Solvent-based paint removers or strippers use chemical solvents
to remove old finishes. They are not one chemical, but a combination of chemicals, each with a specific job to do.
The active ingredient is usually a chemical
called methylene chloride. Some products contain active
ingredients other than methylene chloride, but they are not as effective
in penetrating, blistering, and lifting the old finish. Other
chemicals in paint removers work to accelerate the stripping process,
to slow the evaporation of the stripper, and to act as thickening
Paint strippers typically come in two forms: liquid and semi-paste.
In general, the liquid works faster. The semi-paste is best for
all-around work, because it doesn't run or drip when
applied to vertical surfaces.
It goes without saying that any chemical or combination of chemicals
with the potency to lift off old paint should be treated with respect.
Solvent-based strippers work fast and are harmless to
wood, but they may pose health hazards to humans and should be used
in accordance with manufacturer's instructions.
We have included a list of safety and health
tips. But no list can take the place of the manufacturer's recommended
use of its product. It is important to read individual product labels
and follow them exactly.