Paint strippers and why you should not use them

Chemical warfare and paint strippers. Closer than you think.

Why the dramatic image? Everything in life can be bad for you if you use too much or incorrectly. Paint stripper is a very effective product for certain jobs and we use it ourselves. There are different types of strippers and some will work quicker and more effectively than others. The better they perform, the more dangerous they are. Paint Strippers can be hazardous to your health and great care should be taken when using and disposal of waste.

Paint strippers contain chemicals (active ingredients) that loosen paint from surfaces.
The cruel truth is that most are ‘organic compounds’ however they are NOT any less dangerous.
These chemicals can harm you if not used properly and in some cases can cause death.

Exposure to solvents is mainly through breathing but can also enter the body through skin contact and swallowing. Of course, I am not suggesting that any of you squirt this stuff on your pie or sausage rolls but the first two exposures should be alarming.

If you can smell the paint stripper then you are breathing it in!

Symptoms of exposure are mild at first and creep up on you before you realise you have had enough.
The symptoms include:

  • irritate the skin and eyes
  • cause headaches, drowsiness
  • nausea, dizziness
  • loss of coordination

Long term exposure can easily have long-term effects including

  • cancer
  • reproductive problems
  • damage of the liver, kidney, or brain.

Methylene Chloride (CH2Cl2)

The worst among the solvents is called Methylene chloride, also known as:

  • methylene dichloride
  • dichloromethane (DCM)
  • methane dichloride

There is nothing good about this chemical!
Methylene chloride is a volitile, colourless liquid.
Health hazards include

  • irritation of the skin and upper respiratory system
  • solvent narcosis
  • pulmonary edema (liquid forming in your lungs)
  • and heart arrhythmias (irregular heart beats)

Methylene chloride also can cause heart attacks because it is metabolized to carbon monoxide in the bloodstream. The carbon monoxide ties up the blood’s oxygen-carrying ability, depriving the heart and body of sufficient oxygen. People with heart problems and heavy smokers are especially at risk when using methylene chloride paint strippers.

Perhaps the most serious hazard of methylene chloride is its link to cancer.
Years of research has proven that methylene chloride does cause cancer in animals.
In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared it a suspected occupational carcinogen and has set a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 25 parts per million in air.

Paint strippers or Chemical warfare?

Methylene chloride decomposes in the presence of flames, hot surfaces, or ultraviolet light to produce highly toxic phosgene gas. This colourless gas gained infamy as a chemical weapon during World War I. It is responsible for about 85% of the 100,000 deaths caused by chemical weapons. For this reason, many paint stripper labels carry a warning against smoking while working, and direct users to keep vapours away from flames or hot surfaces.

I can buy paint strippers with this chemical from any leading hardware store!

Down the rabbit hole

Then there is a shopping list of other paint strippers with other chemicals.
Everything from ingredients similar to engine anti-freeze to chemicals used for pharmaceutical drugs that warn to not use if you are taking medications!


I started writing this page to outline the risks of paint strippers. Pretty quickly I found myself down the rabbit hole reading about so many chemicals, I became dizzy just thinking about it.
Not to mention pretty mad about how easily these chemicals are used in today’s products.

Then there is fire and disposal

So after all the health risks either short or long term there is also the risk of fire.
Because most solvents are volatile and flammable by nature, you have to work in a well-ventilated area.
Preferably outside where there is no chance of vapour buildup.

If you must use paint strippers inside, open all doors and windows and use fans to force air in and out of the area.
Disposal of old rags and other items and tools used in the job is a serious consideration as well.
You should allow the solvents to evaporate as best you can before placing in any confined bag or rubbish bin

Still want to use paint strippers?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you and please read more about the risks and how to avoid them. There are many sites and resources online talking about how to best use paint strippers. Natural Handyman has written a similar article on The Dangerous Chemicals In Paint Removers.
There is a better way than any of this. Contact MP BLAST and we can remove the paint chemical free!
We have already decided that paint strippers are bad news! As part of our mission, we are also giving you an alternative by offering our zero chemical service.


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