First Arm Experience

Stories abound among tradesmen about accidents involving flammable solvents.

There is the painter who was spraying lacquer on some kitchen cabinets and forgot to disconnect all sources of ignition. Or the homeowner who was advised to clean up over-sprayed paint on his hardwood floor with lacquer thinner without checking for a pilot light or potential sparking electrical outlet. Both lost their lives in the explosions.

We have all heard stories about people who didn’t properly handle oily rags. That’s how we lost an antique store in our town; it burned down. All of these accidents might have been avoided if those involved had read and followed the precautions printed on the labels of the solvents. But maybe not.

What about momentary lapse of memory, or some interrupting distraction, or just plain fatigue. I can speak from first hand experience, or, more accurately, first arm experience. My right arm has scars from burns suffered when my protective suit failed (while we were stripping paint) and leaked a common paint remover. I once returned to my shop to find smoke pouring out of the eves. One of my workers had folded a drop clothe at day’s end that contained paint chips laden with another common paint remover. Unfortunately, he neglected to inform the person who ferried the drop clothes back to my shop. I located the smoldering drop clothe and dragged it outside.

There is nothing exotic or out of the ordinary about these two kinds of paint remover, or the flammable lacquer mentioned above. All of them are available at your local paint store, and, even when handled by professionals, they can be disastrous.

Take extreme care, read the cautions on the label, and follow the instructions! Better yet, don’t use them at all.

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