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Stripping Down

September 29, 2008


Tree bark, originally uploaded by RoadTripers.

Now that our dining room is looking good and our living room is pretty much all set up we have turned our attention to our kitchen. The nice thing about renting a house is that all the walls are painted colors as opposed to the cream or white colored walls found in most apartments. The downside is that we don’t like all the colors. The homeowners have given us free rein to repaint but on the heels of repainting the dining room we were looking for a smaller project. When I (N.) was still living on my own I bought an unfinished oak table to double as a dining room table and desk. In my “infinite wisdom” I decided to paint it aqua and teal using a faux finish technique on the top. Even after I did it I didn’t like it so I threw a table cloth over it and pretended not to notice the aqua legs sticking out. Now that we have combined households the table really needs to serve as a kitchen table and the color needed to go.

That said we wanted to keep our renovations green we had to find an eco friendly way to strip and refinish the table. When considering stripping paint you pretty much have three options- sanding, a heat gun, and chemicals. Originally we excluded chemicals because somehow J. had a heat gun and that seemed like the best choice. Although I will tell you that it is hardly an energy efficient method considering the amount of time it takes to strip using heat and the amount of power the heat gun requires. It also comes with a nice label on it that warns chemicals released during the process of stripping has been known to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive problems. Awesome! Using the heat gun was a slow process and worked best when you could angle the gun and scrapper such that you used both simultaneously. This requires a bit of dexterity and eventually the scrapper is going to get to hot to handle due to its proximity to the heat gun. That’s okay though because it’s a convenient excuse to take a break. I used the heat gun inside and didn’t notice to much of a smell.

Unfortunately on day three of stripping (no it doesn’t take that long I just prefer to work in small segments) the heat gun mysteriously died. Rather then purchase a new one and lacking the skills to fix the old one we conceded defeat and decided to find an eco friendly paint stripper. Apparently the biggest offender in the list of chemicals paint strippers contain is methylene chloride, also called dichloromethane, which is an impressive stripping solvent but also a serious health hazard. “In the short term, inhalation of fumes from methylene chloride can cause dizziness, nausea, numbness of fingers and toes, eye irritation and impaired hand-eye coordination. A splash of this stuff on bare skin will cause skin irritation and even burns. Long-term, high-level exposure can cause heart and respiratory problems, damage to the central nervous system and may increase the risk of cancer. In addition, petroleum-based paint strippers produce harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which provoke respiratory problems and contribute to smog formation.” There are a number of options on the market that don’t contain methylene chloride but the only one I could find at the local hardware store was Citrus Strip.

In addition to being methylene chloride free Citrus Strip claims to have a pleasant orange scent and be non caustic allowing the product to be used indoors. It is also biodegradable. I globbed a bunch on our table yesterday and while it didn’t give me a headache or smell out right of chemicals I would not call it a “pleasant citrus” smell, rather it smelled sickly sweet and brought to mind poisons like arsenic. I can see why the packaging says to make sure you keep cross ventilation going although “it’s safe for indoor use.” You really have to glob this stuff and then let it sit I found for about 4-6 hours to really see results. Even then you are still going to be scrapping and eventually sanding any paint that has seeped into the wood. I’m not really happy with the idea of using chemicals especially on our table which we will be eating off of but I didn’t see the point in buying a new heat gun either…

I imagine it will take us a week or so before we finish completely stripping the table and sanding it down to it’s bare state and then it’ll probably stay that way until we figure out what color we want to stain it. Since we are NEVER going to refinish the table or anything else if we can avoid it we want to make sure we pick just the right color. At least I know green stripping isn’t really any harder then stripping with regular chemicals. After all you still have to scrap no matter what method you use and no stripper is going to get all the paint off so we all have to finish with a sander.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2008 12:29 pm

    It’s so good to hear that green stripping isn’t any harder.

  2. September 29, 2008 3:58 pm

    Ah, paint strippers. We are in need of stripping the paint from our basement walls & floor (cinder blocks & concrete) to apply a water sealer for radon abatement. I searched and searched for a non-toxic stripper. Finally we decided a power washer would do the job without any toxicity.

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