When you paint cornicing with emulsion paint, it gets into the cracks. After multiple coats, the cornice looks like the section on the left – the floral detail has almost disappeared.
Husband spent nearly eight hours (until 3am) on Bank Holiday Monday stripping old emulsion paint off a 1.5m stretch of front-room cornicing with Peelaway 1. Peelaway 1 is a poultice paint remover, which you apply with a spatula and leave on for anywhere between three and 24 hours. We’ve found Peelaway 1 will bring paint off glass within three hours, but it takes up to 12 hours to loosen paint on plasterwork.
Recommended by a Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) Guardian who lives locally, Peelaway 1 is apparently widely used for historical conservation work. It’s a strong alkali, which needs to be applied with safety goggles and gloves, and is best used on old paint on plasterwork.
Annoyingly, because Peelaway 1 is an alkali, it needs neutralising before overpainting. We’re somewhat nervous about doing this on delicate plasterwork, which is basically limestone, and haven’t dared try yet. However, as plasterwork and Peelaway 1 are both chemically alkaline, you can’t do any harm to plasterwork from leaving it on (contrary to what we were told by a plaster expert).
Peelaway comes in two types – 1 & 7. Peelaway 7 is kinder to the eyes and doesn’t need neutralising. It works best on newer water-based paints and delicate surfaces, such as wallpapers – I recently used it to reveal a varnished Victorian wallpaper behind 1970s yellow paint.
Despite Peelaway being a miracle substance for paint stripping (albeit expensive), using Peelaway 1 on plasterwork isn’t something you want to do in a hurry. The painstaking work is removing the sticky paint after the Peelaway has finished with toothbrushes and – in one case – a wooden clay sculpting tool. I’ve taken up to an hour to strip one cornice detail.