NYMPP: Section 2 - Painting & Fiberglass Repair
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New York Sea Grant's
Marina Pollution Prevention Web Site

Section 2:
Painting & Fiberglass Repair
- Paint Stripping

"Environmentally-Sensitive" Chemical Paint Strippers

Chemical paint strippers can actually eliminate paint chips and dust associated with sanding, scraping and blasting. There are now less toxic and less hazardous alternatives to strippers that use methylene chloride and other organic solvents. New products are non-chlorinated, biodegradable, have low volatility and are not listed as hazardous. Some of the more environmentally-sensitive strippers may be water based and use less toxic materials (look for dibastic esters, semi-aqueous terpene-based products, detergents and C9 to C12-based hydrocarbon strippers). While the new strippers themselves may be considered non-hazardous, metals and chemicals from the paint they remove may be hazardous, so all residue and wash water must be collected and disposed of properly.

Chemical paint stripper and covering cloth applied to boat hull

Planning Considerations

Environmentally-sensitive paint strippers are usually made without toxic or caustic chemicals, so they do not burn skin and will not release harmful fumes like some of the more aggressive chemical strippers. This can reduce or eliminate the need for special ventilation equipment.

The more environmentally-friendly strippers may require more experience and expertise to apply correctly, as well as more time to work effectively. Some may have to remain on the hull for 2 to 24 hours depending on the condition of the hull and air temperature. Lower temperatures require longer times, and some products do not work well below 32°F.

When stripping, place plastic around and under the work area to catch any drips. Some products come with a special paper placed over the stripper after it has been applied that helps contain the chemicals and dissolved paint.

Strippers may not work on all paints, such as 2-part epoxies or chlorinated rubbers. Check with the manufacturer for specific applications.

Machine used to pressure wash and collect washwater in one step from chemically stripped hull.

Stripping residue and washdown water may be contaminated by paint and must be collected and disposed of properly, possibly as a hazardous waste. Special machines that pressure wash the hull and collect the washwater in a one-step process are available for this purpose. It is estimated that a 30-foot boat would generate approximately 30 gallons of waste, including washdown water.


Costs will vary depending on product used, conditions, and layers of paint to be removed. Non-toxic, water-based strippers can cost $40 to $60 per gallon. According to one manufacturer, a gallon of their product will cover an average of 50 square feet of hull so the estimated cost of materials is one dollar per square foot. A 30-foot boat may require five to six gallons. The manufacturer also estimated disposal cost for the residue to be about $30 per boat depending on size. Complete pressure washing/vacuum collection systems cost $5,000 but costs can be reduced if the marina has an existing pressure washer and/or vacuum system.