Chemical Stripper Application Tips
Keep the stripper activeThe most important factor when working with chemical strippers is to keep the stripper "active," or wet. If the stripper dries out, it stops working. This is why most strippers come in a gel or paste form. The gel consistency also makes for easier application, but its main purpose is to help slow evaporation, which allows the stripper to stay active for longer periods of time.
Using damp burlap or cotton sheets to cover areas is an easy way to reduce evaporation and keep the stripper active. For outdoor projects, also avoid exposing areas being chemically stripped to direct sun and wind. Another good tip is to place a plastic sheet over the cotton or burlap to prolong the active life of the stripper even more. Do not let the plastic sheets come in direct contact with the chemical stripper itself, since many strippers are likely to destroy the plastic. Another tip is to work in small, manageable sections. This will allow for easier application and, more importantly, easier cleanup.
Remove and safely dispose of the messOnce a chemical stripper has done its job, you are left with a gooey mess. This goop consists of the stripper gel and the now-liquefied sealer. All of this goo MUST come off the concrete.
On smooth concrete, a flat bladescraper is the best tool for the job. Scrape the stripper and sealer residue into a nonreactive bag or container, and repeat the process until the concrete is free of any solid material. Be sure to dispose of the waste in accordance with local and state environmental regulations.
Unfortunately, the scraper method does not work well on textured or stamped concrete surfaces. In those cases, using a stiff-bristle nonreactive scrub brush or broom in place of the scraper works best. Make sure to focus on the pattern indentations and textured areas where the sealer tends to hide.
Once the scraping and scrubbing is complete, cleaning up with soap and water is recommended. A great tip I learned from a professional floor preparation contractor years ago was to use hot water and a high pressure washer. The hot water makes all the difference in removing any remaining stripper and sealer residue. At this point, a determination can be made if additional stripper is required or the floor can be rinsed and the next phase of work can begin.
Read all the directionsThe most important tip I can share is actually the simplest: Read all the directions and application guidelines for the stripper you are using. Each product has different requirements for application, cleanup and safety precautions based on its particular chemistry. I always default to the manufacturer's recommendations before relying on my own application and cleanup procedures.
There is no doubt that stripping sealers from concrete is a miserable job. The process can be a lot less painful, however, if you understand how the products work and how to best match a stripper to your particular job. This knowledge will help you streamline the process and produce a better outcome.