Explore chemical-free paint removal

By Joanne Loos Posted in: ImproveThe Fix is In

My mother-in-law once said to me, “I can’t wait to be bored.” She was in her Florida home, entertaining a carousel of out-of-town visitors for eight weeks straight.

I have to say, I fully understood what she meant. I have come to appreciate the so-called monotony of a routine. The “normal” day, when there is nothing out of the ordinary scheduled, ranks as my favorite.

On a normal day, after we put the kids to bed, my husband, Scott, and I clean up the house then cozy up on the couch for some TV and relaxation time. We unwind in a kid-free zone and often end up watching home improvement shows.

Recently, we watched an episode in which renovators removed paint using a chemical stripper. It was then that Scott alerted me to the news that the Environmental Protection Agency had actually banned chemical strippers for residential use. A quick Google search confirmed the ban. Luckily, there are several ways that non-commercial DIY-ers can remove paint — without the potentially harmful chemicals.

Heat it up

Whether you use a heat gun, steamer or an infrared tool, heat can help you to soften the bond of the paint and allow you scrape it off easily. However, please proceed with caution. Heat guns come with a risk of burning, especially when working with flammable materials like wood. Steam does not pose a fire hazard, but it could potentially warp wood with too much moisture.

Scrape it out

Once softened, scrape paint away with a trusted tool. Experts recommend multi-use tools like putty knives that allow you to gouge, scrape, spread or even hammer. These tools have curved edges, flat edges and points so that they serve multiple functions. Proceed cautiously here as well. Metal scrapers can gouge wood. Plastic may be preferable if you have a heavy hand.

Sand it down

Typically, no matter what method of paint removal you use, you will have some remnant spots you will need to sand down later. On the other hand, if you have an item with large, flat surfaces (like a table), you may be able to remove the paint using a sander alone. Keep in mind that sanding will create dust. Sand your item outside and use in conjunction with a vacuum.

Hire a professional

Think carefully about the job before you proceed yourself. If you have a large number of items in your home to be stripped, such as trim, it may be worth it to bring in outside help. Consider the year in which your item was painted as well. If it was before 1978, there is a chance that the paint is lead-based, which will require special precautions for removal.

Have a comment or question for Joanne? Email thefi xisinhawaii@gmail.com.