Ever since we were lucky enough to find this beautiful Thomas Jeckyll fireplace in our bathroom, I have been excited to restore it to the original cast iron. When we first found it, we quite liked the blue. It was different and a cool colour! However, we found it quite difficult to decorate around it, since blue isn’t really a colour we like. Also, the paint probably contained lead because of its age and it was in really bad condition, so it needed to go!
Removing the paint
I picked up a 750g tub of Peelaway 7 from Amazon, costing around £20, which was plenty to generously cover this small fireplace. It applies really easily with a little plastic spatula that comes with the tub. I would describe Peelaway more like a paste; it’s not gloopy and it doesn’t drip. It also doesn’t smell as strong as Nitromors, although it does smell exactly like Veet, which makes me wonder if it’s the same product! I concentrated on applying it to the detailed parts of the fireplace design, as I knew this would be some of the hardest areas to get the paint off of.
Once I applied the product, I covered it in the plastic sheets that also come with the Peelaway tub. It’s recommended to apply and secure the sheets as tightly as possible so that air bubbles don’t get caught between the product and the plastic. A suggestion made to me afterwards was to wrap the covered fireplace in cling film to really stop the air from getting to the product and drying it out.
I then left the Peelaway for 48 hours to work its magic.
Scraping back the years
Before pulling off the plastic sheet, I lined up a series of tools to help remove the Peelaway and the layers of paint. These were the tools that helped the most:
- a shave hook,
- wire wool,
- wire brushes
- a cutting knife
- an old fish knife
- a tiny crochet hook
- a darning needle
- dentist tools! (Oral care kit from Amazon)
- cocktail sticks/wooden kebab skewers
- wire brush drill bit set.
If you’ve got a bigger fireplace, I don’t recommend pulling off all the plastic sheeting at once, it’s better to uncover it gradually and work in sections as you don’t want the Peelaway to dry out.
This is a messy job. I recommend thoroughly protecting the area around the fireplace (I really wish I’d have stripped the fireplace before we decorated!!). And have a bucket handy to put the peeled off paint in. Good gloves, long sleeves, a mask, and good ventilation are all must haves for this task.
The paint underneath the Peelaway was oily when I started scraping it off with a shave hook. After I got the worst of it off, I went over the area with wire brushes and wire wool to pick up the paint residue. I soon ran out of wire wool though, so make sure you have plenty.
There appeared to be around 3 or 4 layers of paint on this fireplace. The blue, a green, a yellow and then white. The Peelaway had no problem penetrating all the layers, I could see the black cast iron come through on the first scrape. The bird and butterfly details that were obscured by layers of thick paint immediately became more defined. It was so exciting to see what the end result might look like!
Since I pulled off all the plastic in one go, the Peelaway did dry out after a while and it became harder to budge. I decided to call it a day after about 4 hours.
As I didn’t get every scrap of paint off in one go, I used Nitromors in the more detailed sections. Used together with the pointy tools and brushes, I really gouged out every last bit of paint. I did this over the course of about 3 evenings.
Once I’d got all the paint off that I could, I bought some wire brush drill attachments from my local DIY shop. They were really effective at removing the final paint and rust reside. You will want goggles for this bit!
Finishing and polishing
The final step was to apply some iron paste and polish. My main goal was to get the fireplace back to its original black, but I also really wanted to bring out the details as much as possible.
I bought a tin of Liberon Iron Paste and applied it liberally with a shoe brush and tooth brush. I made sure it got into every single nook and cranny! After leaving it to dry for 4 hours, I buffed the paste with a clean duster.
Buffing the iron paste in the highly detailed parts to a high-shine pewter has really made the details pop. The results are exactly what I hoped for and I absolutely love how it looks!
There is still a bit more work to do on the fireplace. I need to clean up the sides, and fix on the sill somehow. It looks like someone tried to pull this fireplace off the wall at one point. It’s twisted and bent on the left-hand side, which means fixing the lid is going to be tricky. This is why we didn’t want to remove the fireplace to get it professionally ‘sandblasted’, it’s quite fragile and I didn’t want to risk damaging it, or the wall, further. We’re also going to get a slate hearth stone made to finish it off. Even though this will never be used as an actual fireplace again, sadly!