What was that stuff?

In my youth, a friend of mine's dad was a Harley buff. I mean back in the fifties, and from then on. He ended up having a shop, and turning into one of our area's authorities on Harleys.

He used to have a 55 gallon barrel out back of the house a ways. It was filled with some liquid. They would hang fenders and tanks on wire and lower them into the liquid. It wasn't terribly caustic or acetic because they didn't really treat it any special way by wearing gloves or goggles.

It was up on bricks. Then would put a couple of pieces of 2x4 under it, and light a small fire. All the paint would be off in a day or two.

Anyone have any idea what they used? They were old farm boys, and really thrifty, so I know it had to be some very common cheap substance.


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Carbon tet was one of the few paint removers/degreasers you could heat with open flame without worry of 'Boom', and it was cheap and common.

Used as liquid for fire extinguishers...

Not really caustic, but toxic enough it got yanked off the market, as did its replacements, Trichloroethylene and Trichlorofluoroethene

** mike **
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Did it smell/stink? Methyl chloride and ammonia (not at the same time!), concentrated and hot, make real good paint removers. But they'd both stink to high-heaven.

What do they put in today's carb/brake cleaners? It smells like Trichloro-something.


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Tim Shoppa

Smelled like Carbon Tet :) Not as good as 'Banana Oil' but not bad like Methylchlorides, which I need goggles to be around to keep the eyes from tearing up or like I can't stand ammonia at all, but no probs with Carbon Tet: you could get it on your skin without it burning, but you would sure want to put on some lotion afterwards.

Some said it gave them a good buzz followed by a headache. But yeah, I would try to use it outside or in the Garage, and not in the basement. Sure would knock hardened cosmoline right off of parts, though.

Trichloroethylene was wimpy in the degreasing department vs Carbon Tet, and cost more. Ran out of Carbon Tet in '82 or so.

I think its still in there, but I haven't found the gallon cans of Trichloroethylene in, oh, 10 years, and a bit more for the Freon TF

** mike **
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TSP will remove paint. It used to be sold as paint brush cleaner. It is not fast so that corrolates with handing fenders in it for a day or two. Would speed things up if it were heated. It is caustic, but not like lye. Still available, but read the label carefully. Lots of places sell Washing Soda labeled as TSP with something about it being a TSP substitute is small print on the box.


SteveB wrote:

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Brakleen uses perchloroethylene. So does the Gunk brand. It does smell like trichlor. Dry cleaners used to use the stuff and maybe still do. I buy the spray cans of the stuff and use sparingly. Most of the time ethyl alcohol is my favorite solvent when stoddard won't work. Then acetone. Finally Brakleen. ERS

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Eric R Snow

My non-TSP TSP is sodium metasilicate. Wonderful deflocculant when mixing clay. Probably also makes a heck of a hardened mess if you don't clean it up!


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Tim Williams

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