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Chemical strippers

Posted by Henry in MI on September 23rd, 1999 12:05 AM
In reply to Strip paint from pine paneling by Adam H on September 22nd, 1999 10:38 PM [Go to top of thread]

Hi, Adam. Yes, there are some good chemical strippers. And I don't believe in sanding old wood any more than you have to to get a good finish. Your wood has a character and patina that will take a long time to replace.

The most common strippers are based on methyl chloride or combinations of methyl chloride and other chemicals. They work fast but I, personally, think that they are too dangerous for home use and I have heard that there is some evidence that the are carcinogenic. I used them for years but never will again. One good product is called Peel Away which does not contain methyl chloride. It is caustic based, slow acting and fairly expensive, but it is the best choice for 10 or so coats of paint.

There are now some relatively safe strippers and a common one is Citristrip, but there are others. Citristrip is based on a chemical called N-methyl pyrrolidone and it has a heavy orange smell. It is slower than the methyl chloride strippers but the safety and availablility still makes it my normal choice.

To use it, glob it on an area about 2 feet square. Try to put it on about 1/8" thick and don't brush back over it to get it smooth. Wait until you see the paint start to lift and bubble under the Citristrip and take a putty knife and scrape the goo away. You should be able to use the putty knife for the bevel at the tongue and groove joint but you will probably find that a stripping pad (made by 3M or Citristrip) will work better for any other moulding details. When you have gotten all the goo off, use another pad and wash the wood down with Citristrip Paint Remover Wash or mineral spirits (I like the former a lot better). Check closely to be sure that you have gotten all the paint and any clear film finish like varnish or shellac that might be under the paint off. You can tell by the shine. Repeat the process on any spots that you did not get the first time. Remember not to rush it and let the stripper do the work. As you gain experience with it, ypou might be able to handle larger areas. A LITTLE sanding and you should be ready to refinish. Remember that the stripper will also take the finish off walls and floors so protect them with plastic drop cloths, masking tape or even aluminum foil taped over them.

When using any chemical product, be sure to read and follow any safety directions on the label. With Citristrip, work in an area with good ventilation, wear chemical resistant gloves and eye protection. It is non-toxic but it can give you a chemical burn. Keep the kids and pets away.

Good luck and work safely.
Henry in MI

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