caulking from brick and other man-made materials.
- Long stirring stick
- High-quality paint stripper
- Protective gear (gloves, respirator mask, and safety glasses)
- Paint scraper or wire brush
- Cheap large paintbrush
- Protective plastic sheet covers or newspaper
- Putty knife
Step 1: Choose the Right Paint Stripper
Paint strippers come in two main types: solvent-based stripper (flammable) and caustic-based stripper (non-flammable).
Solvent-based strippers are much more powerful than caustic-based strippers, as they’re chemically designed to remove a wider variety of finishes.
They can also strip away thick paint faster than the alternative and can remove paint without damaging or leaving any stains on the brick surface.
That said, solvent-based strippers are flammable, so additional caution is required when used. They also smell awful.
Caustic-based strippers are more environmentally-friendly as they’re non-flammable.
They’re best suited for oil-based paint and surfaces that have detail or molding.
I recommend the Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover, as it’s environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and doesn’t expel hazardous fumes.
You can buy it here.
Step 2: Prepare Your Workspace
Removing paint from brick walls can get messy, so always prepare your workspace beforehand to minimize the amount of mess created by the removal process.
This applies to all types of brick surfaces, whether it be on the wall, the pavement, the fireplace, the chimney, etc.
Place a protective plastic sheet or newspaper on the floor to protect your floors from spatters, stains, and other cosmetic damage.
Cover window frames, wood trims, and the like with painter’s tape so they won’t get affected by the paint stripper.
For additional protection, tape the plastic sheet or newspaper to the bottom edge of the brick wall.
Step 3: Wear Protective Gear
This step is non-negotiable.
Paint stripper is dangerous.
When inhaled or absorbed through skin, they can cause dizziness, nausea, loss of coordination, and other serious health issues.
They may also cause skin burns and damage.
Since you’ll use a copious amount of paint stripper and other chemical products for this project, proper protective gear is vital.
Wear a respirator mask or a high filtration particulate mask when using a paint stripper.
Additionally, wear a PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to prevent or at least minimize bodily harm.
This includes safety glasses or goggles to protect you from accidental splashes, gloves, and protective clothing with long sleeves and pants.
Step 4: Scrape Loose Paint
Before you start the cleaning process, lightly scrape away any loose, blistered, or cracked paint from the brickwork.
Do this with a paint scraper, a wire brush, or a combination of both. You can also use a trowel.
Sweep the scraper or the wire brush over heavily peeling paint, following the direction of the paint strokes if visible.
If not, follow the direction in which the paint peels off.
Step 5: Prepare the Paint Stripping Solution
In a large and clean bucket, prepare the Trisodium Phosphate solution (TSP) or paint stripper as recommended by the manufacturer.
Usually, you’ll need to mix about a gallon of warm water with half a cup of paint stripper.
Use a long stir stick (that you don’t mind throwing away later) and mix the solution until the solution has dissolved.
Step 6: Apply the Paint Stripper
Apply the solution to all the areas you want to remove the paint from in thick layers.
Use a decently-sized paintbrush or foam brush that can be thrown away after the job, as the stripper will likely damage the bristles to the point of not being usable.
Push the agent into crevices and gaps within the brick and mortar.
Let the stripper sit and cure for about 10 to 15 minutes, or as recommended by the manufacturer.
Step 7: Scrape the Paint
Once the required time has elapsed, the paint should be thick, goopy, and soft. If it’s still hard, leave the stripper for several more minutes.
Scrape the paint with a putty knife and deposit the remains in a trash bag. Do so in a slow, deliberate manner; don’t rush the job.
Step 8: Apply a Second and Third Coat, if Necessary
If the first application didn’t remove all the paint from the brick wall, a second and sometimes third application might be necessary.
Apply the paint stripper using the same brush you’ve used prior, but this time let the stripper sit for about three to four hours.
Scrape off the second/third coat with a putty knife, then scrub any remaining flakes or paint away with steel wool, a steel-bristle brush, or a trowel.
Step 9: Rinse the Brick with Water
After scraping away the paint and the product, rinse the brick surface with plain warm water to remove any remaining solution, dirt, or markings.
For best results, use a garden hose.
Let the brick fully dry before sealing or applying a new coat of paint.
Tips to Follow When Removing Paint From Brick
Here are some important tips to follow when stripping paint from brick:
- Before applying a stripping agent, test the stripper on an inconspicuous part of the wall to check its effectiveness.
- Work in small sections to minimize overlap and gaps.
- Generously apply the stripper. Thicker layers work better than thin layers.
- Follow the stripper set times given by the manufacturer. If you wait too little, the stripper won’t have enough time to soften the paint. If you wait too long, the paint may solidify under the stripper.
What kind of paint stripper should I use to remove paint from brick?
As described above, paint strippers can do the job and will either be solvent-based or caustic-based. Both work well with brick surfaces.
For a non-chemical approach, I recommend the Citristrip Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel, as it’s environmentally friendly and doesn’t smell too harsh.
You can buy it here.
The Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover mentioned previously is also very effective, but again, is chemicals based.
How Much Paint Stripper Should I Use?
On average, you need around a gallon of gel-based paint stripper for every 75 square feet of space.
Depending on how deep-set the paint is, you might need to apply two and sometimes even three layers of paint stripper to fully remove the paint from the brick wall.
Removing paint from brick surfaces, whether from your home’s exterior, your fireplace, or the pavement, takes a lot of elbow grease and time, so make sure you’re free all afternoon.
Trust me, I’ve been there with this project AND removing old soot from brick too. It just takes some time but the methods work!
There you have it; our guide on how to remove paint from brick in 9 quick-to-execute steps!
Also, always wear the proper gear so you’re fully protected from chemical splatters.