July 11, 2007

Wagner PaintEater - Review

painteater1.jpgWe're pretty vocal about our dislike (hatred, really) of painting. We're happy to spend 10 hours shaping a piece of wood, but for some reason we don't have the patience to paint it. And if painting isn't bad enough, there's scraping to think about. If painting is like getting your fingernail pulled off, scraping is like being drawn and quartered. So when we heard about Wagner's new PaintEater, we dove at the opportunity to test one out and see if it makes the unbearable at least somewhat bearable.

First, about the tool. The PaintEater is about the size of a coffee can. It's got an adjustable Velcro hand strap around the main grip as well as a secondary handle that can retract back up to the body of the tool when not in use. The handle, when in the down or up position, locks in place preventing any slipping or unexpected movement. The on-off switch has a nice dust protected cover over it and is located in a convenient spot. At the bottom of the tool is the brillo-like pad that does the actual paint eating. The pad is a bit hard to describe, it reminds us more of a sea creature than anything else. It's much more rigid than a brillo, but there is a bit of a give to it. The disc can be easily removed with an arbor stop and a twist of the pad. The tool is pretty light (3.8 lbs), so there should be no problem spending a day on a ladder with it.


Since none of our friends have houses that need scraping, for our test we went to the workshop to find an old, old piece of corner board or something left over from some long finished renovation. Our only requirement when looking for a piece was that it be ancient and have multiple coats of equally ancient paint on it. The piece we settled on was cedar (pictured below), a particularly soft wood, which we liked because it would also test Wagner's claim that the tool is aggressive on paint, but gentle on the substrate.

painteater_bottom.jpgSo we got our board and we fired up the PaintEater. Immediately, we were a bit shocked at how much power this little tool has. When we first put it to the board, we could barely control it. We got the technique down pretty quickly though and spent the next 25 seconds watching old paint simply vanish from our board. There's no other way to describe it, the paint was just atomized. We figured the tool would be good, but not this good. And once we got the hang of it, we had no problem maneuvering the PaintEater around and getting this spot or that spot and actually being quite precise with it. And as advertised, the cedar remained in near perfect condition.

The board we chose also had a little cove on one side. We wanted to see how the tool would do on a contoured surface, simulating profiled window trim or a nice rake board. While grinding the paint off of the cove there was some very minimal wood removal, but nothing that would be noticed from more than a few feet away. If you're particular about these things, you may want to switch over to traditional scraping for the really delicate parts of your house.

We tried the tool out on a few more boards and the results were the same. After about a half hour, the abrasive disc showed no signs of wear and little signs of clogging. The tool just kept chowing through the paint like it was at a free buffet.

boards.jpgBut nothing is perfect and the Wagner PaintEater is no exception. There are a few things about the tool that we aren't all that fond of. First, the cord is a miniscule 10 inches, so an extension cord is mandatory, which is no problem, but with such a piddly cord, the connection is going to be right up at the tool. If you're safe about things, you'll square knot the connection, moving it up even further towards the body of the PaintEater. Now, being on a ladder and working over your head and switching the tool from hand to hand, you've got this cord connection to deal with at head level. Tiny cords are something of a pet peeve with us and we don't see any reason for having to deal with the annoyance. Did an additional two feet of cord break the manufacturing budget?

Secondly, there is no dust collection system for the tool, which is fine for working on the side of a house (you'll still have to wear a dust mask though), but it doesn't bode well for using the PaintEater as a shop tool (unless you get really creative with the Shop Vac). When using the tool, the dust spray was pretty impressive, so make sure to do all the appropriate lead paint research before you have at your old house.

These complaints may just be us. If you're buying the tool you might have no intention of using it in a shop and who knows if the cord thing bothers you as much as it does us. The bottom line is that this is a great tool that really does what it says it's going to do, and it does it quickly. It's no wonder that it has attained the Contactor Recommended Seal from the Handyman Club of America. We see this tool knocking, literally, days and days off of a house painting project.

The Wagner PaintEater retails for about $75 and comes with one pad (no case). If you're going to be doing your house this summer, that $75 will save you about a thousand dollars of time and frustration. The one thing that we didn't get a feel of is how long the abrasive pads last. They sell for about $15 apiece, so at that price, we figure that they last a little while. Also, there is currently a deal where Wagner is throwing in an extra disc with the purchase of a PaintEater.

Watch Wagner's video of the PaintEater in action.

Available at Amazon.com

Read More in: All Reviews | Painting | Power Tools | Sanding

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at July 11, 2007 5:52 AM
Recent Comments

Borrowed Wagner paint eater from brother in law, working good on deck paint removal. In changing hands on grinder one hand slipped and it went free, bouncing across deck down stairs onto plastic drop cloth which wound plastic around grinding wheel and burnt out motor in 10 secs. before I could unplug. It needs a squeeze trigger like other electric hign speed hand tools. Very dangerous if it had got on my clothes or skin. No warnings posted. I have to buy another one to replace the one I borrowed. Won't use it again. I would have contacted a lawyer if I had been injured.

Posted by: james sanders at October 23, 2017 1:15 PM

Thanks to the Author for this amazing post. I found it impressive. I like to bookmark it and thanks once again for sharing such a fabulous content with us.

Posted by: David Hanley at January 26, 2017 6:08 AM

Bought 2 PaintEaters for a deck, one stopped working about when the first pad that came with it was gone. Started a second Eater up and failed the first 30 minutes of using it. Took one back to the store and received credit and the second got a replacement to try again, so far it is working but have not gone through the 1st pad yet.

Posted by: Mike H at September 12, 2013 7:38 PM

I must agree that the pads don't last as long as they should. The tool is great but can see my self going through dozens of pads for my 2000 sq ft old colonial.

I have found that having a basic 1 hand scraper on hand to quickly just knock the big loose chips off will save some pad wear as the feathering is really the best part of the paint eater.

Posted by: matt at February 20, 2012 5:21 PM

Harbor Freight has a knock off for half that. Ditto for the replacement pads. The only problem I had with the Harbor Freight tool is the switch to hold the drive shaft still while you take the pad off broke on two of them. No problem, I cut it out and now just use a screwdriver to hold it in place.I've used on two hundred feet of cedar with multiple layers of paint.

Posted by: Eric at March 30, 2011 1:51 PM

I have been using the paint eater on my two story house and it works great. The only thing i am not liking is the pads go pretty quickly. and in MA i have been paying $18.00/pad at Lowes. A little pricey but will save time and is much quicker than scraping. Good tool.

Posted by: Dave at September 23, 2010 9:24 AM

I have a single story house and the Wagner Paint Eater works great, but only got two sides done and it stopped working, I have been a year trying to find a place to get it serviced from what I can find out most places no longer in business and only found one that was still there but don't work on it anymore.
Talk about being dead in the water now the only thing left to do is go out and get a new one and hope it last a little longer that the first one did, O ya and as for the price of the pads thay should last just a bit longer then they do.
From Upset in NH o ya have a nice day

Posted by: Warren Bye at August 21, 2009 12:31 AM

We're painting our 1950s-era home that has multiple coats of paint on its cedar siding. Using a heat gun has been great to remove paint from corners and tight spaces, sure, but nothing has come close to using the Paint Eater for large, open areas.

I've been using it for a couple of weekends now and am still on the first pad, though it is down to ~ 1/3 of its original thickness. One thing i've noticed is that when you want to feather out an area yoou really have to use a light touch, otherwise the pad rips the paint right off and you end up having to go all the way down to the wood. One other thing I've noticed is that as the pad gets thinner it also gets a little harder to control; if you try to sand with the pad flight the torque on the motor is so strong it tends to want to chatter rather than sand smoothly.

That said, it's a great tool and has saved many, many hours in our prep work so far...and is sure to save many more in the coming weeks ;-).

Posted by: Cousin Eddie at August 13, 2009 4:41 PM

I have used many tools designed for paint removal, and the PaintEater is by far the best. I agree with the cord being too short (I secure the connection with a couple wraps of electrical tape rather than a knot), but not a major issue. The pads do wear out fairly fast when chewing through multiple layers of paint, but last well in most situations. I would recommend this tool to anyone. Also, it is available from Gleem Paint on their website for $68 with one extra disk, & the replacements are $13 each.

Posted by: Steve-O at July 10, 2009 3:54 PM

The eater works okay on actual applications. I have a house with old very thick layers and it is a chore. If you have a big job and want to use this instead of paint remover and scraping, budget for some extra pads, like 1 an hour. Do the math, lots of scraping equals lots of pads, would've expected a little longer life for $15.

Posted by: Ryan Lewis at May 19, 2009 4:55 PM
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