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When using chemical strippers on old varnished or painted surfaces there are a few tips to keep in mind to make the project easier. After all, if you prepare correctly clean up becomes a snap.

1. Use a well ventilated area. Work outside whenever possible. This keeps fumes from building up and makes discarding waste materials that much easier. No danger of tracking it through the house. But if you need to work inside (on fixed cabinets for instance for example) open windows and doors whenver possible. Use a fan as well to move fumes out of the area and you will want to wear a breathing mask called a respirator. It uses carbon filters to trap fumes, and you can purchase them at any building center or auto paint and supply store.

2. Protect the area under the work. Whether working inside or outside use a drop cloth as your base layer to protect a large area around the work. This allows you to keep accidental smears from becoming part of your hardwood floors, driveway or lawn. Next, spread newspapers directly under the work and can be secured with masking tape and easily disposed.

3. In addition to the respirator other safety items you will want to use are heavy duty rubber gloves and safety glasses, this avoids getting irritants in your eyes. Also wearing old clothing is best, as its easy to stain your clothes while involved in a stripping project.

4. Basic tools you will want are easy to find are easy to find. Start with an inexpensive paint brush, a cheap disposable type is best, but not the foam sponge type as many chemical strippers melt foam. A scraper or putty knife, the more flexible the better as you will be less likely to gauge the wood and save having to sand. Also, an old toothbrush is great for getting into corners and crevices are less likely to “raise the grain” of the wood than metal bristle brushes, and last but not least an old milk carton, the waxed cardboard type are best because it is best to scrape the “gunk” right off your tools without scratching or damaging them.

5. Now that you are completely prepped, lets go. Start applying the chemical stripper to your workpiece following the label instructions carefully. Use the paintbrush ot apply a thick coat and the toothbrush to work it into the grooves, corners and crevices. Wait the required amount of time (usually 5 to 10 minutes) before you start to remove the old paint. Now, two tips to make the process itself easier. First, work in small areas, don’t try to cover the whole piece and remove the “gunk” all at once. Many strippers are even harder to remove once they’ve dried, so working in small portions is best. Second is to use saw dust, by adding sawdust a minute or two before scraping, you’ll absorb most of the liquid and create a gel. This is easier to remove and discard. Remember also to check regulations in your area about disposing of this type of waste.

6. Wipe surfaces down. Use an old, slightly damp rag to wipe down the surfaces. Let dry several hours and be ready to sand and/or refinish your workpiece. If your project has many layers of paint or varnish it may be necessary to repeat part 5 or this article until the surface is satisfactorily stripped.