Mini-review: non-toxic paint strippers


Just wanted to report on a paint stripper I used that seems to work well.
I'm stripping a light fixture that had many coats of paint on it. Did the bulk of the fixture with Citristrip, which worked reasonably well and fast. Used up the last of it and needed to do one last piece (the "fitter"), so I went to the hardware store (Orchard) and picked up a jug of 3M's "Safest Stripper", since it was cheaper than Citristrip and because I hadn't used it before and wanted to try it.
Turns out to be pretty good stuff. It's a very thick white goo that sticks well even to vertical surfaces (better than Citristrip in this regard), and it works reasonably fast. It's taking a few passes to get all the paint off this piece, but it's coming off nicely. No smell, and the active ingredients are dimethyl adipate and dimethyl glutarage. (Any chemists out there who can explain what these are? and I'm curious as to why all strippers seem to want to have chemicals with "methyl" in their names.)
This is partly aimed at the "give me the good old toxic stuff, goddamnit" crowd here. Yes, it's true that none of these kinder, gentler, environmentally-friendly strippers work as well as the good old toxic shit: I looked at several other strippers (Bix, Jasco, etc.), and they all contain methylene chloride. The toxic crap works well, no doubt about it. But given a choice between a world where the paint strippers work fantastically well and the cancer rate is high, and one where the paint strippers require a little more patience but the cancer rate is lower, I'll pick the second one any time, as most reasonable folks also seem to.
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Washing one\'s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the
powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

Methyl esters are easy to make, usually by transesterification or esterification with methanol. Most of these compounds are used to make polyesters but are also sold as solvents. The more environmentally friendly materials are not bereft of toxicity and should still be handled with impervious glove and ventilation as recommended on the package.
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Frank wrote:

The process for making it and the waste remaining also matter. Ethanol for fuel comes to mind ... lovely to save some oil, but it uses huge amounts of water and that is really more essential than oil :o)
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Hello,
Adipic Acid and Glutaric Acid esters are by-products of Nylon manufacturing. The companies that sell the adipate and glutaric acid esters have figured out that these liquids can be used, among other things, as a slow acting, relatively low toxicity, paint stripper. This is an example of finding uses for waste products that not only keeps them from initially having to be destroyed but will also bring in revenue.
Good Luck.
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On 9/14/2008 1:14 PM Baron spake thus:

Thanks for the info (you and the other person who posted actual chemical information). Seems like that (using byproducts of one process for another purpose) happens a lot in chemical engineering, like the sources of tin for stannous fluoride.
Two mistakes of mine: I should have said "less toxic", not non-toxic, and I misspelled "glutarate". Now to find the MSDS for this product ...
To recap, this stuff (3M Safest Stripper) works about halfway well on the scale from the bottom (brake fluid, baking soda, detergent) to the top (strippers containing methhylene chloride).
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