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What is stripping

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Stripping is the act of removing a certain product/residue/film from a surface, often with the purpose of re-applying a new product. Stripping can be done chemically or mechanically and is a common step when re-applying a new form of protection.

Why the need for stripping

When you apply a sealant to a surface, the sealant will not deteriorate completely over time. Residue will stay behind. Before you can re-apply a new form of protection, it is important to strip the surface from all residue of old layers of protection. The old layer might contain contamination and will be a fragile foundation for the new product. Stripping the old layers completely and give the new product a perfectly clean surface to bond with. Not all products are removed with the same ease or via the same method. Certain coatings are so difficult to remove that heavy polishing or even wetsanding is required.

Different ways of stripping

Stripping can be done in 2 different ways. Depending on the product or the type of residue, the approach of stripping differs.


Chemical stripping is done by applying a certain chemical, that will break down the product and remove the bond it has with the surface underneath. Different examples of chemical stripping are: IPA, traffic film remover and paint thinner. These products are capable of removing certain products or residue by simply coming into contact with it. There is usually very little need to rub it in, or apply pressure/friction to the chemical. The removal is often done by either rinsing it off or wiping it off.


Mechanical stripping can be seen as the use of friction and abrasion to remove a very controlled layer from the surface. If the residue is softer then the original surface underneath, the abrasive action will remove the residue without affecting the original surface underneath very much. The term “mechanical” refers to the moving action that uses friction and/or abrasion to directly interact with the material that needs to be removed. Examples of mechanical stripping are: claying, polishing, wetsanding and denibbling. Not all forms of mechanical stripping are always required. And some methods should only be used when another method has been done before. For example, you should not polish or wetsand if you haven’t clayed the surface first.
Chemical stripping can help to make mechanical stripping easier. In some cases it is easier and safer to only strip by chemicals.

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