The Case of Scraping Paint Off of Windows


Question:

Dear Glass Detective,

I have been asked to take paint off of windows. The person said someone already tried and couldn’t do it. The paint has been on for years and the sun hits the windows hard. I know I will have to scrape, but is there a product that I can use and that will not hurt the glass at all?

Thank you,

-Anita N.

Answer:

Anita,

Thank you for contacting the Glass Detective with your question regarding methods for removing paint from glass. This is a good, but not easily answered question. You see, a great deal depends on the type of paint that has been applied to the glass.

Some paints, such as water colors used for temporary window signage and holiday decorating, come off very easily with warm soapy water and a cleaning cloth. Other painted glass surfaces such as ceramic frit (baked onto a glass surface) are actually not removable. The paint/frit has become embedded (fused) onto the glass. As you have described your situation (you said the paint has been on the glass a long time, the sun hits it and that others have tried but failed to remove it), you may not be able to do much with it.  There are also some paints used by glass artists which are not removable without scratching or damaging the glass. Latex paints are not too hard and some acrylic paints also can be removed with ease.

Also, depending on how old this paint actually is, be cautious of lead. If it is a residential window from a home built prior to 1978, there is a chance the paint contains lead which can be toxic. In this case certain guidelines set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must be followed. Read our blog to find out more on renovating homes where lead based paint could be present.

Typically, a razor blade held at a 45 degree angle to the glass surface used carefully (wear some gloves) will work well if a proper solvent or cleaner is also used. Do not go back and forth on the glass surface with the blade. Work in one direction and keep the blade clean. There are paint removing solvents that can be found online or in your local hardware store. Read the labels carefully. Most importantly, DO NOT use wire brushes, anything abrasive (sandpaper) or any chemicals or acids that could permanently stain or etch the glass surface. Experiment in a small area before attempting to do the whole piece and BE CAREFUL. Again … if you are going to use any type of solvent, read all labels and follow all directions. Use only clean, new razor blades.

The Glass Detective hopes this information is of some value to you.  Good luck!

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The Glass Detective attempts to answer all questions accurately but cannot be held liable for any information provided or omitted.  You should always work with a licensed, insured and reputable glass shop that can assess your specific needs and local building codes and offer professional services. Never attempt to cut, install, or otherwise work with glass yourself. The Glass Detective answers questions on an informational basis only.


Lyle Hill

By Lyle Hill

Lyle Hill has been in the glass and metal industry for more than 40 years. In this time he has managed glass retail, contract glazing, mirror, architectural window, window film, and automotive glass businesses throughout America. He obtained an MBA from IIT with a focus on Technology and Engineering Management.

Hill is also a columnist for glass industry trade magazines and often called the “face” of the glass industry. He has also authored books including “The Broken Tomato and Other Business Parables,” which is available through Amazon.


2 responses to “The Case of Scraping Paint Off of Windows”

  1. I am scraping latex paint from glass and I find if I spray with Windex and wait about 5 minutes for it to loosen, the paint comes off easier. these are whole window panes facing south on coastal Texas, painted white to reflect sunlight for about one year. Thank you.

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