We are working on an exterior restoration project right now where the client wants to remove all the original paint from the siding and trim. So, that means chemical paint strippers because infrared is too slow and hand scraping is too exhausting for a whole building.
Dumond was nice enough to send us one of their test kits that comes with 4 different types of paint stripper so we can find the right product for the job. Every coating responds differently to chemical paint stripper and we wanted to find the product that would remove the paint the most effectively before we start work on thousands of square feet of drop siding.
So, I thought what better time to do yet another test of different products that my readers might find useful. I documented the process and results below so you can find the right chemical paint stripper for your job. Let’s get started!
Paint strippers are no joke to mess with, so you always want to be safe when handling them. Put down a drop cloth to keep any drips from damaging the floors or spilling into the dirt. Also, be sure you are wearing safety glasses and chemical resistant gloves. Ordinary nitrile or latex gloves can be dissolved by certain strippers, so you’ll want to use chemical resistant gloves if you aren’t sure. All the products we tested are biodegradable and ordinary latex gloves were sufficient.
The siding we were working with was long leaf pine novelty drop siding that was installed in the mid 1880s. It had approximately 6-8 layers of paint on the surface, some of which had chipped off in places and you could see bare wood that had only received one layer from the most recent paint job. The paint surface was moderately dirty and I setup my test patches under the front porch wall. The weather during the test was in the low 90s during the day and mid 70s at night, with very high humidity and a rain storming during the night. The test patches were in a covered area, so the rain wasn’t directly a factor.
I tested four products for this post all made by Dumond. Here’s the description of each product from the manufacturer’s website.
This is an eco-friendly 100% biodegradable, water-based, and odor-free paint stripper that is extremely effective in removing multiple layers of architectural and industrial coatings from virtually all interior and exterior surfaces. Removing paint from wood, brick, metal, concrete, stone, plaster, and most fiberglass and plastics does not require caustic, toxic chemicals.
A water-based paint removal product that delivers the superior performance professionals require when removing even the most difficult coatings. Multiple coats of varnish, oil-based, water-based, lead-based, acrylic, urethane, epoxy, and elastomeric paints are no match for Smart Strip PRO. It removes paint from an interior or exterior surface, such as wood, brick, stone, concrete, plaster, metal, fiberglass, plastic, glass, etc.,
The PeelAway 1 system is excellent for removing paint from inside intricately carved areas and is highly recommended for historic restorations and other projects involving lead-based paint abatement. It can remove more than 30 coats of paint from a wide range of surfaces, including, wood, brick, concrete, stone, stucco, plaster, cast iron, steel, marble, and fiberglass and is also biodegradable.
PeelAway 7 can be safely used on virtually all interior and exterior surfaces. It can remove most varieties of architectural paints, varnishes, and high-performance coatings such as epoxies, urethanes, acrylics, elastomerics, chlorinated rubber, aluminum, mastics, and automotive or marine bottom finishes.
None of these paint strippers were difficult to apply, but they each had their quirks. For the application, I used a new disposable 2″ chip brush for each stripper to make sure there was no mixing of the products. Each section was also covered with Dumond’s Laminated Paper after application, which covers the stripper and keeps it from drying out so that it can be more effective.
Application was fine. It stuck to the vertical surface without issue and applied like whipped cream or thin sour cream. It was a little difficult to get a layer much thicker than the recommended 1/8″ because it wanted to move around on the surface with my brush, though.
Smart Strip PRO
Very much the same feel and consistency of the Smart Strip, though it had an appearance of curdled milk. Getting an 1/8″ layer with the chip brush was challenging as well since it moved around like the Smart Strip.
Peel Away 1
This product was more of a light grey paste, which made it very easy to get a nice thick coat as recommended. It smoothed out and applied very similarly to premixed joint compound and was wonderful to apply.
Peel Away 7
Almost identical application experience to the Peel Away 1 except that this stripper has a beige color to it. The different color against the white siding made it really easy to see if I had a consistent layer or there were some holidays, which was really helpful. But that would only really matter if I was stripping white paint. Overall application was almost identical to Peel Away 1.
I let the paint stripper do its magic for about 20 hrs, which was on the long side of the 6-24 hrs recommended by Dumond, to make sure we had good penetration through all the layers of paint. I first peeled the paper off, which came off without removing any paint on any of the test patches, then grabbed my steel triangle pull scraper and set about gently scraping the surface.
The Smart Strip removed about 95% of the surface paint pretty easily, but there was still some paint remaining deep in the wood grain. For a repaint, this isn’t an issue at all since the surface was now free of all the coatings. It did cause the wood to darken and “fur up” which would require sanding before priming and painting later.
Smart Strip Pro
I was surprised at how spotty this was compared to the regular Smart Strip, but in this scenario the Smart Strip PRO would definitely be a poor choice. It removed maybe 70% of the paint and resulted in a very mottled surface. It also required more effort to scrape the paint off. I was not impressed.
Peel Away 1
This came off like a dream! And just like the name, it literally peeled off which was a nice change from the gooey way the Smart Strip patches came off. Almost 100% of the paint was gone and it required the least effort to scrape. Just like the previous 2 strippers, it did darken the wood and cause it to “fur up” which is just an added step in the restoration process later, but as far as stripping paint, this one was a rock star!
Peel Away 7
Another winner here, though not quite as dramatic as the Peel Away 1. It still removed about 95% of the paint, but unlike the Smart Strip, it came off a little easier and in bigger chunks. I did notice that the upper section came off better than the middle, which may have had something to do with some inconsistencies in my application thickness, so I think with some tweaking, I’d probably get closer to the Peel Away 1 results.
All of these products are biodegradable and relatively gentle compared to the old school paint strippers that will burn your head off, which is a great modern feature. And the only one which requires neutralizing is the Peel Away 1, which can be neutralized with either Dumond’s Citrilize neutralizer or white vinegar. The others simply need to be washed clean with water.
If I’m going to use a chemical stripper, then it better get rid of all the paint, otherwise, in my opinion, it’s not worth to mess and hassle. For this project, we’ll definitely be using the Peel Away 1 and what’s even better is that Dumond was nice enough to donate all the paint stripper we’ll need for the project since the work is being done for a non-profit historic museum. My restoration company is donating some of the labor to the project as well, so soon this amazing piece of history will be back to her former splendor.
I hope this test has helped you make some decisions on using paint strippers on your next project. There is definitely a place for them, and while using them appropriately is important, it is even more important to use the right product for the job. If you’ve got some paint stripping to do, grab one of these test kits and get to work. You won’t be disappointed!
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.