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

A lot of DIYers struggle with removing spray paint from metal objects because spray paint sticks well. So, how to 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, and for oil-based spray paint, you can use acetone. 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, including other products that can and can’t be used. 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.

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. Metal can get damaged from some solvent and paint removal chemicals due to its complex formula and presence of other elements. 

But, if you use products designed for metal you won’t damage it. Also, using homemade products, such as baking soda won’t damage the metal. 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.

How To Remove Spray Paint From Metal Without Chemicals?

Using chemicals to remove spray paint 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 easier way to remove spray paint from metal is to sand it. You have to rub sandpaper against the metal surface until the paint wears off. 

You should start with medium-grit sandpaper (150-grit) and finish off with fine-grit sandpaper (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 remove spray paint from metal by scraping the paint off. 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 need to soften the pain first, then scrape it.

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Use warm water and soap to soften the spray paint.
  2. Use a plastic paint scraper or wire brush to scrape the paint off of the metal. Don’t use metal scrapers as it can scratch the metal.
  3. Wipe the metal with a clean rag to see if you have leftover paint.
  4. For leftover paint, repeat the steps above.

Scraping the spray paint off of metal will take time, especially on large surfaces. So only use this method for small metal items. For larger surfaces, consider another method.

3. Heating The Spray Paint Off

Heating The Spray Paint Off

You can soften the spray paint with a hairdryer and then use a paint scraper to remove the paint. 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 F.
  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?

Chemical paint removers can be used to remove spray paint, but, not all types. Here are some safe chemical paint removers that won’t damage the metal:

1. Rubbing Alcohol or Acetone

Rubbing Alcohol or Acetone

Alcohol is a natural paint remover, and acetone or rubbing alcohol have large amounts of it. The alcohol will penetrate and dissolve the spray paint by causing the paint particles to lose their bond. Once the spray paint loses its bond, it will swell up and you scrape it. 

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Pour rubbing alcohol or acetone into a clean bucket (you can mix both chemicals if you want).
  2. Dip a clean rag into the mixture.
  3. Let the rag soak and then squeeze it to remove the excess product.
  4. Use the damp rag to wipe the spray-painted metal repeatedly.
  5. Let the alcohol over spray paint until the paint starts 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.

You can also use a plastic paint scraper to scrape the paint that is swollen. 

2. Using Baking Soda

Using Baking Soda

You can use baking soda to remove spray paint from metal. Baking soda has a natural alkaline compound that is safe to use on metal. When mixed with warm water, baking soda becomes an aggressive cleaner that will peel the spray paint off.

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Get a clean pot.
  2. Pour some baking soda into the pot and mix it with water.
  3. Then put the metal object inside the mixture pot.
  4. Put the pot on the stove and use the lowest setting.
  5. Wait between 20 and 30 minutes for the baking soda to simmer.
  6. Turn off the stove 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 method.

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 causes 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 used for clean-up and stain removal. You can use turpentine to remove fresh spray paint from metal, but it won’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, especially if the spray paint has cured.

Paint Remover

Paint removers are designed with active ingredients like methylene chloride and can be used to remove spray paint. Some paint removers are alcohol-based, and you can safely use them on metal. 

However, some paint removers can’t be used on metal. So, always check the manufacturer’s instructions to know. 

Power Washing

Using pressure washers to remove spray paint from metal works. But, only if you are removing old spray paint that has started to peel off or chip. However, power washing will not remove new spray paint.

If the spray paint is new, power washing won’t remove it. Instead, it will make the spray paint weak so paint strippers can remove it easier. Plus, using water puts the metal at risk for rust buildup. 

Paint Thinner

A paint thinner can be used to remove paint from metal, but only a certain type of paint thinner can be used on metal. If the paint thinner isn’t recommended for metal, don’t use it.

Paint thinners contain several chemicals including naphtha, toluene, and xylene that 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

You shouldn’t use vinegar to remove spray paint from metal. 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 won’t remove spray paint because the solvent is not ideal for removing paint. You can use white spirit to clean up and neutralize the metal after stripping the spray paint off, but it will not remove cured spray paint on metal.

However, the solvent may remove some water-based spray paints, but it’s a long shot.

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. This is because bleach is an acid that will corrode and eat away at the metal frame. Using bleach to remove paint 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 have to wait 4 hours before applying fresh paint on metal.

The paint removal method you used to remove the spray paint determines how long to wait before repainting the metal. For instance, if you removed the spray paint 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. 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 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 spray paint remover method is without using any chemicals. 

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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