Alternative Paint Strippers

by Bob Flexner

Safer strippers are having a ‘inexperienced’ revival.


Inexperienced strippers. The failed try to
introduce alternate options to methylene-chloride strippers within the
early 1990s is having a revival as “inexperienced.” (Discover the inexperienced
coloring on the labels.) The strippers pictured right here all work
nice, however they achieve this significantly extra slowly than
conventional methylene-chloride and combined-solvent
strippers. In case you have the time, nevertheless, these various
strippers are literally simpler to make use of as a result of they will take away
many coats of paint or end in a single software.

Strategies for eradicating previous paint and end from furnishings have
gone by way of no less than 4 distinct intervals.

Earlier than solvents turned broadly out there, coatings have been eliminated
by scraping, usually with glass used like we use scrapers, and
generally by sanding, after sandpaper turned out there.

(Warmth and caustics similar to lye have by no means been a good suggestion for
furnishings as a result of they will carry veneer and separate joints.
Additionally, lye will flip most hardwoods black.)

The primary energetic solvent broadly used for stripping was benzene.
It was low cost and pretty efficient, and it was generally
mixed with different solvents to make industrial strippers.

By the early 1970s, nevertheless, benzene was proven to be
carcinogenic. It was taken off the market and changed as a
stripping solvent by methylene chloride, which is extra
costly but additionally simpler – that’s, stronger and
quicker appearing.

Different solvents have been additionally utilized in mixtures to make much less
costly (and fewer efficient) strippers. These embrace
acetone, MEK, toluene, xylene and methanol. Generally, these
solvents have been mixed with methylene chloride to scale back its
value. All of those solvents are flammable whereas methylene
chloride will not be.

Every of those strippers continues to be broadly out there and simply
acknowledged by the packaging – in steel containers fairly than
plastic. Excessive-percentage methylene-chloride strippers are
noticeably heavier than the combined-solvent strippers and are
labeled “non-flammable,” so they’re simple to acknowledge.
Within the mid-1980s, methylene chloride got here underneath scrutiny as a
attainable human carcinogen. The proof for this was weak and
continues to be in dispute. However the doubt created, plus the
flammability and toxicity of the opposite solvents utilized in
strippers, was sufficient to create a marketplace for a completely new
line of paint and end removers with diminished toxicity.

It isn’t that these solvents are a lot much less poisonous; it’s that
they evaporate a lot extra slowly (remaining moist on the wooden
for as much as a day or two). There’s loads of time for the air in
a room to show over a number of instances earlier than it reaches poisonous

The pioneers on this new class have been Most secure Stripper and Wooden
Finisher’s Delight. You might bear in mind them from the early 1990s.
Their introduction was accompanied by quite a lot of
promoting, targeted totally on changing methylene chloride,
which was prominently branded a carcinogen.

Most secure Stripper was primarily based on di-basic esters (DBE): dimethyl
adipate, dimethyl glutarate and dimethyl succinate. These
solvents are sometimes utilized in so-called “secure” or “inexperienced”
cleaners, together with graffiti and paint-spatter removers. When
used alone, DBE is commonly mixed with water.

Wooden Finisher’s Delight was primarily based on n-methyl-pyrrolidone (NMP).
This solvent is stronger (that means it really works quicker) and extra
costly than DBE.

The flurry of promoting created sufficient curiosity for a lot of
further corporations to enter the market with their very own
variations of different strippers, some combining NMP with DBE.
It bought to the purpose that each paint retailer and residential heart
stocked a number of manufacturers.

Then, pretty all of the sudden, this whole class of strippers virtually
disappeared from the cabinets. What occurred?

In my view, various strippers disappeared due to a
main advertising and marketing mistake. Each model exaggerated the time it
took for his or her stripper to work. That’s, they claimed a lot
much less time than it truly took for them to work.

Producers selected to compete with the pace of methylene
chloride, which they couldn’t legitimately do, as an alternative of
selling ease of use. As a substitute of getting to battle the fast
evaporation price of the normal strippers, you could possibly calm down,
be affected person, and ultimately take away all coats with a single
software of stripper.

The exaggerated claims bought strippers packaged in plastic the
fame of “not working.” Prospects complained to retailer
clerks, and retailer clerks warned potential prospects. Then the
market dried up.



Swell and blister. Most paints and
some clear finishes swell and blister, regardless of which
stripper you employ. You’ll be able to scrape them off flat surfaces or
scrub them off complicated surfaces utilizing abrasive pads.


Check first. Various strippers
work slowly, however they keep moist for days. They are going to take away
a number of layers of paint should you give them time. That is their
nice benefit. You don’t need to battle the fast
evaporation as you do with conventional strippers. On this
case, after 24 hours, a little bit extra time was wanted earlier than
5 layers of paint got here off simply.

The ‘Inexperienced’ Revolution
This case continued till just lately when “inexperienced” entered
the advertising and marketing vocabulary. Phrases similar to “biodegradable,”
“non-toxic,” “water-based,” “earth pleasant,” “no harsh fumes,”
“soy-based” and “citrus” took on sturdy advertising and marketing clout. (Soy
and citrus are deceptive as a result of they don’t check with the
energetic ingredient, which is NMP.)


Various strippers match many of those phrases effectively, so makers
reentered the market, usually with newly labeled merchandise.

Exaggerated working instances and hyperbole didn’t disappear, however
the guess is that customers are actually so desirous of avoiding
bad-smelling solvents that they may attempt these strippers


Dissolve. Shellac and lacquer, the finishes used on virtually
all furnishings made because the 1820s, normally dissolve and are
simple to wipe off with rags or sturdy paper towels.


Launch bond to wooden. Some coatings, notably trendy
high-performance paints and finishes present no proof that
the stripper has had any impact, however, in truth, their bond to
the wooden has been damaged so they’re simple to scrape off.

Do They Work?
The query is: Do they work adequately sufficient to be
professional replacements for methylene chloride and
flammable-solvent mixtures? The reply, in my view, is
that they do. They simply take longer on most coatings.

It’s necessary to notice a second downside with producers’
pace claims. Regardless of which stripper you employ, whether or not in a
steel or plastic container, completely different coatings react
in another way.
For instance, shellac and lacquer dissolve pretty shortly and
turn out to be a “gunk” that’s simple to wipe off (although not so shortly
with DBE). Varnish, oil paint and normally latex paint swell and
blister. Oil-based polyurethane and two-part, high-performance
(catalyzed) finishes have their bonds to the substrate damaged
so you possibly can scrape them off.

If you wish to keep away from the irritating solvents in conventional
strippers, give another stripper a attempt. Simply permit extra
time than the label says. Except I’m in a rush, I all the time go to
one of many various strippers. PWM

from the
April 2012 issue
of Widespread Woodworking Journal.

Bob Flexner is creator of “Flexner
on Finishing
,” “Wood
Finishing 101
” and “Understanding Wooden Ending.”

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