Frequently Asked Questions

Infrared Paint Removal & Stripping

The following Frequently Asked Questions are an attempt to share with you some of what we have learned using the Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover. Of course, there are variables (such as age of the wood, condition of the paint, chemical content of the paint, etc.) that may not have been taken into consideration. Sensitivity to the particulars of the surface conditions must be continuously maintained to avoid unwanted results. Always use gloves and something to protect your bare skin when removing paint. The Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover significantly reduces the risk of exposure to lead gases in its application because of lower operating temperature in comparison to other methods utilizing heat. The temperature which you need to remove paint is significantly less than you may expect at 20 to 30 seconds. Only heat the paint to the point when it can be easily scraped off. Use a P-100 particulate mask when cleaning up lead-paint waste.

TECH SPECS

What are the power requirements?
The Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover runs on a normal 115-volt power supply.

What is the electricity consumption?
The Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover consumes 1,100 watts.

What is the difference from an infrared space heater?
Infrared space heaters use a mid-wave infrared heating method that does not heat paint to temperatures above 400 degrees F. The Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover uses a precise system that allows paint to be quickly heated – taking 20 to 60 seconds – without vaporizing, which can release toxic fumes from old, lead-based paints.

HOW IT WORKS

How is the wood affected?
Moisture is drawn out of the wood as well as the paint resin, creating a porous substrate and a tooth for the primer to grip onto. This extends the life of the paint layer. Infrared heat opens the grain of the wood much more effectively than any other paint removal method without damaging the wood. You can conduct a simple test by heating and removing the paint with the Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover. Do the same thing with any other method. Pour a small amount of water on that clean surface and find that the water gets absorbed into the wood instantly on the surface heated with infrared heat. Other methods will not allow the water to be absorbed nearly as much or not at all.

Is there a time of year that’s best?
Paint can be removed at any time of the year, including winter. If the ambient air temperature is near or below 40 degrees F – whether using the Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover inside or outside – the heating time will greatly increase as the wood is much colder at the start. In addition, the cold ambient air quickly cools down the heated paint and makes it hard again. It may be best to consider finding a heated facility or waiting until warmer weather. The only concern is that leaving wood exposed until warmer weather arrives to be painted is not a good idea. Painting as soon as possible gives the best results. Therefore, it is recommended to do the paint removing at temperatures when immediate painting is possible.

How do I hold these scrapers for optimum effectiveness?
Position the scraper handle parallel to the painted surface or closer. Grip one hand on the rear of the scraper handle and apply pressure with your other hand closer to the blade. This will make the scraping very effective. Keeping the blade sharp is essential. You can sharpen the blades yourself. See our page here on scraper care and use. Avoid grinders as they will heat the steel up too much and remove the hardening.

When should you begin painting after stripping a surface with the Speedheater™?
As soon as possible – preferably the same day – as the moisture level in the wood will normally be as low as 8-10 percent. Ideally, you should use a moisture meter.

Is there a potential fire hazard?
Minimal. The operating temperature of the Speedheater™ is normally just 400 to 580 degrees F. Only the exposed surface becomes warm, in contrast to the 1,100 degrees produced by a hot air gun, where the air can get into cracks and start fires on the reverse side of the panel. Applying a light mist of water on any painted surface you intend to remove paint from will help break the bond between the paint and the wood surface. The parts of a building that are most susceptible to fire are roof footings, windows and door frames. Tip: If you want to feel that little bit safer, spray some water onto the roof footings and on the underside of the roof before applying any heat. Water usually makes the process of paint stripping easier and is dried out by the Speedheater™. Spraying a soffit where bug webs or bird nests may be present is a good precaution.

Is there a danger from radiation?
No. It emits only as much radiation as produced by the embers of an open fire.

Is protection required to use the Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover?
You should always protect yourself and your employees from unwanted fumes or dust when removing paint. It is more important to use a respirator in an indoor application than an outdoor application. Outdoors, you have a much greater amount of air exchange. Note: At the low operating temperature of 400 to 580 degrees F, no plumbic (lead) gas is produced. This only occurs at temperatures in excess of 700 degrees. See respirators under accessories for more information.

Can the Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover be used inside?
The tool heats paint to the point that it is soft for scraping. If, for example, the trim was varnished, it will come off easier. Primer that has penetrated into the grain of the wood can be hard to remove. If some paint still remains, you can go to a second step. After removing as much paint as possible (it is very important to use a sharp scraper), apply a coat of a solution of boiled linseed oil diluted with mineral spirits (80/20). Let the linseed oil soak at least overnight. After it is soaked in, you can go back and reheat the surface. Remove the remaining paint traces with steel-wool. The second step is much like using a chemical stripper but without the chemicals, and results are usually surprising. If you are repainting, you do not need to do the linseed oil application. You may only need to do a light sanding after the paint removal is completed. Make sure not to overheat paint indoors. Some paint (latex) will generate heavy smoke when heated beyond required time of 20 to 30 seconds. You should not see a lot of smoke. If smoke is emitting, you are heating the surface too long. Make sure to ventilate the room with a window fan pulling the air out of the room and use a respirator.

How does exterior paint removal work?
Expose the paint with infrared heat for 20 to 60 seconds. Usually you can remove all layers down to the initial primer coat. This is a very rewarding experience to see the paint come off in soft sheets. You will not burn the wood you are removing paint from, and scraping soft paint does not create dust or lead vapors. Dust is created by the scrapings from dry paint.

WHAT ABOUT USE ON …

Old, dried-out layers of oil-based paint?
The first step is to heat the paint and remove as much paint as you can with your sharp scraper on a test area. If you find it very difficult to remove most of the paint in the first step, you can apply a solution of 80 percent boiled linseed oil and 20 percent mineral spirits to the paint. The solution can be applied using either a paintbrush or garden pump sprayer. Let the solution soak into the paint and the wood at least overnight. The next day or later, you can heat the area and scrape the paint off. If most paint was removed in the first step, you can rub the area with steel wool to avoid damaging the wood.

Acrylic paint straight on wood?
Use the same method as for old, dried-out paint layers.

Plastic paint straight on wood?
Use the same method as for old, dried-out paint layers.

Plaster?
It may be possible to remove paint from plaster and concrete using the Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover. However, you should carry out a test to make sure.

Metal?
The Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover usually works very well on window bars and sheet steel roofs that are painted with oil-based paint, but not on other metal constructions which are thicker.

Varnish?
The Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover can also work to remove paint and varnish from doors. Applying a diluted mixture of linseed oil (80 percent linseed oil and 20 percent mineral spirits) and allowing it to soak for 24 hours or longer after a first pass with the Speedheater™ and sanding can further improve removal of still-painted areas on a second pass.

Latex paint (plastic paint) on plaster?
The tool works well on plaster, but you must be extremely careful when scraping to not damage the plaster. The Speedheater™ does not damage plaster. The heating time is only 20 to 30 seconds.

Fiberglass boats?
The tool helps remove paint from the sides of fiberglass boats, but it may damage the gel coat. You must be careful not to overexpose when working on a boat. Depending on the type of paint that is used, the Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover may work on metal surfaces as well.

Wooden boats?
This is an ideal tool for removal of varnish on wooden boats. Thick layers of varnish can be removed with a sharp scraper after heating. Thin layers can be removed by heating and buffing with steel wool. You can also utilize diluted linseed oil (80 percent linseed oil and 20 percent mineral spirits). Apply the mixture and let it soak in for 24 hours or longer. Reheat and buff with steel wool.

Stonework (brick, marble and concrete) surfaces?
This tool is primary designed for paint removal on painted wood surfaces. Infrared heat heats the mass of the material behind the paint. Marble, brick and concrete tend to dissipate the heat. It will also take longer time to scrape off the paint on these surfaces, and the scrapers will become dull relatively quickly. Areas that are hard to reach with a scraper will also be difficult. This is not an ideal tool for this type of application, but can be somewhat helpful. There are so many applications for this tool that we have not yet tested. We suggest you try a rental and find out if your specific application works with this tool.

SAFETY

Scaffolding?
There must be a gap of at least 12 inches between the wall and the scaffolding in order to accommodate the Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover.

Wind?
Wind has a strong cooling effect, irrespective of whether it is hot or cold outside. For this reason, you should always protect the working surface in windy conditions using tarpaulin or similar set up.

Rain?
The Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover is NOT water proof. As a general rule, protect all equipment from exposure to water or other liquids.

Can the Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover be used indoors?
Yes, with proper ventilation. A window fan pulling air out of a closed room is recommended.

Faulty IR tubes?
If pairs of tubes stop working, either a fuse or breaker has blown or there is a fault on the electrical cables running to the heater. Faulty tubes or cabling will be replaced by Eco-Strip – just call us. These tubes are not filled with gas, nor under a vacuum. Rarely do they break during shipment, with the protective case and packaging material to cushion them. They do, however, break easily if the Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover is dropped or banged against a hard surface by accident. Tubes can be broken and still heat up and be used. However, it is a short amount of time before they stop working and need to be replaced. Do not operate the Speedheater™ with only one tube functioning.

WHY NOT USE OTHER METHODS OF PAINT REMOVAL?

Potassium or sodium hydroxide:
Lye is used in the paper pulp industry for separating wood due to its ability to dissolve lignum, the substance that holds the fibers of the wood together. On wood siding, this method softens the wood and makes it pliable. The resin, which is wood’s natural protection against moisture and rot, is, to a large extent, removed. The wood surface also takes on hairline cracks that draw in moisture. The most serious problem is that lye gets into the capillaries in the wood, where it dries and forms salts that draw in moisture. When enough moisture has been drawn in, the salts seep out and break down the new paint layers and emerge on the surface in the form of a white powdery substance.

Solvents:
Generally speaking, removing paint using solvents will not damage the wood. There will be a certain amount of leaching of resin, but not to any great extent. The problem is that different types of paint usually come loose one at a time and must be scraped off one by one using new coats of solvent. This is why such an approach often requires great amounts of solvent. It is very important to clean the surface thoroughly after stripping the paint, eliminating any solvent residue which impairs adhesion of new layers of paint.

Steam:
Steam softens the glazing putty and the paint at the same time. The down side with using steam on old, irreplaceable wood is the damage it does to the wood itself when it is scraped.  The moisture penetrates into the wood and creates, what is called in the historic restoration trade, “dead, gray wood.” Even with careful scraping, which must be done while the surface coatings are hot and moist, a significant layer of the old wood is pulled up. An extra surface preparation step is required to sand away this now feathered wood to make it smooth for painting. The sanding can only be done when the wood has completely dried for a day or two. In a production-like environment, this method of stripping can be efficient; operators continue working on other surfaces while the previous ones dry. For contractors or DIYers, the extended surface preparation time can be a problem.

Blasting wood with a power washer:
Blasting away old oil-based paint or thick layers of plastic paint cannot be done without causing substantial damage to the wood. The reason is that old oil-based paint is harder than the wood, and thick layers of plastic paint are more tenacious than wood. Therefore, it requires more force than can be tolerated by the underlying material, resulting in the softer parts of the wood being pulled away at the same time as the paint, leaving a surface grain ridges. Paint applied to such a surface is liable to crack within a short space of time, and the underlying wooden surface has a greater propensity to absorb moisture and to cause the paint to peel later.

Hand sanders and wood-shaving equipment:
These types of tools will cause irreparable damage to the wood surface. They also can cause adverse medical damage to workers breathing large amounts of dust and paint particles that become airborne in these processes. Painting on surfaces treated this way often results in a very uneven and unattractive painted surface that will show sanding and shaving patterns in the final paint coat.

Heat gun:
Utilizing a heat gun can cause burn marks on the wood surface. The temperature at which a heat gun operates (1,100 degrees F) will cause paint to become airborne in the form of various gases, including vaporized lead, which can cause irreparable health damage to workers in the process. It is important to make sure that paint will not be heated to that such a high temperature. The risk for fire is high and must be taken seriously.

MISCELLANEOUS

Do you sell used units?
We have a limited selection of used Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Removers available at any given time, though they typically do not include scrapers and ladder hooks. Depending on your needs, however, new, standard kits may be a better option. Call us to discuss your project and your best options.

What is the shipping method used for orders?
The standard method of shipping orders is through UPS GROUND. If this method is too slow for your needs, do not place your order through this website. These orders use our standard method. Instead, please call Eco-Strip directly at 703-476-6222 to place your order and arrange special shipping. We do not ship to P.O. box addresses.

Canadian customers can also receive orders via a two-step shipping process. First, orders are filled and received at our Virginia offices. Next, we ship products to Canadian customers via U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail. This has reduced costs for Canadian buyers, though additional charges may apply. Contact us directly for more information on Canadian orders.

We do not fulfill orders for buyers outside of North America as power connections and requirements are different in other countries.

Can I use any putty scraper bought at Home Depot or other hardware or paint store?
Traditional putty knives are NOT recommended. A high quality pull scraper which is pulled toward you instead of pushed away from you is essential with the Speedheater™ Infrared (IR) Paint Remover. Heating the paint will soften the paint. It is then up to the quality scraper tool to get the paint off. Most paint on the surface will require a little elbow grease when scraping. Inexpensive scrapers found in many paint stores do not work very well.