Am stripping varnish off a black walnut stair rail and post (not sure what wood this is as stain is different color than rail) and have a white film showing up on parts of the rail, not everywhere.

Have been washing off stripper with water as recommended by the product I'm using, Abatron ClearStrip gel.  Abatron also suggested I try Isopropyl Alcohol which only made the residue darker.  Have also tried paint thinner which has made it go away, only to have the white residue reappear later.

Have stopped stripping so I can solve this issue.  Attached are photos; appreciate ANY help I can get.  I've got 3 floors of railing to do which I've procrastinated on much too long.

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Hi Holly

We have just finished exactly what you are doing. Stripping the 140 year old tinted shellac off of a walnut newel post and banister, and mahogany spindles. I will freely admit we used a chemical stripper, Jasco,  one coat left for 15 minutes and then scrubbed down with 0000 steal wool saturated with denatured alcohol. It worked perfectly. All of the pieces came quickly clean with zero residue, but still left a lovely patina.

Sometimes good old fashioned chemicals rule, but I do wear a respirator and gloves and am very careful about the disposal of waste products.

OMG I thought I had stripping issues but they pale in comparison to yours!  I actually winced when I saw your pix!  Great advice from everyone but now I am VERY afraid of these combustible strippers!  I've only ever done furniture outdoors with strippers; never inside woodwork.  I know of others who have had fires too.  We are in the process of switching from oil furnace to gas and fireplace to gas logs and I suppose that will be even more dangerous?  

Hey girls-I have used SoyGel paint stripper which is environmentally friendly, no offensive odor and no need to wear gloves or a mask!!! Kind to your hands and respiratory system!! Just apply thickly, cover with wax paper and wait up to 24 hours and presto-at least three coats of paint come off in ribbons! Can repeat if needed.  I just finished stripping the old servants stairs and now in the process of staining!! Once paint off, found the old stain colors which I matched!! Now I need to find a stair runner.  Good luck!   SoyGel did remove the shellac finish too! 

Thanks Shelley; I've got to get my gloves off and get my hands on some SoyGel!  (It sounds delicious, too)  lol

Crummy old shellac will soon be history!

Your very much welcome!! I buy Soy Gel from or sometimes at Amazon and compare the prices.  Try to find a company that offers free shipping too!!

FYI: Don't try to eat or drink it!! haha! 

This is actually getting a littler easier now that I've had practice with 1 1/2 floors of railings.  I'm finding that the Abatron gel strip left on around 30 minutes, followed by a light scrubbing with either a brass brush or one of those faux #2 steel wool pads in denatured alcohol is doing well.  I tried the SoyGel, applied a rather thick coat, and it acted almost immediately on the varnish.  Good and bad news - good that it got off a lot of varnish, but bad because it was an awful mess of liquid goo running down the posts at a rather rapid rate.  Soy Gel applied less thickly takes a longer time to act and I found it was slowing down my project. The Abatron isn't as messy and is quicker with a normal application (1/16" - like icing  a cake).  I think the Denatured alcohol is the trick to a cleaner surface.

Later we'll be asking about staining; not sure if I want to tackle that myself or get a professional.  Then it's on to the mantel, radiators, doors....

Really, REALLY appreciate all the input; it's been extremely helpful.  I probably would have ruined the wood if I had just followed the manufacturer's directions on these strippers.

Sorry for the mess Holly! As far as staining goes-I'm just about done with my stairway project.  I found that removing the balusters helped immensely!! What I did was use 60 grit sandpaper followed by 120 then 220. It's labor intensive BUT turn on your tunes and go for it! After sanding, I ran my hand across and if it felt smooth "as a baby's butt" then took the vacuum cleaner with the curtain brush and vacuumed up the mess.  Wet-dry vac used for the floor and steps!  I then washed it down with warm water and let it dry for about 15 minutes.

After time up, started staining.  I found the Ace hardware staining pad works great other wise foam pads.  I find using a rag not the best way.  After about 10-15 minutes, wipe the stained area with a lint free cloth and let it sit until dry then you can apply another stain coat if needed.  Your wood will only absorb so much stain.  Other wise I wait 24 hours and use Old Masters Interior Oil-based poly-urethane applied with a brush.  I apply 4 coats but wait 24 hours between coats.  I also lightly sand with 220 grit sandpaper between coats.  That's if you feel "nubbies" after the poly dries!!! Wipe down after sanding too and don't worry if it looks like gray shadows left by the sandpaper-next coat of poly takes that away.  AND USE THE SANDPAPER LIGHTLY going with the grain-not back and forth!!

Now you might say sounds like a lot of work but you've come this far!! Staining is the easy part!! Goes quickly.  Might figure high prices if you hire it out-everyone knows stairways are the worst!! Hope this helps!

By the way, when you get to your radiators let me know what you find out! I know sandblasting is the best way BUT when the whole house needs to be done, then I think I'll tackle the job!! Have to pay the HVAC guys to come in and take them to the curb then pay for the sandblaster to come pick them up AND pay to have them done-at least here.  If you ask the sandblaster to come do them on site-WHEW! what a mess everywhere!!! Plus if you don't protect your floor, woodwork or possessions all will be affected by the sand mist! Here's one I had done for $1300!!!! Originally quoted 350 but wouldn't bring it in until I paid the $1300-never again!!!

Holly, So glad your stripping is going well at last.  I agree you should do staining yourself---that is the best reward after all the work you did.  

Wow Shelley, that is BEAUTIFUL radiator!  But now of course I have to ask about the WALL!!!!  Is that Anaglypta / Lincrusta?  It's amazing!  (sorry to get off-topic!)


It's Lincrusta.  I had this in the custom built home we had to sell due to employment.  We built the house to look old and it sold in one week much to my dismay.  We bought this house which was built in 1905 so I thought I'd make this dining room just like the one I left-without the radiator of course!!   I even brought my crystal chandelier!!   This dining room had all of the woodwork painted cream with the beams painted red.  The walls were 1/2 striped red and cream with a cheap stock chair rail painted cream and amber sponge painted underneath the chair rail-YUCK!!!!! 

As you can see I stripped all of the paint and matched the stain of the old woodwork that hadn't been painted! This was my first project in this house.  If you choose to put up Lincrusta know it takes two people to hang this wall treatment-it's like putting linoleum on your walls!! The paint treatment was to paint the wall one solid color then went over it with bronze glaze.  Thanks for the compliment too!!!

Yes I know!   I did Lincrusta in a small bungalow bathroom I had (2 houses ago) and it near killed me!   I painted / glazed it with oil glaze and it looked just like ceramic. It came out great even tho walls were so crooked it was tricky and I had no helpers...  I remember sobbing hysterically at 3AM because I had to get it done in time for plumbers.  Ah, memories...

I absolutely love what you did.  We bought our house (English Cotswold stone cottage circa 1940) 5 months ago and I can't break away from my bungalow mentality!  I've already done an Anaglypta (pattern that looks medieval) above mantel to look like old copper.  

But your wall is fabulous!  Do you have more house pix posted anywhere here?


Good morning Jill-

I bet your were sobbing!! Even with my helper words I rarely used came out when hanging the stuff!! I used liner paper underneath as I didn't want to adhere it to the old plaster walls.  Besides Lincrusta website in England recommends to use liner paper. I too used oil based products.

I bet your house is absolutely story book-hey? Have been to the Cotswold area and my genes started doing a happy dance!! Ever been to a place that you felt you've been there before when in your present life you hadn't? That's the way I felt in the English countryside!!

Today I'm putting the handrail, spacers and balusters back in place so when I finish that I'll post before and after pictures of this project!!  Thanks again for the compliments!!  

Holly are you still there?  Sorry we sort of hijacked this forum.  I do want to hear if you decided to do staining yourself and what is happening with your woodwork.  (I'm living vicariously thru you; fantasizing my wood all stripped and ready to stain...)

Yes Shelley, our house is pretty 'story book' .....sort of Hansel and Gretel/wicked stepmother/Bates motel.....with a Silence of the Lambs basement to boot.

Ahhhh it's gonna be OK tho.

I've not been to Cotswolds.  Have you ever seen the synthetic thatch roof stuff on the market?  If I win the lottery thats what I want!

Can't wait to see your pix and Holly's too!




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