My Date with a Stripper

Circa® 1850 Heavy Body Paint & Varnish RemoverI love restoring wood and canvas canoes. However, if there’s one job I don’t enjoy, it’s stripping old paint and varnish. Toxic fumes and chemical burns just aren’t my thing. Unfortunately, in my experience, the nastier the stripper, the better it works. My old standby is methylene chloride based “Circa® 1850 Heavy Body Paint & Varnish Remover”. It works and it works well. Over the years I’ve tested several alternative strippers, but honestly none of them really did the job.

Once again, faced with stripping varnish from the interior of a canoe, I headed over to my local paint and hardware store. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of new paint and varnish removers on the shelf and decided to give it another try. Worst case scenario, I’d wast some time and have to come back and buy another can of Circa 1850. After some shopping around and doing some homework, I decided on a Canadian made product called “EZ Strip Paint and Varnish Remover”. It made the following promises:

EZ Stripper

  • EZ Strip™ the professional strength safe alternative to chemical stripping
  • Convenient easy to use no drip spray gel
  • No harsh fumes with a pleasant fragrance
  • Non Caustic and skin safe
  • Cleans up with water and completely water soluble
  • Completely safe for indoor and outdoor use

Stripping Canoe VarinshWOW!!!!! I love this stuff. Although, as recommended I wore nitrate gloves and safety glasses, this stuff doesn’t burn the skin. Heck, it even smells nice. What’s more, it did the job! It may require a little more elbow grease then methylene chloride (dichloromethane or DCM) based paint strippers, but it gets the job done without nasty fumes or burning and it cleans up with water. According to the product literature water actually neutralizes it. One concern I’ve always had with using chloride strippers is the long term effect of having used it on the interior of a cane. Especially if the canvas is still in place, there’s just no way you’re ever going to get all of it out. Will it over time eat the canvas, or harm the wood?

If you’ve found other “eco friendly” paint and varnish removers that actually work I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and share your experiences.

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