I've been stripping paint from some softwood beams using both stripper and a heat gun (very stubborn patches and I have no idea what the paint type is - we've only owned the house for a few months). I'm left with beams that have all the main paint off them but because they are rough softwood there are plenty of flecks left behind, which hopefully you can see in the attached picture, although my phone camera is pretty rubbish. I don't want to sand the beams since they have a dark stain on them which we would like to keep ideally (matches other beams) and also getting a sander into the angles is impossible.

I've been told at some point that white spirit and wire wool is the way to get rid of a fair amount of the residue (maybe not all but that's OK), however I'm now having doubts as I've heard this leaves an oily residue and we may want to wax or oil or otherwise treat the beams with something like Osmo Wood Wax.

Will white spirit be OK, or should it be avoided, and if so, what other strategies are available to me beyond sanding?

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  • Have you considered a wire wheel or nylox brush on a drill or similar? It seems to me the bristles might work some of this out where sandpaper attacks the highest points. Mar 22, 2019 at 0:49
  • Mouse style sanders have triangle pads to get into corners, etc. Also, once you are done removing the paint, you can clean the chemicals with a grease cutting soap.
    – Jeff Cates
    Mar 22, 2019 at 2:22
  • @JeffCates not into those kind of angles they don't. I have one but it's far too tight on the roof side of the beams plus they are so rough it would take ages to do (and we don't want them smoothed), which is why I was thinking of solvent. Mar 22, 2019 at 16:55
  • @BrownRedHawk I hadn't thought of that actually, it's a good call. Something like brass bristles wouldn't be too harsh and I can get Abracs nylon abrasive drill brushes locally for cheap so I'll give that a go, thanks! Be an ideal targeted alternative to sanding and I should be able to get something which can reach into the angles. Mar 22, 2019 at 16:58
  • My mouse will do 90, and a course 60 grit or less wouldn't make it too smooth.
    – Jeff Cates
    Mar 23, 2019 at 10:28

2 Answers 2


My personal suggestion is a wire wheel or nylox brush on a drill or similar. It seems to me the bristles might work some of this out where sandpaper attacks the highest points. Bristles tend to flex and work into lower points almost equally with high points.


Things to try:

  • Conventional paint stripper. (Evil stuff. Read the cautions. use extreme ventilation)
  • Safe paint stripper. (Doesn't work nearly as well, but your liver will thank you.)
  • Sodium hydroxide (Lye) This may remove the paint. It also dissolves the wood. Test first.
  • Heat gun and assortment of picks and scrapers. Plastic edge razor blade, putty knife, dental picks, jeweler's screwdrivers. Soften the paint, then scrape it out.
  • Dremel tool and assorted wire wheels, tip brushes,
  • They had already had the safer paint stripper and a heat gun. It's the residue and last flecks that I was needing to remove. Mar 25, 2019 at 11:03

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