Once you have everything you need, you can then proceed to the tougher part. I suggest that you carefully read and understand all the steps first, so you’ll know what you will be dealing with and to give you a chance to plan ahead or use any additional tools that can further help you.
Step 1. Choose a work area.
Because the chemical fumes are a lot to handle, the best place to work is somewhere outdoors a little way away from your house, especially if you live with children.
If that is not an option for you, a large shed or garage or even an open driveway could work. Just make sure that there is ample ventilation.
Pro Tip: open all windows and doors to avoid inhaling or exposing yourself too much to the fumes.
Step 2. Preparing your work area.
To prepare your working space, start by covering the ground with thick, heavy drop cloths. Or, if you are on a budget and do not want to spend too much money on supplies, several layers of old newspaper or flattened cardboard boxes could work just as well.
Whatever material you end up using, make sure to leave no gaps between the pieces where the chemical may leak or seep through. These will protect the ground surface from corrosion and damage from the chemical stripper.
Step 3. Protect yourself.
Again, because I cannot stress this enough, do not use your bare hands to handle a chemical stripper or any strong chemicals for that matter. Use thick rubber gloves to protect the skin on your hands from irritation or chemical burn. Also, wear a long-sleeved shirt and a pair of thick pants or overalls to completely cover your skin.
Then, to avoid inhalation of the fumes, wear a respirator, a gas mask, or a dust mask. Do this even with the doors and windows open. The fumes and small debris can also get into your eyes, so wear protective goggles.
Tip: if your garage, tool shed, or workshop where you will be doing this has an exhaust, turn it on for the whole duration of this task as well as after finishing to disperse the fumes.
Step 4. Prepare your aluminum ship’s hull.
Before applying the chemical stripper, prepare the ship by spraying it with freshwater, drying it off and making sure to remove any stuff covering it aside from paint.
You can also use a pressure washer to remove the top coats or chipped off pieces of paint. Cover the whole area, going back and forth, and then let it dry. This will ensure that the stripper will work directly on the paint.
Step 5. Apply the chemical stripper or thinner.
Next, pour a little amount of the stripper into a metal or glass can or container. Then, with your disposable chip brush, apply the chemical stripper to the metal and allow it to set or work according to the included instructions in the packaging.
Different brands and types of formulas require different lengths of time to set and take effect. While it sets, you should begin to notice some bubbles coming from the metal’s surface.
Matt and Jessica from mjsailing.com found that through testing on a small patch first, you can know how accurate the time indicated in the instructions will be. For example, the aircraft paint remover they had said the paint will be ready to come off after 5 to 10 minutes but did not, even after three tries.
A simple tip from them: do not apply paint stripper under very hot weather. Wait until the temperatures have gone down a bit and then wait for a longer time after applying before you scrape it off. In their case, allowing the stripper to stay for 20 minutes did the trick.
Step 6. Scrubbing off the dissolved paint.
After the stripper has completely set, use a paint scraper or grinder to chip off or scrape the bubbled paint from all the wide, flatter surfaces of the metal. Then, use a nylon brush, a piece of sandpaper, or scouring pad to scrub the crevices and other areas that are hard to reach.
Pro Tip: you can also use the disposable brush that you used previously. Simply rinse it thoroughly and cut the bristles short.
Repeat the stripper application and brush, chip, or scrape away for as many times as you deem necessary or until the aluminum ship is as clean and paint-free as you want it to be.
In Matt and Jessica’s case, they used 100 grit flip discs to remove the remaining paint. Then, they followed it with 150 grit and 220 grit discs to add shine.
Step 7. Remove leftover paint.
Next, to remove any leftover paint residues, dampen a rag with turpentine or mineral spirits or an acid wash. Use this to wipe down all of the surfaces. Remaining flakes or chipped paint should be removed along with remaining chemicals. This also brightens the metal and evens out the surface.
Step 8. Finishing touches.
Then, rinse off the metal thoroughly with water. Tip: you can use a hose with or without pressure to more easily wash it away. This is to remove all traces of the chemical stripper and the spirits or acid wash. You can also use a car sponge, water, and some dish soap.
Next, wipe down the surface with a different dry rag to clean and dry it further. If you’re working on a big ship, simply allow it to dry for a few hours. The surface should be clean and shiny. Tip: now is the best time to brush on some weather-proofing sealant, a primer, a barrier coat, and new coats of paint.
If you wish to repaint your boat, check out this video: