Chemical paint strippers are toxic but, according to Do It Yourself magazine, if you follow this advice they can work safely.

Remember: Most are highly flammable and the fumes can irritate eyes, cause headaches and, after prolonged exposure, damage membranes in the throat and lungs. In many strippers, the biggest hazard to health is posed by methylene-chloride fumes; shop around for new products manufactured without it.Steps to Safety:

- Read the instructions carefully before beginning work.

- Wear old clothes, long sleeves, rubber gloves and safety glasses.

- Work in a well-ventilated place, taking fresh-air breaks every 10 minutes.

- Avoid areas near an open flame, such as a furnace pilot light. Don't smoke.

- Don't drink beverages containing alcohol before or while using stripper. Not only can it affect judgment, it may make one more sensitive to fumes.

- Keep children and pets away.

- If stripper does splash onto skin, wash it immediately and thoroughly with cool water.

- Seal the manufacturer's can (virtually all have childproof caps) and store it in a cool, safe place. Periodically check the container for deterioration. Don't store stripper in anything other than its original container.