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The Common Solvents Used In Paint Strippers And Their Best Uses

If you are trying to decide which solvent-based paint stripper will work best for your next DIY project, then you have come to the right place! While all paint stripping agents work by chemically penetrating the old paint and causing it to swell and crack, different chemicals will give you different results depending upon the surfaces they are used on. By choosing the right stripping agent, your DIY project will be much easier and you will get the best results.

Health Warning: Working with paint stripping chemicals can cause burns on your skin and damage to your lungs. To stay safe, always:

  • wear protective clothing

  • wear goggles

  • wear gloves

  • work in a well ventilated area

In addition, you should always wash your hands when you are finished, because even a small amount of chemical residue can burn your skin.

Here is some information on each of the most common chemicals used in today's most popular paint stripping products:

Dichloromethane (DCM)

Dichloromethane (DCM) is an organic compound that is a strong solvent and degreaser. DCM works very well for projects such as stripping old paint off of kitchen cabinets and garage items since it both degreases the surface and strips the paint at the same time.

Dibasic Esters

Dibasic esters are organic compounds which are:

  • biodegradable
  • non-corrosive
  • non-flammable

In addition, dibasic esters are not irritants for humans or pets. Products containing dibasic esters have a mild fruity smell.

This chemical is best used on interior and exterior latex paints.


Methanol is a simple alcohol that is often mixed with dibasic esters in paint strippers. The methanol helps the dibasic esters better penetrate the paint's surface. Methanol is a grain alcohol and is not harmful to humans or pets in small doses.

N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP)

N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) is a very strong organic solvent that is often used in paint strippers for its ability to dissolve a wide variety of different paint types. NMP can cause skin burns and can irritate your lungs if you inhale it. While NMP will strip all paint and shellac types, it requires a very well ventilated area for use.


By having a better understanding of the chemicals used in today's paint stripping products, you can be sure that you select the proper product to meet the needs of your DIY project. If you have any questions about paint removal products, you should speak with a sales representative where you purchase paints and other household chemicals, such as Dip 'N Strip.