Roger Bisby performs a varnishing act with Nitromors.
Nitromors was one of the most famous brands in the decorating industry. Then, due to EU legislation banning methylene chloride, it disappeared off the shelves. You may have a view on that ban, and even on the EU, but the ban on many solvents, and the removal of lead from paint, has undoubtedly had a beneficial effect on the health of painters and decorators across Europe – even if the products don’t work quite as well. More to the point, no employer can legally expose their workforce to these hazards.
The challenge for Nitromors was to reformulate their magic liquid in a way that kept Brussels happy but also did the job for the painter and decorator. By all accounts it was not a straight line from A to B. They put forward a perfectly viable product but the feedback was that trade users wanted a bit more of a show.
That is to say they wanted bubbles and blistering to indicate the point where the paint film parted company with the substrate. Even now we are not quite where we were before the ban, because it is a slower action, but it does the job. You need to stipple it on, leave it ten minutes and then stipple some more, and then let that act on the lower layers before removing it all with a scraper.
I have a long-term paint and varnish stripping project that I attack in stages, so I was in a good position to test both products. The varnish I was removing is that thick dark brown coating that was popular around 120 years ago. If you try and paint over it the paint flakes off, but removing the brown treacle has been an on-going job that I have to psyche myself up for. That said, it has given me the ideal place to test sanders, hot air guns and chemical strippers.
Of course, one of the great advantages of chemical striping is that you don’t have to vaporise lead or other hazardous material and you don’t create dust. If you catch the removed paint in newspaper you can then wrap it up and dispose of it ‘in an environmentally responsible manner’. The whole process is a lot less intrusive, but, if possible, it is still a lot better to take the doors out into the open and lay them flat.
The new Nitromors products work but not as quickly or dramatically as the old formulations and, of course, a lot depends on the paint. If you have water based paints the old formulation wouldn’t touch it, but this new product will remove it – albeit without the bubbling and blistering. The younger generation of painters and decorators will, of course, know no difference, it will just be Nitromors to them.