How to Remove Spray Paint From Metal? (6 Methods)

A lot of DIYers struggle with removing spray paint especially from metal objects because spray paint sticks well. So how do you remove spray paint from a metal surface?

You can remove spray paint from metal by rubbing the metal surface with steel wool or fine-grit sandpaper. Steel wool and sandpaper have abrasive sides that will gradually wear the spray paint off of the metal surface.

You can also remove spray paint from metal by using a solvent. For water-based spray paint, you can use rubbing alcohol to remove it and use acetone to remove oil-based spray paints. You should stay away from acid-based paint-removers like bleach that can corrode the metal surface.

This post reveals more about removing spray paint from metal including other products that can and can’t be used to remove spray paint from metal surfaces. Let’s dive in.

Can You Remove Spray Paint From Metal Without Damaging The Metal?

You can remove spray paint from metal without damaging the metal. To prevent damage to the metal frame while removing spray paint, you should stay away from products that contain acids and spray paint removal methods that can dent the metal frame. Also, don’t leave paint removers on metal for too long.

The material known as metal is made by heating different elements including copper and iron. When these elements melt, the molten metal is poured out and shaped into metal. The complex nature and presence of other elements in metal mean that it will react differently to some solvents and paint removing chemicals. This makes it a bit tricky to remove spray paint from metal without damaging the metal.

However, you can remove spray paint without damaging the metal if you use products designed for use on metal. Also, using homemade paint removers like baking soda mix prevents damage to your metal piece. As an expert tip, always test the paint remover on a small area of the metal to see how the metal reacts before using the paint remover on the entire metal surface.

Next, let’s check out some safe methods to remove spray paint from metal.

How To Remove Spray Paint From Metal Without Chemicals?

Using chemicals to remove spray paint from metal increases the risk of corrosion to the metal surface. Here are 3 safe methods to remove spray paint from metal without damaging the metal.

1. Sanding

Sanding

The most common method to remove spray paint from metal is to sand. This method involves rubbing sanding pads or sandpaper against the metal surface till the paint wears off.

You should start with medium-grit sandpaper (like 150-grit) and finish off with fine-grit sandpaper (like 240-grit). The medium grit sandpaper will remove the spray paint and the fine-grit sandpaper will smoothen the metal surface.

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Wipe the metal surface to remove loose dirt and debris
  2. Put on a pair of gloves and breathing protection (a face mask)
  3. Start sanding with medium-grit sandpaper and finish off with fine-grit sandpaper
  4. Remove the dust using a vacuum and inspect the metal for leftover paint
  5. If there is leftover paint, sand again and dust the metal to finish up.

2. Scraping

Scraping

You can also remove spray paint from metal by scraping the paint off of the metal surface. This method works best on old and chipping spray paint because these paints can be easily scraped off. For other types of spray paint, you’ll need to soften the paint to allow you to scrape it.

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Douse the spray paint with water and soap mixture (this is to soften the paint)
  2. Use a plastic paint scraper or wire brush to scrape the paint off of the metal (using metal scrapers will cause scratches on the metal surface)
  3. Wipe the metal with a clean rag to see if you have leftover paint
  4. For leftover paint, repeat the steps above

You should know that scraping the spray paint off of the metal surface will take time, especially on large metal surfaces. So only use this method for small metal items. For larger items, consider another method.

3. Heating The Spray Paint Off

Heating The Spray Paint Off

You can also remove spray paint from metal by melting the paint off. Spray paint is not heat-resistant and will blister off of the metal if exposed to sufficient heat from your hair dryer or heater.

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Plug-in and turn on your hairdryer
  2. Set the heat above 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Move the hairdryer around the spray paint (keep a distance of about 4 inches between the hairdryer and the spray paint)
  4. Wait till the paint starts to bubble and tear off the metal (put on a pair of leather gloves)
  5. Turn off the hairdryer and use a paint scraper to scrape the loose paint off of the metal
  6. Repeat the steps above if you have any leftover paint
  7. Wipe the metal with a rag when it cools.

How To Remove Spray Paint From Metal Using Chemicals?

Chemicals can also be used to remove spray paint but not all types of chemical paint removers can be used on metal. Here are safe chemical paint removers that can be used on metal:

1. Rubbing Alcohol or Acetone

Rubbing Alcohol or Acetone

Acetone and rubbing alcohol contain large amounts of alcohol which is a natural paint remover. For this method, the chemical will penetrate and dissolve the spray paint causing the paint to lose its bond to the metal, swell up, and peel off.

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Pour rubbing alcohol or acetone into a clean bucket (you can mix both chemicals if you please)
  2. Dip a clean rag into the chemical
  3. Let the rag soak and then squeeze it to remove excess chemical
  4. Use the damp rag to wipe the spray-painted metal repeatedly
  5. Wait a few minutes for the spray paint to swell or bubble
  6. Use a microfiber cloth or soft sponge to scrub the loose paint off of the metal
  7. Wipe and clean the metal. Then leave it to dry before repainting it.

2. Using Baking Soda

Using Baking Soda

Baking soda is another chemical that can be used to remove spray paint from metal. The chemical is a naturally occurring alkaline compound that is safe to use on metal. When mixed with warm water, baking soda becomes an aggressive cleaner that will peel the paint off of the metal surface.

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Get a clean pot
  2. Pour some baking soda into the pot and fill with water
  3. Then put the metal object inside the water
  4. Put the pot on the stove and turn on the burner at the lowest setting
  5. Wait between 20 and 30 minutes for the baking soda to simmer
  6. Turn off the burner and remove the metal from the pot
  7. Using a paint scraper, scrape the loose paint off of the metal surface
  8. Wipe the metal with a clean rag and leave it to dry.

The downside to this method is that it only works for small metal items that can fit in a pot. For larger metal items, you should try out the next step.

3. Chemical-Based Paint Stripper

Chemical-Based Paint Stripper

Chemical-based paint stripper is very effective at removing spray paint from metal surfaces. The paint stripper contains ingredients that will penetrate the spray paint and break the adhesion between the paint and the metal surface.

This will cause the spray paint to swell. When swelling happens, you can either wipe or scrape the spray paint off of the metal surface.

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Wipe and clean the metal surface with a rag
  2. Apply the paint stripper directly to the spray paint using a paintbrush or putty knife
  3. Wait for a few minutes for the paint stripper to break down the paint
  4. When you notice the spray paint swelling, use a plastic paint scraper to scrape off the paint from the metal
  5. Repeat the steps above if there is any leftover paint on the metal
  6. When you have removed the paint, wipe down the metal with mineral spirits
  7. Leave the metal to dry.

Other Products You Can Use To Remove Spray Paint From Metal

Turpentine

Turpentine is a petroleum-based solvent commonly used for clean-up and stain removal. The solvent can be used to remove fresh spray paint from metal but it can’t remove spray paint that has cured.

You can also use turpentine to clean paint sprayers and small spots of spray paint stains. However, turpentine will struggle at removing multiple coats of spray paint from metal especially if the spray paint has cured.

Paint Remover

You can use paint remover to remove spray paint from metal because the paint remover is designed with active ingredients like methylene chloride that removes spray paints. Some paint removers are also alcohol-based and alcohol is a natural paint remover so such paint removers will work on metal.

However, you should always check the manufacturer’s instructions to know if the paint remover can be used on metal surfaces before using it to remove spray paint from metal.

Power Washing

Using pressure washers or power washers to remove spray paint from metal works. But, only if you are working on old spray paint that is beginning to peel or chip. Power washing will not remove new spray paint from metal. In this case, the only thing the power washer will do is to get the spray paint wet and weak so paint strippers can work twice as fast.

Power washing involves using high-pressure washers to hose down the metal hoping that the paint will come off. Water alone regardless of the pressure will not completely remove spray paint from metal.

In fact, using water puts the metal at risk of rust buildup. You can only use power washers to remove spray paint from metal if the spray paint is already chipping or peeling off. In this case, the spray paint has very poor adhesion to the metal so power washers will remove it.

Paint Thinner

Paint thinner can be used to remove paint from metal but you need to ensure that the paint thinner you have can be used on metal. If the paint thinner isn’t recommended for metal, don’t use it.

This is because paint thinners usually contain several chemicals including naphtha, toluene, and xylene. Some of these chemicals can discolor the metal. Also, ensure to neutralize the metal after using paint thinner on it to get rid of paint thinner residue.

Products You Shouldn’t Use To Remove Spray Paint:

Vinegar

Vinegar shouldn’t be used to remove spray paint from metal because vinegar is a mild acid capable of corroding and damaging the metal surface. Also, vinegar can cause discoloration on the metal surface and make the metal unpaintable.

Though a mild acid, vinegar is still an acid and as such, the chemical composition of vinegar poses a threat of corrosion to the metal frame. However, vinegar is sometimes diluted in warm water and also mixed with baking soda (an alkaline compound) to reduce its potency on metal.

Though this works, it requires adding the right amount of baking soda and vinegar and an inexperienced person may mix both products wrongly. So, to be on the safer side, stay away from vinegar when working on metal.

White Spirits

White spirit will not remove spray paint from metal completely because the solvent is not ideal for removing paint. White spirit can be used to clean up and neutralize the metal after stripping the spray paint off but it will not remove cured spray paint on metal.

However, you should know that white spirits can help to clean up spray paint stains from metal. The solvent may also remove some water-based spray paints from metal but it’s a longshot.

WD-40

WD-40 will not remove spray paint from metal, at least not completely. The cleaner is paint-friendly and will not damage the paint or finish on metal.

WD-40 is a cleaning liquid or spray designed for cleaning stains, tar, and grease off of painted and bare metal surfaces. The cleaner is designed to be paint-friendly. However, if the spray paint is already old or peeling, then WD-40 will remove it. WD-40 can also remove flat paints from metal.

Bleach

You should never use bleach to remove spray paint from metal. This is because bleach is an acid that will corrode and eat away at the metal frame. Using bleach to remove paint from metal will discolor the metal and make it weak.

How Long After Removing Spray Paint Can You Repaint Metal?

You should wait until the metal is dry and neutralized before you can repaint it. On average, you should wait about 4 hours before applying fresh paint on metal. You should also know that the paint removal method that you used to remove the spray paint also determines how long to wait before repainting the metal.

For instance, if you removed the spray paint from the metal by sanding or scraping, then you can repaint the metal surface almost immediately because the metal doesn’t need to dry. However, if you used chemicals on the metal to remove the spray paint, you need to wait for the metal to dry before repainting it and this can take a few hours depending on the size and type of metal.

You should always neutralize the metal after using chemicals on it. Neutralizing the metal helps to remove chemical residue that can damage the metal or prevent the new paint from sticking to the metal. You can neutralize the metal using mineral spirits, white spirits, or turpentine.

Final Words

In summary, you can remove spray paint from metal using any of the methods discussed above. The best methods are those that don’t involve the use of chemicals or solvents because such removal methods are safer to use on metal.

Before you use any spray paint removal method, ensure to check the manufacturer’s instructions to know if that method or product can be used on metal. Finally, always test the removal method on a small area of the metal to see how the metal reacts.

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