Removing Paint from Electrical Sockets

29 Replies

I will be closing on a Duplex in the next 2 weeks. The township won't give a CO as many plugs are painted. I told the owner that I will try to come up with a solution short of replacing the perfectly good outlets.

Has anyone found an easy way to remove the paint? 

Paint thinner and a rag.  I would recommend replacing outlet covers.  They are very inexpensive compared to the time you would take to clean.

Thanks. I am not worried about the outlet covers, but they won't pass it with paint on the actual plugs.

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Just replace the outlets. Go to HD, where you can get a 10-pack of Leviton outlets for $5, then turn off the power, and spend an hour replacing the outlets.  I long ago stopped playing around with old outlets; trash them and start over. 

@Scott Weaner , new outlets are very inexpensive.  Big box home stores sell packs of 10 for about $10.  Get two packs for $20, and do like @Ken P. said and turn the main breaker off and replace them all.  Or, if you don't feel like it, have a professional do it.  It shouldn't cost too much.  If this is a good deal otherwise, the cost of replacing the outlets should not be a deterrent to the deal.

Before you say new receptacles are inexpensive, you first have to know what type of wire is behind that receptacle. If it's older two conductor without a ground, then a two prong receptacle is required, or a GFCI - and neither of those are 10-pack for $5 or $10. 

Originally posted by @Steve Babiak :

Before you say new receptacles are inexpensive, you first have to know what type of wire is behind that receptacle. If it's older two conductor without a ground, then a two prong receptacle is required, or a GFCI - and neither of those are 10-pack for $5 or $10. 

 True.  I made assumptions that may not be correct.

I just sold a house where we replaced many two prongs with three prongs and made the lead outlet a GFCI. I was told this is legal as long as the outlet is labeled as "no equipment ground" and "GFCI protected". Is this not the case? I was told to wrap any outlet in a metal box (especially a two wire) with electrical tape. Those two prong receptacles are half the cost of a box of 10 three prong, so they can add up quickly too.

I'd just replace outlets and covers. My Mom manages my stuff out of state, and is always looking to save the cost on stuff like this. I now have a licensed electrician who will do every outlet, switch and covers, and check over fixtures while he's there for ~$300 including materials. Needless to say, outlets don't get "cleaned" anymore.

Yes you are right you have to label the two prong outlets as having no equipment group and you can use GFCIs. I once dealt with a customer that changed out the outlets and switches having no electrical experience and he practically burned down his unit. So if you are going to replace the outlets make sure you know what you are doing and the proper way to install the replacements. That said, if you do it yourself it is very inexpensive and not worth losing a deal over. Having a professional do it may be a way to go depending because in my area I charge $1500.00 to replace all the outlets in the house. 

It is in no way economical to remove the paint. Its just not worth all the work it would take. In fact I would say you would regret deciding to do it. Replacing outlets with new ones makes allot more sense all the way around. 

If you have no experience ever replacing outlets be care and sure of what you do because you can be doing something potentially very dangerous. That said outlets if 2 prongs have to slits one longer than the other. The longer slit is for your neutral wire and the shorter slit is for your hot wire and if they are 3 prong they will have a rounded opening in the center of those two, that is for your ground. If they are newer outlet they have a silver screw on the side that is for your neutral wire and a golden screw on the side that is for your hot wire. In older homes your wires bay not be black and white but all black. Use white phasing tap to always identify your neutral wire, take your time because you want to make absolutely sure that you connect the wire back correctly. You can also buy what is called a sniffer or a wiggy. You can ask the sales person wherever you buy the outlet first making sure whether you have 2 prong or 3 prong outlets existing. What the sniffer or wiggy do is identify your hot wire. With the electricity on you place the instrument near or on the wire and the wire that rings or buzzes that is your hot wire, identify it somehow in a manner that will not confuse you. It is very easy to make a mistake if you have never done this in which case it may be very well worth your while to let a professional do it. In any case it is much better to just replace the outlets rather than try to remove the paint. 

" I charge $1500.00 to replace all the outlets in the house. "

If had people willing to pay me a crazy price like that I wouldn't own a single rental unit! Id just re-wire ALL. DAY. LONG......

Well, there are 30 of them!! I think that I can remove the paint in about 2 minutes. I think at least 10 minutes to replace each outlet. If it were a couple of outlets, no problem. We will see.

Yes just be aware that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area not out in the midwest somewhere and things out here are sky high and I am a professional electrician. Houses out here are fairly modern and the average house has about 100 outlets or more so doing an entire house commonly will cost you $1500.00 to have a professional do the work and guarantee it. There is no choice out here because the law requires a professional to guarantee his work and also purchase a permit and get an inspection. Just to give you an idea of where I live. It is not too uncommon to find professional electricians here that earn up around $300,000.00 a year. Also it is very common out here for a house to be worth commonly around $1,000,000.00 or more so you really want to protect that asset. 

As far as taking from 2 to 10 minutes per outlet every situation can and is different and to what extent there is paint on the outlets only you can know that. We all can just assume and generally know that replacing outlets is far more economical than removing paint and replace the same old outlets in their place. 

Anyway best of luck to you. 

I will not be removing the outlets and then removing the paint, but will do them in place. Well, at least I will try.

In some older bad wiring situations, you might find that instead of splices with wire nuts to tie circuits together DIY might have used the screws on the receptacles to tie multiple wires together. You might find it takes a bit longer to mess with that sort of mess :)

Originally posted by @Scott Weaner :

I will not be removing the outlets and then removing the paint, but will do them in place. Well, at least I will try.

If you have an Xacto blade, that might help with the hard to get spots. 

@Matt Devincenzo -- my approach as well. For about that same price, too.  Having a trusted electrician poking around a bit at your newly acquired property can't hurt.  The OP has assumed "perfectly good outlets", which may be the case, but more than likely there will be some hidden issues that will pay to resolve.

There's wise economy, but be careful about polishing turds.  Or more specifically, detailing small turds with an X-acto knife, which, by the way, will fit into the outlet slots very well.  You'll probably be shocked how well...

Originally posted by @Mike M. :
I just sold a house where we replaced many two prongs with three prongs and made the lead outlet a GFCI. I was told this is legal as long as the outlet is labeled as "no equipment ground" and "GFCI protected". Is this not the case?

I was told to wrap any outlet in a metal box (especially a two wire) with electrical tape.

Those two prong receptacles are half the cost of a box of 10 three prong, so they can add up quickly too.

 This is the bit I don't understand, why the need for the label?

A GFCI is far quicker to notice a problem with a device than a breaker is, so what does it matter that the user knows the socket is GFCI protected. Surely GFCIs are safer than a breaker?

Originally posted by @James DeRoest :
Originally posted by @Mike M.:
I just sold a house where we replaced many two prongs with three prongs and made the lead outlet a GFCI. I was told this is legal as long as the outlet is labeled as "no equipment ground" and "GFCI protected". Is this not the case?

I was told to wrap any outlet in a metal box (especially a two wire) with electrical tape.

Those two prong receptacles are half the cost of a box of 10 three prong, so they can add up quickly too.

 This is the bit I don't understand, why the need for the label?

A GFCI is far quicker to notice a problem with a device than a breaker is, so what does it matter that the user knows the socket is GFCI protected. Surely GFCIs are safer than a breaker?

That is in the NEC. The outlets are ungrounded, and as such people might be expecting protections of a grounded receptacle that will not exist in the configuration discussed here. The GFCI can detect current imbalance between hot and neutral whether there is a ground present or not, so this protection passes along to the "slave" receptacles that are fed from the "load" terminals on the GFCI. 

Originally posted by :

... Or more specifically, detailing small turds with an X-acto knife, which, by the way, will fit into the outlet slots very well.  You'll probably be shocked how well...

Well, should the OP choose that route, there is the assumption that turning off the power at the breaker panel might come to mind, alleviating this ...

@Kurt F. - somehow the mention was lost from that quote. 

Originally posted by @Steve Babiak :
Originally posted by @James DeRoest:
Originally posted by @Mike M.:
I just sold a house where we replaced many two prongs with three prongs and made the lead outlet a GFCI. I was told this is legal as long as the outlet is labeled as "no equipment ground" and "GFCI protected". Is this not the case?

I was told to wrap any outlet in a metal box (especially a two wire) with electrical tape.

Those two prong receptacles are half the cost of a box of 10 three prong, so they can add up quickly too.

 This is the bit I don't understand, why the need for the label?

A GFCI is far quicker to notice a problem with a device than a breaker is, so what does it matter that the user knows the socket is GFCI protected. Surely GFCIs are safer than a breaker?

That is in the NEC. The outlets are ungrounded, and as such people might be expecting protections of a grounded receptacle that will not exist in the configuration discussed here. The GFCI can detect current imbalance between hot and neutral whether there is a ground present or not, so this protection passes along to the "slave" receptacles that are fed from the "load" terminals on the GFCI. 

 I understand all that. 

But what kind of device is expecting a ground that the GFCI wouldn't react to in the event of a problem?

Originally posted by @James DeRoest :
Originally posted by @Steve Babiak:
Originally posted by @James DeRoest:
Originally posted by @Mike M.:

...

...

...

...

....

But what kind of device is expecting a ground that the GFCI wouldn't react to in the event of a problem?

Surge protectors for one. 

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