24 February, 2008

My Career as a Stripper is Off to a Rocky Start; Franmar's Soy Gel is a Bust

All the wood trim in The Box House, and all of the wood doors, will eventually need to be stripped and refinished. Some of the wood is covered under many, many, many layers of paint. Some of it has been worn down to bare, grayish wood. And on most of it, the surface is coarse and bubbly, as if the varnish had been applied too thickly in the past, or, more likely, the wood was not cleaned and stripped before being revarnished.

Before the reality of what this task actually would entail sunk in, I was really looking forward to revealing all that lovely, lovely old growth wood.

Earlier this week, I had a night to myself at The Box House--the first night to myself in almost three years. Ted and Mom were at her other house, giving me a night completely on my own to destress and decompress. (I know I've been somewhat bitchy lately.)

Instead of just chilling by myself, maybe by watching a little bad TV or reading a trashy novel, I decided to start stripping the paint on the bathroom cabinet in my mom's unit as a surprise.

Ted and I used a Home Depot gift card we got for Christmas--the best kind of gift ever--to buy a respirator mask rated for lead paint:

I coated the exterior of the cabinet in Soy Gel paint remover, which had worked so well on our annunciator box. It claimed to be able to quickly strip several layers of paint at once, including latex and enamel. Ha! I left it on for a few hours, and it barely softened the first layer. I tried scrapping off as much as I could, slathered the Soy Gel on again, and left it overnight while I watched the original The Wicker Man on television, a much better movie than the Nicholas Cage remake.

Even with a good 12 hours, it still only barely was able to soften the top few layers, and not even all of that. Again, I scrapped off as much as I could, discovering that about three layers down was a layer of golden-yellow enamel paint. Damn. Its cast iron constitution didn't even flinch in the face of the Soy Gel.

Later in the day, Ted came back with the car and a few odds and ends from the other house. I had hoped by this time to proudly reveal the clean and bare wood of the medicine cabinet, but no dice. I hadn't even been able to soften the paint on the hardware enough to dig down to the screws to take the door off. But we gamely slathered on another coat of Soy Gel, this time on the hinges only, and went out for sushi.

Eventually, with some softening, scraping, and scrubbing with a wire brush, I found the screws and we were able to get the door off, which I carted to the basement, so completely sick of the whole thing that I couldn't even look at it anymore.

Still, we decided to give the Soy Gel one more try and coated the inside back of the cabinet with it as well as the frame.

By morning, the only section that had bubbled up is the chippy bit you see on the back. I attacked the cabinet with my carbide steel scraper, and was able to get off just enough paint to see that yes, the cabinet is indeed made of wood. Very solid, dense, thick-grained wood. Yes!

I didn't wear the mask in the morning, figuring that I wasn't actually discharging lead dust, and besides, I had the exhaust fan going the whole time. Still, something about the Soy Gel chemical itself made me sick, and I was puking the rest of the day. Poor Ted. He calls me his Canary because I am always the first one affected by chemically smells, and once I get a headache from something like this, that's it. I can't keep anything down in my stomach.

So now I'm feeling completely dejected and bummed out. I need to find some non-toxic or low-toxic product that actually works, as I have 30+ doors and miles of trim to refinish. Anyone have a suggestion for what has worked for them? Soy Gel has been a total bust; I had such high hopes based on their promo:
In addition Soy Gel goes a long way, with one gallon giving you up to 200 sq. ft. coverage. That's THREE times the coverage of most traditional strippers!! With SOY Gel you won't have to deal with harsh odors that we all know so well with other strippers. No odor SOY Gel is the perfect helper for anyone wanting to remove paints, urethanes, and enamels.
I've gone through more than half of a quart bottle already, and all I've had removed is the paint on my annunciator box and the first layer and maybe part of the second on the medicine cabinet. If I'm doing it wrong, I wish Franmar would come out and show me how to get it to work. Twenty bucks for a quart of the goo--which is certainly not "no odor" as they claim--is a bit steep.


Anonymous said...

The best stuff I've ever used was Peel Away 7. I bought it at Pittsburgh Paint and it was on sail for about $45 a gallon bucket from $65. It is not caustic to skin and does a fantastic job of taking off many layers of paint. You just have to be sure to cover it well so that it can sit and soak in before drying out. The box said 24 or 48 hours but I left it on for a week and it came off like a thick glove. Then wipe down with denatured alcohol.

If the woodwork is shellac under the paint, a heat gun works well because the shellac becomes liquid-like under the paint so the paint slides off. Of course, you'll need a respirator for that.

Good luck.

Joanne said...

Thanks, anonymous. Someone else mentioned Peel Away 7 to me as well. I found some other reviews for it online, so I think I'll give it a try.

Our Little Bungalow said...

We are using Peel Away 1 for our exterior lead paint abatement project. (Yes I know that is a task better left to professionals.) It works well especially if you think you have lead paint. (Which we do, thank you lead assessor man!) I haven't tried Peel Away 7, but since ALL of our woodwork is painted and I'm whiny about it, I may have to try it as well! :-)