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Thread: HELP -- Globs of shellac -- how to remove?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
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    HELP -- Globs of shellac -- how to remove?

    A can of dewaxed shellac leaked on a shelf and dripped into boxes under it covering some Transtint bottles. It is now sort of dried into soft globs of goo. I have used denatured alcohol to get some of it off but wondered if there is some other chemical that might work better.

    What a mess this is!!!

    Thanks for any suggestions.

  2. #2
    I often use ammonia to clean shellac brushes. Never tried it to remove dried shellac but it may be worth a try.

  3. #3
    Ammonia also dissolves shellac, but I don't think it is faster/easier than alcohol. Might be worth a try though.
    --Certainty is the refuge of a small mind--

  4. #4
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    I had two cans of Zinnser shellac leak before I got wise. Now I either set the can in a plastic pail or pour it into Mason jars.

    Lacquer thinner dissolves shellac, too.

    John

  5. #5
    Now you fully understand that shellac was originally used as an adhesive, not a finish. I learned this the hard way as well

  6. #6
    A mix of windex and denatured alcohol cleans my shellac hvlp gun well. Give that a shot.

    Also, out of curiosity: Was it Zinsser Sealcoat? This seems to be a thing with that product... I buy mine in 4-quart bundles and have heard of this enough times that I'm now thinking to decant it into glass.

  7. #7
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    I had a container leak and solidify on a bench I wasn't using-- maybe 3/8" thick. Solvent would have taken forever. An old sears chisel fractured it quite nicely to get rid of 95% of it, then a paper towed wetted with DNA on top and a piece of saran to keep it from evaporating so quickly softened the rest up so it was easy to remove the next day.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    It should eventually become brittle and pop off for the most part. If you can, clean off the areas that cause issue and wait out the rest. If you are dead set on getting it off, alcohol is your friend.

    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    I had two cans of Zinnser shellac leak before I got wise. Now I either set the can in a plastic pail or pour it into Mason jars.

    Lacquer thinner dissolves shellac, too.

    John
    I also decant into mason jars. Lee Valley used to sell accordion-collapsible plastic jars with lids and these have worked well too and allow me to minimize the air in the container. I'm surprised to not find them on their site anymore, I was going to post a link.
    "The Danish government believes that if we train 5,000 designers, and produce
    one Hans Wegner, the money is very well spent." - Ole Gjerlov-Knudsen

  9. #9
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    Thanks everyone for your responses and for relating your experiences. I was surprised to learn that this was not a unique experience, so I wrote to Zinsser to find out 1) if they know about the leaky can issue and 2) what they are doing about it. I will report back when/if I get any response from them. In the meantime, I will protect myself from future leaky can failures.

  10. #10
    Shellac is pretty corrosive to steel, which is why the can is coated on the inside. If that coating gets scratched through somehow, either by the user or a manufacturing issue, it can eat through surprisingly quick and then leak all over.

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    My findings:
    1. Zinsser Seal Coat dewaxed shellac is not made by the Zinsser, Co. It's made by Rustoleum. Who knew?
    2. After several false starts, I finally talked to someone in the Rustoleum company who is in "product support". She said she'd never heard of this problem before -- so all of you who had the same issue need to contact Rustoleum and tell them it wasn't a once in a lifetime problem. Product Support is 888-855-1774.
    3. As requested, I sent Rustoleum several pictures of the can, including the information stamped on the top. Now I am waiting for their analysis. I think I will get my money back, but I would really prefer if they improved the packaging to prevent this problem.

    I'll let you know what, if anything, I learn from Rustoleum.

  12. #12
    Join Date
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    The cans rust out because the denatured alcohol attracts and combines with humidity in the air. They coat the inside of the cans, but it only lasts so long before there is a rust issue and a leak.

  13. #13
    Join Date
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    It isn't usually a problem because the lifetime of dissolved shellac is limited to a year, or two at most. The cans generally last at least that long.

  14. #14
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    Iíve had a year or so old can spring a leak. Fortunately, not much in the can. It all goes into Mason jars now.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Ellen Benkin View Post
    She said she'd never heard of this problem before -- so all of you who had the same issue need to contact Rustoleum and tell them it wasn't a once in a lifetime problem.
    I thought having a can of Zinsser Seal Coat shellac leak all over a shelf was a right of passage for every woodworker. I was surprised when it happened to me, but have since learned it's a fairly common occurrence. Luckily my mess wasn't too large and it was in my finish storage cabinet. The left over stains from the can just adds to the rustic ambiance of the cabinet. C'est la vie.

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