eco-friendly paint & varnish remover

This is a project I did a few years ago and people always ask me how I did it. It is new to eco enthusiast, but the photos have been on flickr for a while.

A few years ago, I refinished 2 vintage Eames Herman Miller fiberglass chairs. I found them for really cheap on craigslist, and they were in poor condition. There were 2-3 coats of paint on them. I decided to take the risk and remove the paint. I went to the hardware store and found Mötsenöcker’s Lift Off®. This stuff is great because it is: Green Cross Certified, Low–VOC, Water–Based, Biodegradable, Safe for the Environment & User, and starts to work in just 5 minutes.

I was hesitant at first because I didn’t think an eco-friendly paint & varnish remover would work as well as a toxic one. To my surprise, it worked really well! Maybe even better than a toxic paint remover. The longer it sits, the better it works. I know it says it starts to work in 5 min, but I would let it sit for 30 min to 1 hour to get the best results. Here are some photos of my step by step process.

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5 Responses to eco-friendly paint & varnish remover

  • Charlie says:

    This is so cool! I wondered if a paint remover like this existed. Thanks, eco enthusiast!

  • Michelle says:

    I found similar chairs on ebay (orange fiberglass, painted black with white primer underneath) I\’d love to try to refinish them after finding out that a low voc product exists… but your last picture says original surface was damaged. It\’s hard to tell from the photo, what was the damage? Scratches? Did it just change the look and feel of the surface? I wouldn\’t want to waste my time if the chair doesn\’t end up looking right in the end. Please let me know, and regardless that is still an amazing job you did!

  • Hi Michelle. I re-labeled that photo. It should have said “stained” rather than damaged. The chair was fine, but it had water stains from being left outside in the rain. I didn’t want to repaint them, but they looked ugly otherwise. I wanted the chairs to still look vintage, and you can see the fiberglass and a few imperfections through the paint. I kept them as close to the original as possible. You should get the chairs on eBay since they are a color rather than white. It is a lot of hard work. Once I did the first one, I procrastinated on doing the 2nd one. I bought new rocker bases for the chairs since the originals were bent and unusable. Thanks and good luck!

  • Ann Cole says:

    Hello,
    I have just stripped down a white Eames chair that looks similar to your finished product. I have read that Penetrol is a good sealer but can yellow over time on white chairs. Do you have any suggestions for what I should coat the surface of the fiberglass with?
    Thank you!

  • Hi Ann,
    I’ve heard that Penetrol is a good sealer, but I don’t know much about it. I know Penetrol is a petroleum based product. I don’t have any experience with it, so I can’t really offer any alternatives. I will let you know if I hear of anything. Sorry.

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