There are several alternatives to chemical paint removers, commonly called "strippers".
You can choose your method based on the size and difficulty of your stripping job.
home-made paint remover
To clean or strip a piece of furniture before repainting it, here is a simple, inexpensive recipe.
Dissolve about 7 oz. (200 g) washing soda* in a little cold water. Mix 2/3 cup (150 g) flour in a little warm water.
Gradually add more warm water until you obtain a thick gel-like paste. Add the dissolved washing soda.
Apply a coat of this paste on the wood, using a paint brush for the molding and a sponge for the surfaces.
Let the paste penetrate for 30 minutes then rinse thoroughly (with a hose, for example) while scrubbing with a stiff brush.
Be careful about the type of wood being stripped: oak will blacken when in contact with washing soda.
Electric heat guns are useful when several layers of paint need to be removed.
When exposed to the heat, the paint swells and blisters and can then be scraped off with a putty knife.
Be careful not to bring the heat too close to the wood, as this could cause scorching.
Although this method is safe for the environment, you still need to protect yourself from the vapors and work outside if possible.
This method allows the newly stripped wood to breath again. Rinse thoroughly and let dry. Lastly, sand the wood.
Sanding is one of the most natural and wood-preserving methods.
Very efficient for removing varnish or thin layers of paint, sanding also enhances and beautifies the wood, and can even be done on veneer.
Power sheet sanders are the most practical and inexpensive.
This method, used by surface treatment professionals, can be an interesting alternative for DIYers who are concerned about the environment.
Essentially used for big projects such as renovating beams or building frames,
more and more furniture renovators are taking interest in this technique.
Paint removal by sandblasting is not technically very difficult; however, equipment rental costs can be dissuasive for small projects.
* washing soda, or sodium carbonate, is a non-toxic but nevertheless corrosive substance.
Is has a variety of uses, including cleaning, removing grease and even unclogging pipes.
It can be purchased in DIY or grocery stores.