Paint stripping is a messy job, but it does not have to be a dangerous one. Thankfully, there are now non-toxic paint strippers on the market that make even the removal of lead paint safer. Let’s take a look at some of the components and hazards of typical paint strippers in order to understand why non-toxic options are so important.
Typical paint strippers use hazardous solvents and chemicals, such as the following:
- Methylene chloride is potentially carcinogenic, and is the most common chemical used in paint strippers. Among the many health hazards this chemical is known to cause are:
- Respiratory, skin, and mucus membrane irritation
- Dizziness, headache, clumsiness
- Liver and kidney damage after long-term exposure
- Circulatory effects similar to those caused by carbon monoxide inhalation
- Acetone, Toluene, and Methanol are usually used together. Hazards of these three include:
- Dizziness and headache
- Brain damage over prolonged exposure to high levels
Toluene inhalation by pregnant women can harm their unborn babies.
- N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) causes skin damage in the form of swelling, burns and blistering.
- Sodium hydroxide (lye) is the most common caustic alkali used in toxic paint strippers. It works by melting and loosening the paint. Hazards of lye include:
- Severe burns to eyes and skin, even after brief contact
- Highly toxic if swallowed
Thankfully, there are alternatives. Here are some of the non-toxic types of paint strippers currently available.
- Soy-based paint strippers such as Soy Gel and SoyClean are non-toxic, do no evaporate quickly, and are odorless. Soy Gel can be used on lead paint safely, and SoyClean can be used on shellac and varnish as well as paint. SoyClean even makes a product that will remove graffiti.
- Infrared paint removal is also coming on the scene. It uses heat to melt and soften paint and varnish for easy removal.
- Citrus-based strippers such as CitriStrip are pleasant-smelling and effective at removing paint from floors, furniture, and other items.
- RemoveALL was once used only for industrial paint stripping, such as removing paint from aircraft. It is now available to the public and meets the criteria for environmentally responsible products. It is odorless.
- Peel Away is a water-based, biodegradable paint stripper that emits no fumes and is especially good for removing lead paint.
If you type any of these product names or types of non-toxic paint strippers into your web browser, you will find their websites and how to purchase them. Some hardware and DIY stores carry them also. Make sure your next paint stripping project does not endanger the health of you, your family, or the environment.