How to Remove Flaking Paint From Plaster Walls

Updated on April 5, 2019

Home decorators find flaking paint a huge problem. There is only one well-known way to remove flaky paint from plaster walls, and that is to scrape it off. Scraping flaked paint is hard work and a lot of fine dust is created. There are lots of reason why paint may turn flaky on the wall, including the use of cheap brands of paint and trade paints, painting on plaster that is not 100 percent dry, damp walls (often cause the paint to peel or flake), and painting unsealed bare plaster with the wrong type of paint. New plaster has to be sealed with a watered down coat of white matte emulsion paint before applying any other finish.

I have faced this problem several times and discovered some useful methods of removing the flaking paint from the plaster walls. The key point is to remove the flakes of paint without damaging the plaster.

  • A metal scraper works well and where the paint comes away easily this is always the best method to use.
  • You need to wear a suitable dust mask and also protect your eyes.
  • Always keep the blade at an angle to the wall and make sure the blade is straight lengthwise. This prevents it making unwanted gouges and marks in the plaster.
  • It is important to scrape tight to all edges of the walls for a neat job.

The Packing Tape and Hairdryer Technique: Not Just a Load of Hot Air!

Example of Flaky Paint on a Stripped Plaster Wall
Example of Flaky Paint on a Stripped Plaster Wall

The packing tape and hairdryer technique is one that I discovered out of sheer desperation. Prior to using a hairdryer, I had used a clothes steam iron on the walls. The iron worked quite well at providing the heat required but it tore the packing tape. There was nowhere to put the hot iron down safely either. The hairdryer melts the paint a little bit making it elastic and stretchy. The paint (if you are lucky) can then be peeled off the wall by pulling on the tape. Heat the tape with the hairdryer as you pull down on the tape. If the technique works it will save hours of mundane wall scraping and it also preserves the plaster. Scrape the small remnants left behind to complete the job.

The hairdryer technique has its limitations. Some areas of paint will be much more difficult to remove than others. In awkward areas, and their always are some, the last resort is to use an abrasive to remove the flaky paint. Sanding plaster creates a lot of fine dust so wear a dust mask. Orbital sanders are good for this job but only if they are capable of dust extraction. Sand the paint down and then switch to a wet and dry paper, use it wet to get a really smooth finish.

Scraping Flaky Paint Off Plaster Walls Is Hard Work: Alternative Techniques of Paint Removal

Indication of flaky paint underneath wallpaper
Indication of flaky paint underneath wallpaper

It will not take you long to discover that scraping flaky paint off plaster walls is very hard work. Even where the paint comes away easily it is tedious, laborious and dirty work. There are several alternative techniques that you can try if the scraping is not going too well. Paint strippers are available commercially for removing paint from plaster walls. These are not much fun to use because they are applied wet and usually have to be kept wet by re-applying over a long period of time. To prevent the paint stripper from drying out a layer of plastic sheeting must be applied over the top of it. In a lot of cases the paint stripper will not work, or not work fully. When the paint stripper does work it turns the paint back to liquid form. This is actually a wrinkled goo that still needs to be scraped from the wall. This is often an expensive, difficult and messy way of removing paint from the walls.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image


        7 years ago

        Thank you for the tips.

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        nice tips, it really helped out. tnx

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        My husband was grumbling for weeks whilst doing this to our hall. Great Lens, just wish I'd found it sooner.

      • mary-humphrey profile image


        8 years ago

        really good tips, I will be sure to use them

      • TransplantedSoul profile image


        8 years ago

        Wow - I love the packing tape idea. I hope this makes my weekend a bit better!

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        Having just painted a child's room in five colours - and then changed one of them after all was finished - I have just one more thing to add: wear a hat so you don't end up with the muck all through your hair.

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        Hi, thank for the info. Its surprising how many people ignore basic health & safety, even tradespeople. I am glad you mentioned the need to wear a suitable dust mask and also protect your eyes. I just finished my first Squidoo lense. Not anywhere interesting as yours but its my first!

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        I was here.


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