Men find friendly way to strip paint

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 25, 2006

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By Joseph Marks, staff writer

It’s the same stuff you put in your refrigerator, Aaron Rocklin said, but we buy it in 50-pound bags.

After consulting with their friends, who own a successful Minneapolis mold removal company, Rocklin and his partner John Abrego went into business together about three months ago using baking soda, yes baking soda, to strip paint and mold off surfaces. Their business is called Midwest Coating Restoration & Removal.

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The two men use a machine called a soda blaster to compress the baking soda. A hose is attached to the machine that sprays out the baking soda and strips paint and other materials without harming the surface underneath.

Most of Rocklin and Abrego’s work has been stripping paint from vehicles, often older vehicles their customers are restoring and repainting. They’ve also done work stripping mold and mildew from wet basements.

The greatest benefits to soda blasting, Rocklin said, is it’s environmentally friendly and doesn’t damage surfaces.

Other materials for stripping paint like acid washes and phosphate washes are messy and damage the environment, Rocklin said.

Pressure washers used to clean mold and mildew from a basement use about 3,400 pounds per square inch of water pressure, Rocklin said. Soda blasting, by contrast uses a maximum of 200 pounds per square inch of pressure and usually less, making it significantly less likely to damage the surface underneath.

Abrego said soda blasting can safely remove graffiti from windows. The city of Chicago actually owns several soda blasters solely for the purpose of removing graffiti, Rocklin said.

When cleaning up mold and mildew, Rocklin said, there’s also something to be said for not putting more water into cracks in your basement. As an added benefit, baking soda neutralizes the odor of the mildew just like it neutralizes odors in the fridge.

Rocklin is national sales manager for Innovance Inc. and first encountered soda blasting when he was looking for a process to clean several machines at Innovance’s Kleentec plant. Abrego is an assistant manager at Hy-Vee.

&8220;We both have secure jobs,&8221; Abrego said. &8220;We want to build this up and see where it takes us.&8221;