Paint remover

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A fluid or paste formulation designed to remove dried paint or varnish. Commercial paint strippers generally use systems based on either solvents or alkalis. Most of the solvent strippers use Methylene chloride. It is an effective solvent that penetrates and swells oil, alkyd, and vinyl paints and most varnishes. However, it is not selective and will penetrate all paint and overpaint layers. Solvent strippers often contain co-solvents (Acetone, methanol), acid or alkali activators, surfactants, and thickeners. Alkali strippers react with the paint film to saponify the fatty acids in oil paints and hydrolyze proteins in casein paints. They may contain Sodium hydroxide, Sodium carbonate, Ammonium hydroxide, and/or Sodium silicate. While caustics are less toxic than halogenated solvents, they still react quickly with all paint layers. Some recent methods use weak organic acids, esters, gels, organic bases, enzymes, surfactants, and/or n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone to control the speed and depth of the paint removal (Wollbrink, 1993).

Synonyms and Related Terms

paint stripper; varnish remover; Safest Stripper [3M]; Zip-Strip® [Star Bronze]; 5f5 [SCL]; Strypeeze® [Savogran]; Peel Away® 1 [Dumond Chemical]; verfstripper (Ned.)


  • Most contain toxic, flammable and/or caustic materials.

Resources and Citations

  • T.Wollbrinck, "The Composition of Proprietary Paint Strippers" JAIC 32:43-57, 1993.
  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: pp. 571, 743
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Richard C. Wolbers, Nanette T. Sterman, Chris Stavroudis, Notes for Workshop on New Methods in the Cleaning of Paintings, J.Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles, 1990
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
  • Tom Rowland, Noel Riley, A-Z Guide to Cleaning, Conserving and Repairing Antiques, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1981
  • Theodore J. Reinhart, 'Glossary of Terms', Engineered Plastics, ASM International, 1988

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