An environmentally friendly paint stripper takes a little longer to do the job, but is safer for the user and the environment.
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Before refinishing furniture, old paint or varnish must be stripped off. Several options are available. You could sand and scrape the paint off, but that would take a very long time. You could use a strong paint stripper, but you'd need to wear gloves, a respirator, safety glasses and protective clothing. A third option is to use an environmentally friendly paint stripper, which takes a little longer to do the job but is safer for you and the environment.
Disposable brushes come in handy for paint-stripping jobs. Another useful tool is the stripping pad; some brands have handles so you can use them without getting your hands covered in stripper. It's a good idea to have a bucket of water nearby when you begin your job.
Start by reading the label on the stripper. Shake the can thoroughly, and pour the stripper into a container. Dip the paintbrush into the stripper, and apply a 1/8"-thick coat to the furniture. Allow the stripper to remain on the furniture for about 4 hours (the length of time may vary, depending on the product's strength).
After the stripper has had time to dissolve the paint or varnish, apply a thin second coat to soften it up, and begin scraping it off with a putty knife. Be careful not to gouge the wood. When you've removed most of the paint, begin wiping the furniture with a stripping pad to remove the rest of the stripper. Wear eye protection to prevent splashing stripper into your eyes.
Keep used stripper in a separate location, and dispose of it according to local regulations. This is especially important when dealing with lead-based paint.
Allow the furniture to dry, then sand it smooth. You may want to use a sponge sander to clean out areas that are difficult to reach. When you've removed all the dried stripper, wipe the furniture with a tack cloth. Then you can begin refinishing it.