Strip Ease: How to Remove Paint, Safely


So you let the 10-year-old choose her own, low VOC wall paint. Your therapist tells you to be compassionate with yourself. You didn’t know it would turn out to be the most powerful pink shade on the swatch sheet. “It must be very hard for you.”

Hard doesn’t describe it. It’s not like an insufferable PG-13 movie you can return to the rental bin after one painful viewing. That touch of pink swatch in the corner didn’t seem so offensive, but suddenly the bedroom has morphed into a giant Razzle candy that refuses to turn into gum, lose its flavor, and go away. You’ve tried taming the raspberry beast with chocolate browns and cloudy blues, anything and everything to soften the pounding headache from walls that pulsate as they suck you into the pink abyss. Sorry, Lola. The Razzle may dazzle your 4th grade pals, but it has begun to frazzle your middle-aged mom. It’s time to strip.

Luckily for me, I have the best interior painter in San Francisco (let’s just call him Michael B.) who shops at the best paint resource in the Bay Area, Creative Paint on Geary Avenue, and knows that removing poor paint choices safely calls for new products that won’t add environmental insult to injury. Here are a few of those products you, too, should obtain for stripping without the toxins:

Zinsser Paint & Finish Remover with Soyzol (R)zinsser-paint-and-finish-remover

Considered one of the best alternatives to traditional paint removers, this formula from Zinsser takes off more than five layers of latex and oil-based paint and most finishes from wood, metal and vinyl in less than one hour. The soybean derivative Soyzol replaces the usual flammable solvents, caustics or methylene chloride-based strippers. It has a mild odor and is a biodegradable, renewable resource. It’s a better way to go for you or your house painter.


Home Strip

A good choice for removing finishes from furniture, Home Strip┞¢ is a water-based, low VOC paint stripper that is completely safe to the user and the environment. No need for ventilation and no need to work outside. It will safely removelead-based paints, oil-based paints, solvent-based paints, stains, varnishes and certain plastic coatings.


The Speedheater Method TM

The Speedheater Method from Sweden is based on Infrared Technology to soften paint quickly, making it easy to scrape off. It’s effective for removing exterior house paint and lead-based paints (outlawed in the U.S in 1978), and is a great preparation for cleaning up the old layers and starting completely fresh – avoiding cracking of new paint from the residue left behind.

Design Tip: While it’s not always affordable to completely strip off old paint before starting anew, it is highly recommended, as paint layers can become too thick over time and peppered with various penetrative cracks. It also helps to better define detailed trim work and mouldings that are lost under too many layers of paint.

Design Tip: Don’t just swatch a small corner when testing a daring color. Cover enough wall to know if you truly can live with the shade. And do rethink pink!

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.