4 natural paint removers for every surface
Removing or stripping paint from any type of surface is rarely an easy task. Each surface absorbs paint differently, and each type of paint reacts differently to surfaces. Add environmental conditions to the mix and removing paint requires a bit of study and usually some elbow grease.
For years, most professional painters and DIYers have relied on chemical-based paint strippers. While these can do a good job, many are also highly toxic to humans and the environment. Improper use of chemical strippers can cause damage to the respiratory system, brain, nervous system, and skin.
One of the worst offenders and potentially deadly chemicals in paint strippers is methylene chloride. Major hardware stores have removed products containing this chemical from their shelves, but it is still readily available.
Before you tackle any stripping job, you should read the labels on commercial paint strippers. In addition to methylene chloride, it also contains toluene, methanol and acetone as potentially harmful active ingredients.
There are less toxic paint strippers on the market. If you choose a chemical-based paint stripper, choose a paste formula, which is less volatile and toxic because it produces fewer fumes than a liquid formula. Read the instructions for use carefully and always wear protective clothing such as safety goggles, gloves and a face mask.
Soy-based gel color remover
Soy-based paint removers contain methyl soyate, a methyl ester distilled from soybean oil. This bio-based solvent is much more sustainable and environmentally friendly than petroleum-based products. It is low in volatile organic compounds (VOC), is flame retardant and contains no ozone-depleting chemicals.
These soy-based gels are safe to use on wood, concrete and metal and work effectively, but take a little longer to remove the paint from the surface. The product is applied with a brush and can remain on the paint surface for several hours as it does not evaporate or drip. The longer a soy-based paint stripper is left on the paintwork, the easier permanent removal will be.
Citrus-based paint stripper
Citrus-based paint strippers contain terpenes, organic compounds derived from plants, mostly oranges. Another example of a terpene used for paint removal is turpentine, which is made from pine resin.
Citrus-based paint strippers typically smell like oranges or citrus fruits and, like soy-based gels, are slower to remove paint than stronger chemicals. They are safe to use on any painted or varnished surface. Even though these paint strippers are biodegradable, they still contain some harmful chemicals and should be disposed of properly.
Manual color removal
Avoiding any type of paint stripper seems to be the most non-toxic method of removing paint. Unfortunately, paint itself poses some danger, particularly lead-based paint in older homes.
If you choose to remove paint manually, always wear a mask, goggles, and other protective equipment.
There are different methods to remove paint manually.
Scrape off the paint: You can use a plastic or metal paint scraper to remove peeling paint, but you must do so carefully so as not to damage the surface beneath the paint.
Use a heat gun: A heat gun can be used to loosen the paint to the point where it will eventually bubble and become easier to scrape off.
Sand: Using an electric sander or manually removing paint with sandpaper requires patience and skill. Be careful not to sand too deeply or the surfaces will be permanently damaged.
How to Remove Paint from Metal
If you have painted or splattered small metal objects such as door, cabinet, or furniture hardware or outlet covers, the paint can be easily removed with baking soda and boiling water. When the items are heated, the metal and paint expand at different rates, breaking the bond.
What you need
The materials and tools needed to remove paint from metal can be found in most homes.
- Sodium bicarbonate
- Paper towels
- Large pan
- Brush with stiff bristles
- Flexible scraper