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Paint Strippers
Written by Elizabeth Wood
Editor In Chief, United Home Improvement


Paint strippers are a very useful product during home renovations. They are considered one of the most popular methods for removing lead based paints. However, they do contain harmful chemicals that require careful use. Most strippers contain a chemical known as methylene chloride, also called dichloromethane. This chemical has been referred to as “toxic.”

Improper use of methylene chloride, and other harmful chemicals, can lead to skin irritation, drowsiness, irritability, light-headedness, nausea and headaches. Certain chemicals are even related to the development of cancer, reproductive problems, breathing conditions, and brain, liver, and kidney damage. Also, careless use of paint strippers can lead to fires.

It is extremely important to use paint strippers with caution and to follow every instruction for proper use. Make sure to carefully read the instructions and safety precautions on the label. Each product is different and may require unique handling. Below is a list of important ways to minimize your risk.

Safety Precautions:

• Always try to use paint strippers outdoors. Inside use can contaminate the buildings air and put your health at risk. If you must work indoors, be sure to ventilate adequately. Consider putting an electric fan by an open window to blow the contaminated air outside.
• Protect your hands with chemical-resistant gloves. Regular kitchen latex gloves will not provide adequate protection against harmful chemicals.
• Protect your skin and eyes with protective clothing and goggles. If you get stripper on your skin, wash it off immediately.
• Use extra caution when using flammable paint strippers. Turn the furnace and furnace fan off. Keep clear from any source of sparks, flame, or high heat. Refrain from using open flames, cigarettes, matches, lighters because they can cause the chemicals in the paint strippers to suddenly catch fire.
• Follow the instructions on the label for proper disposal of paint strippers.

Types of Paint Strippers:

• Methylene chloride
• Acetone, toluene, and methanol
• N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP)
• Dibasic esters (DBE)
• Caustic-Based Strippers (Not Flammable)

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