I have some decent success using the citrus based strippers...way more friendly than the MEK types. You just need to wait and might need to repeat as needed.
I like Ready-Strip. Absolutely safe, no smell,no gloves needed. I used it to strip the maple cabinets in my mother's kitchen, worked great..It's gel based so it stays where you put it! Now I won't use anything else......
Grab a sander and sand out the pain with mask. no extra chemical at all.
There are several safe paint stripper chemicals used today. Although messy they work wonders. You want to be safe however if you decide to sand the paint. Check with lead paint sticks before you do any sanding. lead paint dust is far more dangerous then paint strippers are.
Can you use Zip-Strip on exterior paint, e.g. a wood porch?
I agree with Designing sand away. If you are working on something inside you may want stripper. I also concur with Woodbridge if the paint is older than the 1980s it may contain lead which is dangerous no matter what.
Inside the house sanding makes a dusty mess. I know I just did it. :) I still have dust in areas that aren't important.
Sanding can also "damage" a piece if not done properly of if it done on veneered work. With solid wood your chance of success goes way up. Pieces that have detail moldings/ or edges etc, can be degraded easily by improper sanding. I evaluate each piece on a case by case basis.
Thank you very much for everyones input.