Just as there are a variety of different types of paint, there are many types of paint remover, which contain different active ingredients. Before you choose a paint remover, you should know which of these will suit your needs, whether you are concerned with effectiveness, environmental safety, or health risks.
This chemical, also known as dichloromethane or DCM, is the active ingredient in many chemical paint strippers. Extreme caution should be used when using paint strippers containing this ingredient. Some types of methylene chloride paint strippers are flammable, while others are not. The flammable ones contain less methylene chloride, but contain the chemicals acetone, toluene, and methanol. This combination of chemicals poses some potentially serious health risks. In addition to being flammable, it is extremely dangerous to breathe in high quantities of the fumes from these chemicals. Doing so may result in brain damage and injury to unborn children. All chemical strippers containing methylene chloride should be used in a well-ventilated area or outdoors if possible. Because this chemical is a carcinogen, meaning it is linked with cancer, its fumes should not be inhaled. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, inhaling methylene chloride "can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, and lungs. It can also cause dizziness, headache, and lack of coordination." Your body also converts some inhaled methylene chloride to carbon monoxide, which can cause additional problems, especially for those who have existing medical conditions.
Calcium Hydroxide is an active ingredient in some paint strippers that are sold as a powder and designed to be mixed with water to make a cream. Calcium Hydroxide paint strippers, such as Powdered Milk Paint Remover, do not emit harsh fumes and therefore pose less of a health risk to those who use them. Furthermore, they are not flammable, and are therefore safer for use in heated rooms. However, these paint removers may irritate your skin after prolonged contact, and medical attention should be sought if they are swallowed or brought into contact with your eyes.
Limonene, a natural solvent that is extracted from citrus peel, is commonly found in paint strippers used by those who seek an alternative to toxic chemicals. Limonene is commonly used in soaps and air fresheners, lending a far safer and more pleasant experience to those who use it. Products made with limonene, which is used in a highly concentrated form, tend to be economically friendly as well, since a large amount of product can be made with a relatively small amount of limonene. There are no long-term health risks associated with use of limonene, but as with any substance, allergic reactions are possible and it should not be brought into contact with the eyes. Use the same protective measures, such as gloves and goggles, when using a paint remover containing this active ingredient.