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Author Topic: Household puzzle: What's "milk paint removing powder" made of?  (Read 137 times)

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niftyc

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Household puzzle: What's "milk paint removing powder" made of?
« on: January 22, 2017, 10:52:24 AM »

I have a household chemistry puzzle I'm hoping people on this forum might be interested in.

I live in a 1848 farm house that has had about 13 layers of paint put on it over the years. I've found that various strippers work OK for the top layers, but I'll then get down to the bottom layers and no normal paint remover will do anything. That tough layer is probably homemade milk paint.

I ordered a milk paint remover online even though it looked a little bit like an online scam. It looked very homemade (you be the judge: https://img0.etsystatic.com/121/0/5556274/il_875xN.878519080_s0dw.jpg).  But it worked like a dream!  The iron-hard milk paint that could only be painstakingly chipped off quickly became so easy to remove I could wipe all the milk paint off or spray it off with a garden hose. (Example FYI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z18ZHjeFVsE)  Miraculous.

Here's the problem. My house has so much paint on it there's no way I can afford this stuff. It costs about $0.75 per ounce when shipping is included and shipping is a lot of the price. I'm wondering if there is some household or garden product that will produce this effect on milk paint. Alternately, I wonder if I can figure out what is in this mysterious online powder.

Here are some clues (?):

I see online that in the 1800s milk paint was usually cow/goat milk + hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide).

On the updated packaging for that online milk paint removing powder, it says "contains sodium carbonate and calcium hydroxide." (https://www.realmilkpaint.com/shop/strippers-removers/paint/). In household terms, that's "Arm & Hammer washing soda and Mrs. Wage's Pickling Lime" -- both are on sale at the Walmart near me.

On other Internet forums people recommend a variety of household concoctions to remove milk paint. Typically they recommend hot water and soap (this did not work at all for me) or ammonia (did not try).

In case it is not clear, I have NO CHEMISTRY KNOWLEDGE.

I'm hoping this post interests someone enough to help solve the puzzle! Happy to try things and report back.
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Intanjir

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Re: Household puzzle: What's "milk paint removing powder" made of?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2017, 12:19:04 PM »

Milk paint and glue are made up of casein. Casein doesn't dissolve in pure water but can be dissolved in a mildly alkaline solution. Both sodium carbonate and calcium hydroxide are good ways to make such a solution so their presence makes sense and they might be all there is to the remover.
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niftyc

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Re: Household puzzle: What's "milk paint removing powder" made of?
« Reply #2 on: Yesterday at 09:06:23 AM »

Thanks! I do have some Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (sodium carbonate) on hand, so I tried it on some old door hardware and... it works!  I can wipe the milk paint off with a sponge or a paper towel if I soak the hardware in a hot washing soda bath for a while.

However, my washing soda didn't dissolve easily in cold water. I had to use hot water.  The mystery powder *does* dissolve easily in cold water. Would adding pickling lime (calcium hydroxide) help?  Or something else? 

I was googling some more and I found the Material Safety Data Sheet for this online powder. I am not sure how to read it but it seems to be saying it is 30-40% calcium hydroxide.  Here it is if you are curious: https://www.realmilkpaint.com/wp-content/uploads/MSDS-sheet-for-remover.pdf

I'm sorry if this question is simple but why would you want both the calcium hydroxide and the sodium carbonate? I don't know anything about chemistry. I am hesitant to mix household chemicals I know nothing about but it sounds like mixing in the pickling lime is safe?  All advice welcome, I am a chemical idiot here.
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