How to Remove Paint From Concrete

Removing paint from concrete can be a challenging task, but with the right techniques and products, it can be done effectively. Paint adheres tenaciously to concrete, so removing it often requires some effort. The process you use will depend on the type of paint, how long it has been on the concrete, and whether you need to get the concrete back to its original look or just remove loose flakes. With some work, you can get those painted concrete surfaces looking fresh and clean again.

Assess the Painted Concrete

Before determining the best way to remove paint from concrete, you need to assess the current state of the painted surface. Here are some key things to check:

Type of Paint

  • Latex paint – Water-based and more porous, latex paint is easier to remove from concrete than oil-based enamels. It can usually be lifted with chemicals or power washing.
  • Enamel/oil-based paint – Denser oil-based paints soak into concrete and create a strong bond, requiring aggressive removal methods. Paint strippers or grinders work best.
  • Thick paint buildup – Thick layers of paint are harder to remove than thin coats. Thicker paint has to be broken down layer by layer.
  • Cracking/peeling paint – Paint that is already cracking or peeling indicates low adhesion. These loose flakes can be scraped off before using other removal techniques.

Age of Paint

  • New paint – Removing paint when it is still fresh (less than a few months old) is easier than taking off layers that have been on the concrete for years. The longer it has cured, the stronger the bond.
  • Old paint – Paint that has been on the concrete for over 5 years can be quite stubborn to remove. You may need to use more intense removal methods.

Concrete Condition

  • Sound concrete – Paint on smooth, sound concrete without holes, cracks or crumbling is easier to deal with than deteriorated surfaces.
  • Deteriorating concrete – Removing paint from concrete that is compromised can lead to further crumbling. You need to be gentle on fragile areas.
  • Sealed concrete – Previous sealers make paint removal more difficult. You may need to strip the sealer before tackling the paint.
  • Stamped/decorated concrete – Special decorative concrete requires gentler methods so you don’t damage the pattern. Hand scraping is best.

Once you have evaluated the specifics of the painted concrete, you can choose the best removal method.

Choosing a Paint Removal Method

There are five main options for removing paint from concrete:

1. Scrape Loose Paint

For painted concrete where the paint is already cracking, peeling or flaking, scraping off the loose paint can be done as an initial step before using other removal techniques.

This is a job for a long-handled scraper made for concrete. Hold it at a 30° angle and scrape the flaking paint off the surface using care not to gouge the concrete. Sweep up the paint chips when you are done.

Scraping gets rid of the easy parts while leaving the more tenacious paint still stuck fast to the concrete for the next steps.

2. Use Chemical Paint Strippers

Chemical strippers work by breaking down the compounds in paint that allow it to stick to the concrete. The chemicals dissolve the adhesion and cause the paint to bubble up so it can be more easily scraped off.

There are environmentally-friendly and toxic chemical strippers available. The non-toxic options are safer but may be less effective on thick or stubborn paint.

Here is how to use paint strippers on concrete:

  1. Sweep and clean the concrete first to remove dust and dirt.
  2. Apply a thick layer of the stripping gel uniformly across the painted surface. Cover the entire area you want to strip.
  3. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes. Don’t let the stripper dry on the concrete.
  4. Scrub the surface with a stiff brush to agitate the paint and stripper.
  5. Rinse the concrete thoroughly to neutralize and wash away all the chemical residue.
  6. Check for any remaining paint and repeat if needed. Multiple applications may be required.

Paint strippers with methylene chloride work well but give off harsh fumes and can burn skin. Safer citrus-based gels are better for indoor use. Always wear gloves and work in a ventilated area.

This method can be time-consuming for large areas, but the stripper does most of the work so it requires less physical exertion.

3. Use a Pressure Washer

For painted concrete where the paint is still well-adhered in a thin layer, a pressure washer can provide enough concentrated water pressure to break the paint’s grip from the concrete.

Pressure washing requires more physical effort than chemical stripping but is a quicker process. Here are the steps:

  1. Clean any dust, leaves or debris from the concrete first so the paint is accessible.
  2. Select an industrial pressure washer (3000+ PSI) with a 25° or 40° tip.
  3. Keep the nozzle 6-12 inches from the painted concrete as you spray in overlapping paths.
  4. Apply even pressure and make multiple passes over each area until the paint peels up.
  5. Take care when pressure washing near fragile or deteriorated concrete to avoid damaging it. Reduce pressure as needed.
  6. For thick multi-coat paint, break it down layer by layer using different tips.
  7. Let the concrete dry fully when done. Scrape up any remaining loose paint chips.

Pressure washing requires painting safety equipment and training for safe operation to avoid injury or damaging the concrete. Renting at a DIY car wash can be a good option.

4. Rent a Concrete Grinder

For painted concrete where the paint is thick, strong-bonding enamel, or soaking deep into porous concrete, grinders are often the most effective removal method.

Grinders use abrasive diamond discs to mechanically strip off multiple layers of paint in one step – along with a thin top layer of concrete. This gets down to fresh bare concrete very quickly.

Here are some tips for concrete grinding paint removal:

  • Choose a diamond cup wheel attachment rated for paint removal. Grit sizes of 16, 20 or 30 work well.
  • Hold the grinder flat against the concrete and move it steadily side-to-side in overlapping passes.
  • Apply even pressure. Let the grinder do the work. Make multiple passes if needed to get to bare concrete.
  • Avoid grinding too aggressively near control joints or edges where concrete may be fragile.
  • Wear a respirator – paint dust is toxic when airborne. Also wear eye and ear protection.
  • Attach a vacuum dust shroud to contain dangerous dust. HEPA wet/dry vacuums collect it safely.
  • When done, wash down the concrete to remove all dust and paint particles. Let dry fully before sealing or painting.

Renting concrete grinders provides professional results in less time than the other methods. It does require handling skills to operate large grinding equipment.

5. Sandblast the Surface

Sandblasting uses compressed air to shoot abrasive sand at extremely high speeds and forcefully chips off every bit of paint. This removes paint rapidly but is the most aggressive option that will also damage the concrete underneath.

Some considerations:

  • Sandblasting damages concrete surfaces so should only be used on sound concrete without cracks or deterioration.
  • Containing the flying debris is critical for safety and to avoid harming nearby surfaces. Tarps must completely enclose the work area.
  • Because sandblasting can fracture concrete, it’s not recommended on decorative stamped or colored concrete you want to preserve.
  • Professional equipment and experience is needed to sandblast safely with concrete damage risks. Renting is not cost-effective for small residential jobs.
  • The concrete surface will need extensive repairs after sandblasting removal. Grinding is often better for DIY paint removal.

Sandblasting does work fast on thick industrial paint jobs when you need full paint removal from concrete and repairs are planned anyway. But less aggressive methods are usually better for residential uses.

Tips for DIY Concrete Paint Removal

Paint removal from concrete is tough work. Here are some useful tips to help your DIY project go smoothly:

  • Work in sections – Don’t tackle huge areas all at once. Break it up into smaller sections that you can completely strip, rinse and clean before moving on.
  • Protectadjacent surfaces – Close windows, doors and HVAC vents. Cover nearby plants, siding, cars etc. with tarps. Contain debris.
  • Consider temperature – Outdoor paint removal works best in cooler temperatures below 85°F. Avoid hot sun which dries out strippers prematurely.
  • Use thick rubber gloves and eye protection – Harsh chemicals, paint dust, debris and high-pressure water all pose safety hazards. Protect yourself.
  • Contain waste safely – Paint stripper residue, paint chips and dust are hazardous waste. Collect carefully to dispose of properly.
  • Rinse concrete thoroughly – Residual chemicals or ground paint left on the concrete can prevent paint or sealers adhering later. Always rinse fully with clean water.
  • Let concrete dry completely – Allow several sunny days for bare concrete to dry fully before applying any new sealers or paints.
  • Be prepared for repairs – Once paint is removed, you may need to patch holes, resurface stained areas or apply concrete sealer prior to repainting.

FAQ About Removing Paint From Concrete

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about getting paint off of concrete:

How long does it take to remove paint from concrete?

  • Plan on paint removal taking 2-3 times longer than it took to paint the concrete originally. The level of effort depends on the removal method. Hand scraping may take days, pressure washing hours, and grinding under an hour for a typical 2-car garage floor.

What is the easiest way to remove paint from concrete?

  • For thin latex paint less than 2 years old, pressure washing is generally the quickest and easiest removal method for DIYers, requiring no chemicals. For thick multi-layer oil-based paint, renting a concrete grinder is the easiest way to strip it down to bare concrete again.

What kind of paint stripper works on concrete?

  • Biodegradable, water-based citrus or soy gel strippers are safest for concrete and indoor use. Dumond Smart Strip and Citristrip are good options. Avoid methylene chloride products due to harsh fumes.

How do you remove old paint from outdoor concrete?

  • For outdoor concrete, pressure washing with 3000+ PSI is the best removal approach. Break thick paint down into layers using different pressure washer tips. Let the concrete dry for several days afterward before applying new paint.

What is the fastest way to remove paint from concrete?

  • Renting a diamond cup concrete grinder is the fastest DIY method for removing thick, well-adhered paint from concrete. Make multiple passes in overlapping paths and take safety precautions to avoid breathing paint dust.

How do I remove paint drips from concrete?

  • For small paint drips or spills on concrete, scrape off any thick areas that harden. Then use a pressure washer to remove the remaining thinner paint residue from the concrete pores.

Can you use paint stripper on colored concrete?

  • Yes, but gel chemical strippers must be used cautiously on colored or stamped decorative concrete to avoid ruining the pattern or color. Hand scrape then do careful test spots with the stripper. Use minimal pressure rinsing.

Will pressure washing damage concrete?

  • When done correctly, pressure washing won’t damage sound concrete. Ensure the PSI isn’t excessive, keep the nozzle moving, and work 6-12 inches away. Avoid focusing on one area too long. Reduce pressure on deteriorated areas.

Removing Concrete Floor Paint by Room

Painted concrete floors are found both indoors and out. The process for removing the paint may vary slightly depending on the room’s use. Here are some specifics:

Garage Floor Paint Removal

Oil leaks and tire marks often lead homeowners to paint their garage floors. But the paint can become tiresome to maintain. Removing it involves these steps:

  • Sweep out debris, dirt and dust thoroughly. Wash and degrease any oil stains.
  • For thin coatings, pressure wash using a wide-tip nozzle. For thick paint, rent a concrete grinder with a diamond cup wheel.
  • Contain paint dust and chips carefully when grinding. Use a HEPA vacuum attachment and wet/dry vacuum to collect.
  • Let dry fully for 6+ days before clear sealing or applying protective garage floor epoxy.

Basement Floor Paint Removal

Damp, chilly basements often get painted to create a cleaner, brighter space. When it’s time to remove basement floor paint:

  • For thin paint, citrus chemical stripper can be a good option to avoid pressure washer moisture.
  • Scrape thickly-coated areas before applying the stripper. Scrub with a stiff brush.
  • Rinse thoroughly but quickly to avoid water pooling. Use a wet/dry shop vac to dry the concrete faster.
  • A Diamond grinding cup on a small floor buffer can also work well for basement floors. Vacuum up all dust.

Back Porch Paint Removal

Exterior porches take more abuse from foot traffic, furniture scratches and weather exposure. Taking off porch paint requires:

  • A pressure washer is ideal for rough outdoor surfaces. Start at 2,500 PSI with a wide tip, adjust pressure as needed.
  • Thick latex paint may need multiple stripping and pressure washing cycles to get down to the concrete.
  • Watch for deteriorated areas around post anchors or steps. Reduce pressure washing intensity to avoid further damage.
  • Let the wet concrete dry for at least a week before re-sealing or painting porch floors.

Kitchen Floor Paint Removal

Painting kitchen floors was once a popular trend to emulate tile or linoleum floors. Removing these coatings presents some challenges:

  • Clean out cabinets fully and cover all remaining kitchen items to protect them.
  • For thin paint, citrus-based stripper is the best choice for indoor kitchen use. Rinse residue thoroughly.
  • Avoid flooding the floor with water or chemicals that could seep under cabinets and cause damage.
  • If grinding, use dust containment shrouds and HEPA filters carefully to avoid contaminating food surfaces.

Bathroom Floor Paint Removal

Painting bathroom floors was also formerly in vogue to make ugly concrete look better. Taking off old bath floor paint requires:

  • Clear plumbing underneath and use plastic sheeting to prevent stripper or ground paint from entering.
  • For thin coats, pressure wash carefully around shower stalls and toilets where water can seep through cracks.
  • Chemical stripping gels work well for low-splash removal, but scrub gently near drains to avoid pushing paint in. Rinse thoroughly.

How to Remove Concrete Paint Stains

Once the majority of paint comes off, some stain marks may remain. Here are ways to remove them:

Light Stains

  • Mix trisodium phosphate (TSP) as directed and scrub onto the stain with a firm brush.
  • Rinse thoroughly. Repeat if needed for tough stains.

Medium Stains

  • Make a paste of talcum powder and hydrogen peroxide. Spread it on the stain, cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight.
  • Scrape off the dried paste and rinse the concrete. Repeat as necessary.

Heavy Stains

  • Use an alkaline etching cleaner following label instructions. Apply a thick coat and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • Scrub with a stiff concrete brush. Rinse the etcher thoroughly. Reapply to remaining stains and scrub again.

Prevention Tips: Painting Concrete Properly

Once you get all the old flaking paint off your concrete, you’ll need to prepare the bare concrete for repainting:

  • Wait at least one week for bare concrete to dry out fully before applying any new coatings.
  • Repair any damaged areas, popouts or spalling with a concrete patching compound to create an even surface.
  • Acid etch or grind the slab to remove the surface laitance and create a textured profile for paint adhesion.
  • Use a quality primer made for concrete before painting. Primer helps the new paint bond tightly.

To get long-lasting results from freshly painted concrete, be sure to:

  • Select good quality 100% acrylic latex floor paints designed for exterior or interior concrete. Avoid cheap paints.
  • Only apply paints when temperatures will remain between 50-90°F for proper curing. Avoid painting in direct sun.
  • Limit heavy foot traffic or furniture on painted floors for the first week to prevent scratching or denting while paint cures.
  • Recoat outdoor concrete paint every 1-2 years for continued protection and to avoid peeling and fading over time.

When to Call a Professional for Paint Removal

Removing paint from concrete yourself can be physically demanding. For large interior or exterior paint removal projects, hiring a professional concrete contractor is advisable.

Signs you may want to call in the pros include:

  • Painted concrete areas larger than a 2-car garage space. Doing all that surface by hand requires extensive effort.
  • Thick paint that has been re-coated many times over several years. The number of layers may call for commercial grinding equipment.
  • Fragile or deteriorated concrete that could be damaged by DIY efforts. Professionals have techniques to avoid causing harm.
  • Special decorative concrete like stained, stamped, or patterned designs. Unique finishes often require custom techniques.
  • Extremely heavy commercial paint buildup like in factories or warehouses. Specialized abrasive blasting or chemical stripping is needed.
  • Hazardous material concerns like lead paint or asbestos. Certified abatement contractors must handle these.

While renting equipment can expand DIY capability, professional concrete contractors have the right tools, skills and experience to remove paint efficiently while protecting your concrete investment.


Getting paint off of concrete