THE COMPOSITION OF PROPRIETARY PAINT STRIPPERS
While the primary ingredient in the majority of hardware store-type strippers is methylene chloride, commercial paint strippers contain a wide variety of components, including primary and co-solvents, activators, thickeners, wetting agents, chelating and sequestering agents, corrosion inhibitors, and colorants. For art conservation purposes, methylene chloride is often not a safe or effective material. Fortunately, alternatives to methylene chloride based strippers have recently been introduced for home use. Promising substitutes include strippers utilizing dimethyl esters and N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone. The general effectiveness of these new materials has not yet been fully determined, but some may prove useful for problems faced by those working in the field of art conservation.
In other instances it may be beneficial to formulate paint strippers for specific usage. Research with the objective of assessing or modifying pre-existing paint stripper formulations offers the potential for very positive results. It is hoped that this article will offer a starting point for continued research on this subject.
The following deserve special thanks: the companies who responded to my inquiries, especially William Block (ICI Industries) and Wayne West (Thompson and Formby); Nancy Pollak, who supplied some of the patents; the Intermuseum Conservation Laboratory and the National Endowment for the Arts, which allowed the resources for this project; Janet Schrenk, Tom Caley, Janet English, Helen Mar Parkin, and Jeannine Love, who reviewed this article; and Richard Wolbers, who introduced me to the subject and advised with this project.