Monday, July 07, 2008

Stipping paint is like childbirth

Anyone who has given birth has probably experienced the post-birth amnesia. After a while, you forget the pain, even think, "Oh, labor wasn't that bad," until you begin labor with another baby and the memories come rushing back, and you think, "Oh God! How could I have been so stupid to have done this to myself again?"

It's the same thing with chemically stripping paint from an object. You try it once, are appalled at the results, vow never to mess with strippers again, until one day, you decide the fifteen coats of paint glutting your living room woodwork has got to go, and you once more expose yourself to mutagens, teratogens, carcinogens.

I did some research, and learned that "NMP" strippers are what you want and not this other stripper whose name I can't recall, but it did have a "T" in it. So off I went to Meadowbrook Hardware, which is my favorite hardware store, btw, and they had a selection of strippers, but none of them were labeled as "NMP" or as the now forgotten "T" formula.

I spent quite a long time in the stripper aisle at Meadowbrook, and finally selected "Dad's" brand stripper which came with a little plastic spray bottle. I thought it seemed handy, and that spraying the stripper would result in a quick, even coat and would be easier than applying it with a brush.

Choosing the brand with the spray bottle turned out to be a nearly fatal mistake, since with spray, you will have splashback. Tiny specks of stripper caused tiny painful chemical burns on my arms, my feet, my face, and perilously close to my mouth. It also dripped. A lot. I had decided that I probably wouldn't strip the baseboards, but as I sprayed the window, I noticed the paint on the baseboards bubbling and peeling as dripping stripper landed on it. So now I am doing the baseboards. Hurrah!

A few minutes after you apply the stripper, the paint comes bubbling up in an encouraging way, and you think it will come off easily, but you have been fooled, because it comes off in slimy bits, and inconsistently, as some areas will be stripped to bare wood, and others will have lost just the first coat of paint. Don't get me started on trying to get the paint off curved moldings.

I had been worried about the fumes, but one whiff of stripper evoked a distant feeling of very early childhood. I have a feeling I spent some time, as an infant, sitting in a swing or bouncy seat, watching my father strip woodwork. In that respect, the "Dad's" paint stripper was appropriate. Indeed, all that day, even after I'd scrubbed my arms and hands thoroughly (and of course I'd worn gloves) an odor of paint stripper hung about me that was, I admit, not unpleasant.

Here is a picture of the Window of Sorrow


  1. Your post reminds me -- I need to execute some kind of legal document that informs my next of kin that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should I be allowed to strip paint ever again.


    Keeps Learning the Hard Way

  2. Whoa. That's a whole new way to look at the words "Stripper" and "Childbirth" in the same context:)

  3. I'm convinced that painting and stripping and anything that involves the combination of scraping and brushing and mind-altering chemicals are of the devil. I hope your arm is and the rest of your person is OK.

    Good luck with the project!