Paint and Finish Strippers

By Karl

Refinishing Wood Furniture By Hand Involves Using Paint and Finish Strippers

When using paint and finish strippers there are several tips of the trade that people new to this type of project may or may not have thought about. One of the most important things to remember when setting up your workspace is you should not stock your shelves with stripper too far in advance. These substances DO have a shelf life and cannot be kept forever – especially once the container has been opened.

Setting Up Your Workspace:

First and foremost, it is never a good idea to apply paint or finish stripper to a piece of wood in direct sunlight. This can cause the stripping chemicals to dry too rapidly – which is not what you want. So, when preparing the area where you will strip the furniture, make sure it is not in front of a sunny window or outdoors in an area that is not shady. Approximately 70 or 75 degrees Fahrenheit is a good temperature range for this type of project.

Some of the other items you will want handy in your workspace when using chemical paint strippers are safety goggles, old paint brushes, old rags, rubber stripper gloves, old clothes, and a drop cloth that thoroughly covers the floor or ground.

It is absolutely essential that your workspace has a good ventilation system. Chemical strippers emit dangerous fumes that can be harmful to your health if you inhale them. An enclosed room with no windows or fans will not work for this type of project. Make sure to set up a workspace that has at least one window that opens, fans, or another type of ventilation system. Some professionals recommend that a respirator be used to ensure harmful fumes will not cause any permanent health problems.

Following are some of the top pieces of advice from experts that have used paint and finish strippers many times:

  • If you are going to strip and refinish a piece of furniture, you are going to want to take the furniture apart if at all possible. Make sure your workspace is organized so you will not lose small pieces of the furniture or the furniture’s hardware.
  • Learn about the properties of paint and finish strippers. They are solvents and they can be dangerous. Make sure your workspace is set up so that young children cannot reach cans of solvent.
  • Give yourself enough time to finish the stripping process in one day. It is better for the wood if stripper is applied only one time. In other words, do not apply stripper with the intention of working on the piece of furniture only to allow the stripper to dry. This causes the paint or finish to soften and then re-harden which causes the wood to dry out. Make sure to set up your workspace so it will not be disturbed by children or other people in the vicinity during the period of time the stripper is sitting on the wood.


Paint and finish strippers are made of harsh chemicals that can be dangerous if used incorrectly or haphazardly. But, these substances do quite an amazing job at removing old paint and finish from wood. Strippers are not substances that last forever on a shelf. Therefore, you do not have to keep a large supply of stripper in your workspace unless you intend to complete several projects within the next few months. It’s better to purchase stripper as you need it for individual projects.

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