This is the best stripper I have found to remove very old paint from wood. You can work with bare hands in a room with minimal ventilation with no problem. It doesn’t seem to degrade over at least five years.
About five years ago I took on a project to strip, refinish, and recover an old deck chair that I liked. I was talked into buying this stripper even though I knew that I wouldn’t need anywhere near a gallon, but that was the only size they had that day. I probably used a third of it before I got all the old paint off that chair, but it turned out really well. I’ll add a still picture of that project.
So when I decided to work on my antique kitchen cabinet some more before Christmas, I thought I would see if this 3M Safest Stripper was still good. The answer is that it seems to be, although its strength might be slightly diminished. My memory says that it did a better job on the previous project. But it was several years ago, with different paint and different wood... I can’t really assess that.
The way you use this is to just slather gobs of it on the old paint or varnish you want to remove. It is the consistency of thin jelly, or hand cream. I bought a cheap brush to slop it on that I can just throw away when I’m done. Then it needs to sit. For laquer or shellac, 45 minutes is recommended, 1- 3 hours for paint would be about the minimum time needed for this step. For old paint, multiple coats of paint, or stubborn finishes, you need to leave it overnight.
You can cover it with plastic wrap to keep the moisture in and make it work better. If it dries out before you are ready to remove it, just mist it with a spray bottle of water.
You can scrape the worst of the old finish off with a putty knife, but for the last of the removal they recommend using a fiber scrubbing pad (also available in the paint section). Do not use it with steel wool or discoloration will result.
You do not need to wear rubber gloves! You do not have to have super ventilation. There is a slight odor to the product, but it’s not anything like regular strippers or solvents. I use it inside the house with no problem. It does dry my hands a little. If I were going to work with it all day I would probably wear gloves just because of that. It cleans up with water! Don’t get it in your eyes, however.
You can use it on wood, metal or glass. But it’s not suitable for plastic or fiberglass. It is non-flammable and non-caustic.
It is a bit pricey. It lists now for something around $25-30 for a gallon, but I think you can also get quarts. But stripping old wood can be such a hassle, that getting a good product the first time is well worth the price. And I’ve now proved that it keeps really well too.
Update On Jul 06, 2010: Don't use this product on a laminated or veneered surface. I found out the hard way that it will buckle the layers. I am trying a stronger, but faster stripper.