What a Father's day surprise!
I opened my garage door today to do some yard work, shouldn't be more than
half an hour total, and suddenly I heard a loud "clunk"...I went back to the
garage and I have a full can of shellac now laying on the floor. It was on
the top shelf of my rack and I have no idea how it fell, could be a cat or
squirrel when inside the garage while it was opened...don't know. All I
know is when it tumbled down, it splashed on my walls, shelves, tools, tiled
floor, some older furniture near by and everything on my shelves and made a
huge mess and a strong odor.
It dries quick and I was not able to clean things off fast enough before it.
I have been working at it for the last four hours and it's not getting
anywhere. I tried water, alcohol, mineral spirits and other solvents. Not
sure if any of it combined with Shellac will be poisonous, but the mess is
not going away. It even stained outside of my garage where the concrete
driveway was about four feet of it have spots all over. Even metal brush
does not get this stuff off. I am giving up and thinking I should just go
to a bar and get a few beers instead of going to Home Depot.
Any advise if there are any solvent I can use?
Alcohol -- but not rubbing alcohol from the drugstore (too much water in
that). You want denatured alcohol (probably a gallon can) from Home Depot,
Lowe's, or some place like that -- it's pure alcohol.
Nope. Shellac is non-toxic. It's the classic kid-safe finish for baby toys,
The *alcohol* is another story, though. The alcohol used to dissolve shellac
is the same alcohol that's in adult beverages, and you *can* become
intoxicated from breathing the fumes. Use plenty of ventilation, and a
chemical filter respirator if you have one -- and don't drive.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
You might want to mention that the ethanol is "denatured" by
adding in just enough methanol to make it poisonous to drink.
I agree that the fumes can get to you, but I don't know if
the fumes of denatured alcohol are as toxic as the liquid.
On Sun, 18 Jun 2006 22:53:20 GMT, firstname.lastname@example.org (Doug Miller)
NO IT'S NOT THE SAME, and the ALCOHOL THAT YOU BUY IN GALLONS WILL
KILL YOU, or BLIND YOU FIRST.
AT LEAST ACCORDING TO MY PH.D. IN BIOLOGY ROOMMATE.
HE TOLD ME THAT THE ONLY THING SAFE WAS CHEMICAL GRADE ALCOHOL, WHICH
IS 100% PURE AND VERY EXPENSIVE, AND SOLD MOSTLY TO LABORATORIES, FROM
LABORATORY SUPPLY COMPANIES.
THAT DIDN'T STOP HIM FROM ONCE OR TWICE SWIPING A QUART BOTTLE FROM
THE CHEM LAB to make punch for our parties, but other than smoking pot
a bit that's the only illegal thing I think he ever did, and he
wouldn't have stolen this stuff if he could have bought it at a
Rubbing alcohol is something like 70% water, and there is another
comon version that has less waterthat that, but the safe stuff has no
water or next to no water.
Either your Ph.D. friend doesn't know what he is
talking about, or you didn't understand what he
said. Ethyl alcohol is the kind you drink.
Scientific laboratories supply ethyl alcohol in 95
percent and 100 percent. Ethyl alcohol distills
to 95 percent and that provides CP (Chemically
Pure) alcohol. 100 percent is usually produced by
distilling against benzene but there will be
traces of benzene which you would not want. It is
possible to produce 100 percent by other means,
but it is more expensive and not needed for most
Schools get the stuff under their license and
don't have to pay the alcohol tax so the cost
difference between pure ethyl alcohol and
denatured alcohol is not much. For non drinking
purpose ethyl alcohol is denatured by any of many
different formulas and the purpose is to make in
useless for drinking and thereby avoid the alcohol
tax. Most of those formulas would make you sick,
especially make you barf, but most would not kill
you unless you drank a lot of the stuff. If you
steal laboratory alcohol for drinking you better
steal the 95 percent non-denatured stuff.
As for shellac, most home market stuff is
dissolved in ethyl alcohol (denatured), but those
who mix their own flakes may use ethyl alcohol,
methyl alcohol (wood alcohol and the stuff that
makes you go blind), or even propyl alcohol
(normal rubbing alcohol which is poisonous).
BTW, beer, wine, or most hard liquor booze are not
pure alcohol and are not made from chemical grade
(whatever that means) alcohol.
One last thought, becoming intoxicated on alcohol
fumes from cleaning with the stuff is probably a
myth. Certainly doesn't happen in bars and their
are plenty of open container and stuff spilled.
It never happened to anyone I knew who worked in a
lab with 95 or 100 percent alcohol. Anyone,
cleaning with 100 percent ethyl alcohol in a small
space with no ventilation would have trouble
breathing and would have to leave or open windows
before they every became intoxicated.
You missed the point entirely, and you don't have your facts completely right.
First the facts:
Beverage alcohol is ethanol. Denatured alcohol from the hardware store is
*also* ethanol, with a small amount of methanol and/or other toxic substances
added to make it undrinkable. Apart from the addition of the toxins, it *is*
exactly the same stuff, and you *can* become drunk from breathing its vapor.
Now the missed point:
I was warning the guy that the stuff is potentially dangerous.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
I never place liquids on top shelves as I've already made that mistake.
Shellac flakes are dissolved in alcohol to make a brushable coating.
Alcohol will work, but it evaporates so quickly that it's tough to work
with. You can try making a poultice - lay a rag on top of the shellace
to be removed, wet the rag down with alcohol and cover the rag with a
piece of plastic (garbage bag). Let it sit for a bit to soften the
shellac, then remove the poultice and have a go with it.
You could also try one of the citrus based strippers. That'll give you
more working time and you won't have to worry about the alcohol fumes
and flammability issues.
Thanks now I have another question. Since it has been four hours since it
spilled it has sort of dried on most surfaces that I have not wiped down.
Now I am so tired and spent can I wait till next weekend to do this or will
the job be much more difficult if I wait?
Also how about the porous surfaces like my concrete floor in the garage and
the concrete driveway they are both stained and since they are not smooth
surface is there a way to clean those? Mop down with alchohol too?
Will ammonia do anything?
Shellac is dissolved by alcohol, doesn't matter if it's dried or not,
alcohol will dissolve it. It won't dissolve it on contact, it's not that
simple, but the age of the shellac won't affect it. If you want to let it
dry overnight you might as well, it's been long enough just looking at the
posts on this forum that another 12 hours won't make it worse - in my humble
People like myself who restore WWII and WWI battle rifles use alcohol to
restore the finish on old shellac'ed guns, like the Russian/Soviet ones and
a few of the Enfields. A quick wipe of the alcohol softens it up and aids
in spreading it around on the unfinished portions of the stock and evens out
the finish. In these cases the shellac has been sitting on the rifle stock
for almost a hundred years, and it still gets affected pretty well by
See my other post for safety issues. Not a drugstore. You'll want a
bigger container and they say you don't want rubbing alcohol AIUI
there is nothing healthful aboutr rubbing alcohol, except that it
feels good when it evaporates, and I guess it helps lubricate the skin
for rubbing, bfore it evaporates. And it's traditional.
eVEN WATER will make your hands wrinkle after a while. I never used
alcohol for very long, and I know nothing.
On Sun, 18 Jun 2006 20:07:23 -0400, with neither quill nor qualm,
HD, Lowes, most farm stores, hardware stores and paint stores all
carry it for $8-12 a gallon.
Use gloves. You'll be out there for awhile. And don't use a white
fabric mask type respirator, use a real cartridge respirator with
organic vapor cartridges and do that with good ventilation in the
Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools,
and those who dare not, are slaves. --Lord Byron (1788-1824)
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