I have an exterior door (vinyl on metal) with side light (vinyl on metal) that needs refinishing. Can you recommend the kind of gel stripper that would remove the old gel stain without damaging the vinyl, which I have already done on the side light (thought it was fiberglass)?
Bob - Madison, Wis.
Bob, I'm afraid you're discovering why many vinyl exterior door manufacturers such as Jeld-Wen recommend against painting or staining their products. Doing so can void the door's warranty in some cases. I don't know of any paint removing gel that works on vinyl as anything strong enough would more than likely damage the door surface -- as you found out the hard way.
At this point, you may be better off trying to find a primer to cover the existing stain and then applying a finish coat of paint. I don't think trying to cover the existing stain with new stain would turn out too well. Using the correct primer is important and that is going to depend on what finish is already on the surface and that it's being applied over vinyl. I suggest that you stop by a local paint store and describe your dilemma to an experienced salesperson. They may have some primer and finish coat products that would work for your situation.
If you are dead set on staining the door again, I have read that nail polish remover can be used to take paint off of vinyl. I would try it in an out-of-the-way spot initially to see if it works before tackling the actual door panel. If it does, the product is available in large containers from beauty supply stores. That might be a better option than emptying the shelf of the smaller bottles at your local pharmacy.
I have also heard that liquid Downy fabric softener will remove paint off of vinyl -- especially when combined with a pressure washer. However, keep in mind that both nail polish remover and fabric softener are possible remedies when a small amount of paint has been spilled on vinyl.
Regardless of what is used for your situation, there will probably be a lot of scrubbing involved. That means you'll have to strike the delicate balance of applying enough pressure to remove the stain, but not so much that the vinyl is damaged. That may be very difficult to accomplish. I suggest going the primer and paint route.