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Chemical Strippers for Removing Concrete Sealers and Coatings

Learn how the various types of chemical strippers work, how to choose the best one for your needs, and what safety precautions to take when using them

Ask anyone who has ever stripped a sealer or coating from a concrete surface what they thought of the process, and I can pretty much guarantee you will get the same general reaction – misery. The process of removing old, worn or failing sealers or coatings from concrete ranks among one of the most miserable jobs a concrete professional may have to undertake. Unfortunately, it's often the only way to prepare, restore or repair a concrete surface.

Sealer Removal Methods
There are two methods for removing sealers from concrete: Mechanical, which consists of grinding, blasting or sanding the coating off the surface, or chemically stripping the coating away. While both work, the mechanical method often profiles or damages the surface to the point that translucent decorative finishes can no longer be applied. Mechanical removal also creates noise and dust, which can be difficult to deal with. This is why the most common method for removing sealers, paints or coatings from concrete is to use a chemical stripper. Read more about application tips for chemical strippers.

Chemical Strippers
There are three categories of chemical strippers: caustic, solvent-based and biochemical. All three are readily available through concrete distribution houses, big-box outlets, hardware stores and specialty paint stores. No matter which category of stripper you end up using, be aware that they all contain harsh chemicals, and you need to read and abide by all the safety guidelines. Even the newer "green" or "environmentally friendly" strippers contain chemicals that can make you sick, so treat all chemical strippers with respect, and dispose of the waste material in accordance with local and state regulations.

Let's take a closer look at the different types of chemical strippers, how they work, and how to pick the right stripper for your project.