5 Best Varnish Removers 2023 – Reviews & Top Picks
Varnish remover is often used for restoring furniture. However, it is widely used to restore just about everything, including cars and even porches.
There are several varnish removers available, and most of them walk a thin line between being powerful enough to strip paint and being so powerful that they damage your workpiece. You must choose the correct varnish remover if you want leftover paint or your restoration piece to be damaged.
To help you select just the right remover for your project, we wrote several reviews on some of the top varnish removers on the market. Furthermore, in case you need more help, we also wrote a complete buyer’s guide with extra information on choosing the best option.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||Sunnyside 65732A Multi-Strip Paint & Varnish Remover||
|Best Value||Sunnyside 63432 Varnish Remover Gel||
|Premium Choice||Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel||
|Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Mediums Varnish Remover||
|Dumond Chemicals 3332 Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover||
The 5 Best Varnish Removers – Reviews 2023
1. Sunnyside Multi-Strip Paint & Varnish Remover – Best Overall
Sunnyside 65732A Multi-Strip Paint & Varnish Remover is safer than most other options on the market while remaining robust enough for most purposes. It contains no methylene chloride or n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP), which makes it less toxic than most other brands we reviewed. These ingredients are prevalent in varnish strippers but can be dangerous when misused.
Despite its safety, it can remove up to 15 layers of everything from paint to varnish to stain. It begins working in as little as 30 minutes, though how long it takes to work depends on the situation. It is easy to use, as well. You have to apply a heavy coat to whatever you want the varnish removed from. You can do this with a brush, paint roller, or putty knife.
It can even adhere to vertical surfaces, including metal, masonry, and marble. It is thick enough to avoid sliding off, making it much easier to use than other options. It is also non-flammable. While we never recommend taking a flame to your varnish remover, this is a nice just-in-case feature.
- Removes up to 15 layers of paint or varnish
- Easy to use
- Adheres to vertical surfaces
- Takes a while to work
2. Sunnyside 63432 Varnish Remover Gel – Best Value
Varnish remover isn’t expensive. However, you usually have to use quite a bit of it. This can make the cost add up quickly, especially when considering everything else you need for your product. If you want to spend as little money on varnish remover as possible, you may want to check out Sunnyside 63432 Varnish Remover Gel. It is the best varnish remover for the money.
It is inexpensive when compared to other brands. However, it is also very safe and can remove multiple layers of paint or varnish at a time. It typically only takes one application, which is always a nice plus. It can be used on vertical surfaces and will not damage even more delicate materials like wood and masonry.
It usually begins working in about 10 minutes. You don’t need much for this varnish remover to work, which raises its value more.
- Safe formula
- Strips multiple layers at once
- Works on vertical surfaces
- Does not damage delicate materials
- Doesn’t work well on automotive paint
3. Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel – Premium Choice
For those who want a premium product, you may want to consider purchasing Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel. It is only slightly more expensive than other options, but it has some excellent benefits. Of course, if you plan on using a lot of it, the costs add up over time. It does not produce nearly as much fumes as other brands.
This makes it safe and more comfortable for you to use. It has a citrus scent instead. It smells like cleaning products, in all honesty. This product does not include any harsh ingredients, like methylene chloride. For this reason, it is quite a bit safer than other removers.
Furthermore, this formula stays active for about 24 hours and keeps working longer than most formulas. Because of this, it can remove more paint and varnish than other brands. This is one of the reasons it is relatively high on our list. It can be used on practically every surface, including wood, metal, and masonry.
- No harsh fumes
- Stays active for 24 hours
- Can be used on most surfaces
- Bit more expensive
4. Winsor & Newton Mixable Mediums Varnish Remover
The Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Mediums Varnish Remover is only suitable for particular situations. It is designed to be used by an artist to remove small amounts of varnish gently. You apply it to a lint-free cloth and rub it onto the area, and it will slowly remove the varnish. When the pigment starts coming off the cloth, the varnish is working.
While this sounds easy enough, it isn’t suitable for many circumstances. There are very few reasons why you’d need to remove such a small amount of varnish or paint from anything. Plus, it is costly, especially when you consider how much you’re getting. The bottles are much smaller than other paint removers that we reviewed. Unless you’re an artist who paints chairs or something of that sort, this varnish remover is not what you need.
With that said, artists will rejoice at the remover. It does its job well and can be used in small areas. It is not your typical paint remover, which makes it perfect for artists and similar professionals.
- Works well
- Great for artists
- Easy to apply
- Only used in certain circumstances
5. Dumond Chemicals Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover
The Dumond Chemicals 3332 Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover is designed to be environmentally friendly. It is one of the most popular environmentally-friendly paint removers on the market. It is odor-free and water-based, making it relatively safe for you and the environment. It is free from many harsh and potentially harmful chemicals other paint removers contain, like methylene chloride. It is advertised as non-carcinogenic and is even biodegradable.
With all that said, this paint remover isn’t that great. While we would love to get behind an environmentally-friendly option like this one, it just doesn’t work well enough for us to rank it very high on our list. Furthermore, the packaging is pretty terrible. There are no safety mechanisms on the package. Of course, you could argue that you don’t need it because it is so safe. However, you still don’t want a pool of varnish remover in the middle of your floor.
Quite a few people complained about the smell, though others said they liked it. It seems to depend on your personal preference.
- Environmentally friendly
- Doesn’t work well
- Poor packaging
- Potentially stinky
Buyer’s Guide – Choosing the Best Varnish Remover
Choosing the ideal paint remover is not easy. Many factors go into selecting the best varnish remover for your project. For those who like to do their research, we wrote this complete buyer’s guide with everything you need to know about varnish remover. If you still don’t know which brand to pick, this section should help you.
Varnish remover is no laughing matter. It can be potentially dangerous. Furthermore, some of the damage it causes likely won’t become apparent for years, so connecting that damage to the varnish remover may be difficult. The fumes can potentially damage your lungs, and some common chemicals are known to cause cancer.
Different varnish removers are safer than others. Many safe options on the market also work, and you do not have to sacrifice your safety to remove paint. You need to be careful about which product you purchase.
All the products we included in our reviews are safe to use. Some don’t even produce many fumes, which is excellent for your health and comfort.
Right next to safety, you also want any varnish remover you purchase to be effective. You want it to remove paint and varnish without too much work on your part. Surprisingly, many varnish removers out there aren’t effective. They may only be helpful for specific situations and materials. Others need a lot of time to work. Some popular removers do work, but they require a bit of elbow grease.
While safety should always come first, the safest paint remover isn’t very helpful if it can’t remove anything. The easiest way to determine how well a varnish remover works is to check out our reviews. No company will advertise that their remover only works in specific situations, so you have to rely on reviews and advice from users for this feature.
Some varnish removers only work in particular situations. If you find a niche remover that works exactly what you need it to, great! Go ahead and feel free to use it. However, for most of us, we need a versatile remover that is usable on various workpieces.
Luckily, most varnish removers today are designed to work on practically everything. Most of them work on wood and metal, as well as rarer materials like masonry and bricks. However, very few are safe for plastic. Most will melt plastic, so it is essential not to use remover on plastic unless it says it is safe. If you need to remove paint from plastic, you will likely need a stripper specifically designed for it. The same can be said for glass and fiberglass since they are more delicate.
How fast a varnish remover works is also essential. Sure, a remover might work great, but if it takes a week to remove a few layers of paint, you will get frustrated very quickly. Typically, you can expect to leave any remover on for at least a few hours. This improves the odds of it working correctly and efficiently. Most do not work in a matter of minutes.
However, you do not want to leave the remover so long that it gums up and becomes difficult to remove. Once the liquid from the remover has evaporated, you will have a hard time removing it. Thinner products tend to evaporate much faster—just something to keep in mind while picking out a remover.
If you can’t leave a remover on for long, you must apply multiple coats. As you might imagine, this can get expensive after a while. Plus, it is also a pain to do, especially if you have to do it over many days. No one wants to spend days of their life removing paint off of a car.
Varnish remover is relatively cheap. You can expect to spend around $10 or less on your average varnish remover. Usually, this amount of money will get you about a quart.
When considering how much a varnish remover costs, you don’t just need to look at the price tag. The container the remover comes in should be one of the first things you check. This may sound like common sense, but it is an easy step to forget when you’re shopping. Secondly, you must also consider how much varnish remover you need for a particular product to work. Some products call for only a thin coat and work well the first time. Others require you to gob it on and may require several applications to work.
The effectiveness is going to have a significant impact on the actual cost of a product. Because of this, you usually have to figure out how well a product works before figuring out how cost-effective it is.
Ease of Use
Let’s be fair; most varnish removers are very easy to apply. However, some are a bit more complicated to use and may require more work. On top of applying the remover, you should also consider how easy it is to clean it up. Even some skin-safe formulas shouldn’t be touched after being left to work on a surface, which can complicate cleaning. You’ll often need to wear a pair of gloves and a breathing mask to avoid potential lung damage. We also recommend having some soap and water on hand since clean-ups tend to get messy.
You should also consider how much you need to help the remover by hand. In almost all cases, you’ll need to work the paint off with a rag or sponge. Sometimes, the remover will come right off with the paint without a problem. Other times, you’ll need to use some elbow grease. Preferably, you want to choose a remover that requires you to use as little elbow grease as possible. Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with how effective the product is.
Many restoration projects require a varnish remover. This simple product can be the difference between a simple project and one with quite a few headaches. While these products seem similar, they can be significantly different depending on the chemicals used. Hopefully, our reviews and buyer’s guide gave you a solid idea of the best varnish remover we need to use.
For most people, Sunnyside 65732A Multi-Strip Paint & Varnish Remover will be your best bet. It is safe, doesn’t produce too many fumes, and can remove many layers of paint. It can also be used on most materials, so it should work for most projects.
If you want to save money, we recommend Sunnyside 63432 Varnish Remover Gel. It is a bit cheaper while remaining practical. It is also safe and does not use some of the more dangerous chemicals.
Featured Image Credit: E_serebryakova, Shutterstock
- 1 A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- 2 The 5 Best Varnish Removers – Reviews 2023
- 2.1 1. Sunnyside Multi-Strip Paint & Varnish Remover – Best Overall
- 2.2 2. Sunnyside 63432 Varnish Remover Gel – Best Value
- 2.3 3. Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel – Premium Choice
- 2.4 4. Winsor & Newton Mixable Mediums Varnish Remover
- 2.5 5. Dumond Chemicals Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover
- 3 Buyer’s Guide – Choosing the Best Varnish Remover
- 4 Conclusion