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How to Remove Stubborn Old Paint From Interior Brickwork

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So you've moved into a new home, and a previous owner has painted some original interior brickwork in a horrible colour. Or maybe, a few years ago, you'd painted a brick wall yourself, and either you've totally gone off the idea or the paint is starting to look scruffy and you want to give it a fresh start.

If you've tried to get started, you may have discovered that it's not an easy task. With bricks often being porous, paint can really cling to them, and without risking damaging them, you might be unsure exactly how you're going to remove that stubborn paint.

While it might take a bit of time and effort, it can be done if you're determined. Here's how.

What you need

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Masonry paint stripper – make sure you get one that's suitable for brick, as concrete and plaster paint strippers may either cause damage or not work.
  • Tough, heavy-duty protective gloves
  • Paint scraper
  • Wire brush
  • Soft cloths

How to do it

First of all, cover the floor carefully with the plastic sheeting, sealing the edges with duct tape if necessary. Then gently use the dry scraper over the whole surface to remove any loose flakes of paint. Next, with a soft cloth and some plain water, wipe over the brickwork to clean any dust and small bits of dirt.

Open up doors and windows to make sure the area is well ventilated and put on your gloves. Apply the paint stripper to the brickwork, making sure you don't do too much at once. If it's a large area, work in columns of about a metre in width. Leave it in place for as long as the instructions say – often, this is until it dries.

Begin using the scraper to remove the paint, but don't worry if bits are left. The uneven surface of bricks means this is likely. Follow up with the wire brush to get all the remaining bits of paint.

If it doesn't all come off, you can repeat the process on consecutive days until it does. When all the paint has been removed, give the wall a good wipe down with water to remove any remaining paint stripper, then leave it to dry.

What to do next

If you're planning on repainting the bricks, make sure all of the paint stripper was thoroughly removed during the rinsing phase, and that they've dried completely.

Otherwise, you can leave the bricks as they are, although it's worth considering using a sealant. This will help prevent damp seeping through the porous bricks and protect them from damage.