Use a Furniture Refinisher to Remove Paint (Other Options)
Methylene-chloride strippers are not the only option for removing old varnishes. Furniture refinishers--wax-free solutions containing a blend of solvents such as lacquer thinner, denatured alcohol and mineral spirits--are a good choice for removing varnishes such as shellac and lacquer. To determine whether a particular finish can be dissolved with furniture refinisher, perform this test: Moisten a cotton ball with a small amount of solvent-based fingernail-polish remover, and rub it on a small area of the finish. If the cotton ball turns brown, the finish is dissolving--indicating that it can be removed with a furniture refinisher.
Furniture refinishers contain no wax and evaporate quickly, so it's best to work on small sections at a time.
Pour furniture refinisher into a shallow pan, and dip in a soft cloth. Rub the moistened cloth over the old finish until it begins to dissolve. Rinse the cloth in the refinisher and continue rubbing. If the finish is particularly difficult to remove, switch to a pad of fine or medium steel wool dipped in refinisher. Finally, wipe down the surface with a soft cloth dipped in clean refinisher.