Monday, March 10, 2014

Infrared Paint Remover

I recently read an article about a new tool -- an infrared paint remover, a/k/a silent paint remover. The article gave a very favorable review, saying this sort of paint remover seems to work much more quickly and effectively than available chemicals (peel-away, that orange stuff, meth chloride, etc.) and is much safer.
It appears to be an infrared heating device that heats the substrate rather than the paint (as a traditional heat gun would). They claim that heating the substrate apparently is a more efficient way to break the bond between substrate and paint, allowing for quick and easy removal. Also, because lower temperatures are involved, the risk of scorching or fire or vaporized lead is less than with a traditional heat gun.
Has anyone seen one of these or heard about them? Any comments, positive or negative?
Also, the article says that one drawback is the price -- about $400 to buy. I'm wondering whether a cheaper solution might be just to buy a simple infrared heat lamp. It wouldn't have all the special struts and handles and gizmos, but it might be good enough for a simple DIYer like me.
Any thoughts appreciated. Thanks in advance.

TKPCrescent :
I checked out their website. It looks like an interesting tool.
They show the replacement bulbs and they look just like ones that are used in restaurant warming trays. Very similar also to quartz halogen bulbs but with a coating to emit infrared. Infrared heat lamps that I am familiar with are 150 watts. This is 1/8 the output of the silent paint remover. I don't really think that 150 watts would do much.

I cross-posted my question to a few different boards, and got the response below on one of them.
Any thoughts on the accuracy of what this person is saying? Makes sense to me ... but what do I know? BTW, the magazine was the most recent This Old House, which can be criticized on many levels but doesn't usually seem to include false claims.
Anyway, any advice appreciated.
The article you read is total BS. Infrared heat is radiant heat and will heat up the surface of the paint before it heats the substrate(s), just like any other type of commonly available heat guns or devices used in paint removal. However, they are correct in their claim that the total heat output for their device is less (and consequently less apt to scorch....duh!) than a traditional heat gun. This doesn't make their device better, it just makes it S-L-O-W-E-R. Yes, you could accomplish the same results of their expensive gizmo with a $5.00 infrared heat lamp (and keep your dog warm in the winter to boot!) so forget about their magic paint remover.....unfortunately there is no substitute for massive amounts of heat and elbow grease in paint removal.

The information you received from the other site is correct in that the heat will be absorbed by the surface and carried down to the substrate. The speed of the absorption will be dependant on the color of the surface and the wattage of the lamp. Darker colors will heat up quicker. I also agree that it may be a little slower than a heat gun, but part of the Mfr's claim is that it won't cause lead to be released and prevents damage to the wood surface.
I can assure you though that a 150 watt hardware store IR heat lamp would take an unreasonable amount of time to heat a surface to paint removal temps.
I think it's suitability for you would depend on your budget and the type of projects you are working on.
I use a 150 watt IR lamp to partially heat a small insulated rabbit shed. I'll check it tonight and see how long I can put my hand in front of it.

Dear Greg TKP have either of you actually used this product??? I see all the the debate back and forth about's not cheap...but if it works just as well as a regular heat gun(which I own) without the lead issue then it sounds like it would be worth the money.

I have not personally used IR paint removal.
Having lightly researched it when the question was first asked, it didn't take much reading to dismiss the concept, at least for myself.
TKPCrescent probably said it best when he commented that the lower wattage of the IR made the paint be removed slower and therefore less surface damage and creation of less toxic fumes.
It doesn't take much thought to realize that if one went at it a little slower with a heat gun, that the surface would also be spared and the release of fumes would be less.
A side note to this is that I own a fairly inexpensive Ryobi heat gun. I had the opportunity to try a commercial grade heat gun and was quite surprised at the difference in performance.
The commercial one was six times the price but worked six times better than my cheapie.

I have not yet used one, although I still am very curious and probably will ultimately buy one (unless I find something more promising for my project). If/when I take the plunge, I will post something.
For a first-hand account, check out the This Old House boards. Here is a copy of a post from some guy there who rented one:
heres the skinny. i rented the infrared unit primarily to remove multiple layer of exterior paint (wood clapboard siding in my case). it works pretty good. let me define. it works like a idiot-proof heat gun or torch. no worries about overheating or burning, it applies even heat across an approx. 12 x 5 area. it has adjustments so you vary the distance from the surface. just hold it over the area for 10 seconds or so, and then quickly use a metal putty knife (at least that is what i used) to remove the paint in one smooth swing. generally, i was able to remove the paint from the surface in one piece. i found the ir to be much quicker and less scary than the heat gun or torch methods. as far as snchau's questions: 1) i also used it on a door. just like anything else, it worked great on flat areas and required extra scraping effort in the tight corners (raised panels). 2) yes. 3) yes, i think it was about $15 for shipping. 4) no problems yet. 5) it took about a week. In summary, it is not a miracle tool (you still have to do the work), but it does remove paint substantially quicker and easier than other thermo-based methods. if you can wait a couple of months, i will have a used ir for sale. let me know if you have any other questions.
One caveat: I ran across a message board a couple of months ago where a bunch of doctors were posting messages suggesting that an IR paint remover still poses a substantial lead paint risk. As I recall, their view was that even if the lower temperature does not vaporize the lead, you are still left with a pile of brittle lead-paint chips and flakes at the end of the day (just like you would have after using a heat gun). These chips are difficult to clean up, and if they break then they create lead dust, which is bad. I have no idea whether these concerns are legitimate or not. They seem to make intuitive sense. Of course, this makes the IR paint remover no more or less dangerous than a traditional heat gun.
If you run across any other first-hand accounts, I'd appreciate hearing them.
Good luck.
-- TKPCrescent

One last comment -- The whole reason I started this thread was an article I read in the September/October edition of This Old House which reviews in detail the pro's and con's of several different paint stripping options (heat gun, meth chl, other less dangerous chemicals, etc.). The article seems to suggest that the IR paint remover was the best of all the stripping options. The most substantial drawback they identified seems to be the cost.
My bottom-line view was (and still is) that if TOH spoke so highly of the IR paint remover, then it probably is pretty good.
Anyway, if you're interested, the article is very informative, and I think it probably is available online at the This Old House website.

Sorry to be such a busy-body, but your question got me curious. I ran a search and found a couple of other descriptions of the IR paint remover on other boards. Below are copies. As always, I cannot vouch for accuracy.
This tool is excellent. I own one and have used it several times around my house. I stripped paint that was over 8 coats deep and 60 years old. It softened it in 20 seconds and I was able to scrape right to the bare wood. I saw that it's available at
if you are set on keeping the wood, it sounds like the infrared paint remover would work well. I own one and it truly works very well. I am going all over my house stripping everything now. Just search on yahoo / msn etc. for 'silent paint remover' and some sites will come up about it.
By the way, here is a link to the This Old House story --,00.html

Tags: infrared, paint, remover, paint remover, This House, just like, paint removal, traditional heat, claim that, have used, heat lamp, remove paint, silent paint, silent paint remover