Paint stripping is patience because you must leave it on as long as possible; this is most important. Second, you should be applying the product in thick strokes in one direction only for stripping paint. Do not spread it around too much. Apply it and leave it. The longer it is undisturbed the deeper into the paint it will go. Removing paint and varnish is an art with a learning curve.
Watching stripper work, not unlike watching paint dry, can be very boring. That is why so many people remove it too soon. Some strippers take 20 minutes to reach maximum penetration while others take several hours. Typically the faster acting products use harsher chemicals.
The learning curve of stripping is to wait as long as possible without letting the stripper harden. Remove the stripper too soon and you waste working stripper, but leave it on too long and it gets hard requiring starting over. Both waste time.
Zip-Strip Industrial Strength is one of the stronger but faster acting strippers. Having used this product previously I know your timing will be from 15 to 40 minutes depending on the amount of old paint you need to remove.
Now here is one of the best tricks. After the first coat is on a ‘while’, dab additional stripper on the spots that are getting hard. This is where the stripper was applied a little thinner or the paint is thicker. This will keep the first coat alive allowing it to melt deeper. Eventually you could recoat the whole area preventing it from getting hard.
After a ‘while’ take a few test scrapes and see how much of the paint is coming off. If 90% of the paint is coming off it is time to remove your first application of stripper.
Use a scraper to remove the first coat if your work is flat. If your work isn’t, use coarse steel.
The final coat of stripper will stay soft much longer than the first because there is less paint for the stripper to react with. Use steel wool or a plastic pad to remove the last coat of stripper. This will get deeper into the pores. This is important if you are staining the wood.
If the wood has fine detail work that is hard to get into, apply several coats of stripper to the area without removing any. This may take 3 or 4 coats over an hour or so until most of the paint floats to the surface. It should be easy to remove the paint at this time.
Tip 246: Use your best old brush that was good once but was not cleaned properly. When you’re done stripping, rinse it out with your strippers recommended solvent. (Paint thinner, if you are using Zip-Strip.) Wrap it in newspaper and you may save an old brush.
Tip 247: While you are waiting for the stripper to soften one piece of the project, apply a coat to a smaller piece while you’re waiting. This will keep your mind from wandering and you from getting too board. Ha ha.