Really need a safe-ish wood stripping product.
June 27, 2017 1:24 PM   Subscribe

I want a wood stripping product (solvent) that has a comparatively low quantity of methylene chloride (DCM). But these products don't list their ingredients. Do you know of a good product, or can you help me find this information?

Wow, I never thought this topic would be so frustrating. We are going to chemically strip our wood floors instead of sanding. However, this is inside a house and even with fans going and my husband wearing a respirator, I do not want him working with the 'usual suspects' of products that people unquestionably use - ie. a popular or generic polyurethane stripper. That's because after much googling l have learned that this stuff is usually basically methylene chloride, a super terrifying very toxic chemical.

I've read and heard that this chemical is pretty hard to avoid, so I thought - ok, let's find a product that has relatively low amounts of that stuff, maybe combined with other effective chemicals that are less horrible, and here's where I'm stuck. The person at the last flooring store we visited recommended Bona Polish Remover, but you can't buy it here in Canada, at least not very easily. I called Bona and they kindly suggested that it would be easier to go to the hardware store and buy some acrylic polish remover. Does that sound like a reasonable solution? I'm so confused.

Unless someone can enlighten me, I'm going to go with Citristrip. I just worry about the effectiveness. We are stripping about 500 square feet of floor, and this is supposed to be less painful than sanding...It's a stressful bit of work that has to be completed in a short amount of time, so this is an important factor in what product I choose, too. But not damaging our health or anyone else's is paramount.

I've just seen that an older question suggests ammonia, and I've read this elsewhere as well...thoughts?
posted by kitcat to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
See one of my previous comments on strippers for some useful info on MC, DBE, and NMP strippers.

1. I do NOT recommend Citristrip because of the stupid added limonene / citrus oils can sensitize you to it and it doesn't really help with the stripping.
2. Any stripper marked "safe" or "safer" is likely to have zero methylene chloride. It's highly regulated these days since it's high VOC and potentially hazardous. MC strippers are actually pretty hard to find in most places.
3. The data you're looking for is on the MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheet, required by the government) or the equivalent product data sheet. For example, you can find 3M's Safest Strip equivalent data sheet here where it lists the ingredients. Basically anything significant you could be exposing your workers to has to be listed in the MSDS. You can search for the same thing for Citristrip, etc.
4. Bless you for thinking carefully about this. Even "safe" strippers can be nasty stuff. As you said, positive ventilation and monitoring are key.

I've never used Safest Stripper (my go-to these days) on floors but it works on other PU finishes (doors, cabinets, furniture). Test it on a less-important region. Caveat emptor. (I'm a big fan of physical removal like sanding for big flat surfaces like floors and tabletops.)
posted by introp at 1:46 PM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also note: the vast majority of respirators are typically useless when dealing with volatiles (i.e., solvents and such). They keep out particulates but you have to go through extra trouble to neutralize organic vapors and, even then, those filters only work for a small set of vapors. Clear air is your best friend.
posted by introp at 1:49 PM on June 27, 2017

Yes, you're looking for the MSDS. You may have to call companies to get a current copy for each product, but many of them are already online.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:22 PM on June 27, 2017

We've had good luck with Soy Gel. It's safe, but the downside is that it has to sit for an hour or two. Which sucks if you don't put it on thick enough, then when you scrape you realize that you have to re-apply to the spots that still have paint, and then wait another hour or two.
posted by hwyengr at 2:45 PM on June 27, 2017

Great answers, all. Thanks!

I'm astounded, I can't get Citristrip or 3M Safest Stripper here in Canada. We're going to try this EZ Stripper. Will report back.
posted by kitcat at 6:26 PM on June 27, 2017

I've been using Liberon fine wood stripper. Your question scared me but I looked it up and it turns out to be methylene chloride free! It works really well and you only have to leave it on for 30 minutes. I've been using it on my hardwood floors to remove several layers of old stain. I apply with a paintbrush, wait half an hour, scrape scrape scrape, and then neutralise with white spirit.
posted by hazyjane at 10:19 PM on June 27, 2017

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