Thursday, September 24, 2015

Safer Paint Strippers for Your DIY Projects

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane or DCM is an ingredient used to remove paint, stains, and other types of coatings that can be dangerous if used incorrectly.  Earlier this week, National Public Radio reported on the dangers of using methylene chloride-based products.  When used incorrectly in poorly ventilated areas, the chemical has been known to cut the oxygen supply off to the brain, causing injury.

Like so many of us do-it-yourselfers, using a paint stripper seems pretty safe and straightforward, but if used incorrectly it can be harmful. Reading the product label and following basic safety goes a long way when using any type of chemical. Exercising caution by wearing a respirator, goggles, and thick gloves is a simple way to stay safe while working with chemicals. Opening windows, using fans, and keeping steady, fresh air flow should also keeps fumes from interfering with the lungs intake of oxygen.

If working with paint strippers isn't the best option for you here are two options to consider.

1) Hire a Professional

Stripping wood or furniture is a time-consuming process and if done incorrectly can do damage to the wood itself, consider taking your furniture to a professional. With the proper technique, experience, and proper safety measures already in place, the professionals to can achieve astonishing results in a short amount time. Stripping a door or other woodwork? Have a professional come onsite, or take your woodwork to their shop. There, a professional has the appropriate ventilation, tanks, and chemicals to achieve the results that you seek in a safe and timely manner - and there's no extra work from you!

2) Try Eco-Friendly Alternatives

If chemical smells and potentials for danger are something you want to avoid, consider gentler, eco and family-friendly products that have virtually no side effects. These 3 paint strippers come highly recommended by This Old House and eco-conscious craftsmen alike:


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Biodegradable, with a natural orange smell, this gel stripper works well on furniture legs and carvings. Methylpyrrolidone, an organic compound, replaces the use of other chemical agents as the stripping agent. Easy to use on latex and oil-based paints, and can be left on surfaces for up to 24 hours.

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Safest Stripper

Manufactured by 3M, this is a great non-toxic alternative to methylene chloride-based products. Biodegradable with no strong fumes, this stripper can be used safely indoors and without gloves. 3M also claims that it is safe to wash down the drain. The product comes in a liquid or paste and does the job in about 2 hours.

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Available in a liquid or a gel this paint stripper does more than just paint. Tackle adhesives, coatings, and thick layers with a low-odor, non-hazardous, non-flammable, biodegradable product with no harsh solvents. Easy to apply with results in minutes.

Sources:  California Department of Health Services
               Center for Disease Control and Prevention
               National Public Radio    
               The Chemical Blog
               This Old House

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