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Stripping paint from metal is a doable DIY task that is a key step when refurbishing painted metal. There are many ways to remove paint from metal, one of which is using a chemical paint stripper. This article will advise you on the best paint stripper for metal as well as introduce you to some of the other less toxic methods of stripping paint from metal. It will also guide you through the process of removing paint from metal using a chemical paint stripper.
Table of Contents
What Is Paint Stripper?
The term paint stripper usually refers to a chemical that is used to remove paint from a surface. These chemicals come in a variety of different formulations and each carries its respective pros and cons. These chemicals are usually applied with a brush and are effective in completely removing a ton of different types of paints and coatings. Before we look at the best paint stripper for metal let us take a look at some of the different types of chemical paint strippers.
Types of Paint Strippers
There are two fundamental types of chemical paint strippers. Solvent and caustic. These chemical paint removers are specifically formulated to remove paints and other coatings such as shellacs from a variety of different surfaces. Care needs to be taken when working with either of these types of strippers as the chemicals that are used in the formulas are often toxic.
Let us take a quick look at some of the paint strippers available from caustic and solvent paint strippers to the less toxic mechanical and eco-friendly formulas.
Solvent Paint Stripper
Some solvent paint strippers used to contain methylene chloride which is toxic and has since been banned in some countries. It is being phased out and other chemicals are now being used. A common ingredient in solvent paint strippers is toluene, also known as methylbenzene. It is very effective in dissolving resins and paints. Solvent strippers penetrate the paint and dissolve the paint, breaking the paint’s bond. These solvents give off fumes that can damage your respiratory system so it is advised that you wear a respirator when dealing with solvents.
Caustic Paint Stripper
The active ingredient in caustic paint removers is sodium hydroxide, which is also called lye or caustic soda. This chemical can be very dangerous if it is not handled with care but it is very effective in attacking the chemical bond in paint through a chemical reaction known as hydrolysis. The formula needs to be neutralized before recoating the surface as it can lead to the adhesion failure of your new coating.
Be very careful when dealing with these formulas as they are extremely toxic and can cause severe burns.
Mechanical Paint Strippers
Stripping paint through mechanical means can often be the best way to remove paint from metal, especially if you are dealing with old flaky paint. If you don’t mind using a bit of elbow grease, abrasive stripping pads are ideal. Abrasive discs that are made from the same material are available as drill or angle grinder attachments that will speed this process up dramatically. Abrasive techniques can cause a lot of dust and debris. It is wise to wear safety goggles, gloves, and a respirator when using abrasive power tools to prevent injuries and inhaling dust.
If you are using a chemical stripper it may be necessary to use a scraping tool to remove the paint as it begins to lift off the metal. These come in plastic and metal versions and can be very effective in helping remove paint from metal when used in conjunction with chemical paint stripper. We will take a deeper look into the mechanical paint removal methods later in this article.
Eco-Friendly Paint Strippers
There are a plethora of alternative products that boast all sorts of special features, some of which are even eco-friendly. Some paint strippers have an active ingredient that is derived from citrus fruit called limonene and others contain a bio-based solvent called methyl soyate which is distilled from soybeans. These chemicals can be very effective in removing the paint from metal and they are far safer to work with. If you want to make the best choice for yourself, those around you, and the environment, opt for eco-friendly paint strippers over harsh chemicals.
Whatever paint stripper you are using, it is best to take extreme care when working with them as you risk damaging your skin and your respiratory system. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions as well as the safety precautions that are provided with your chosen products.
Recommended Chemical Paint Strippers
With the wide variety of brands and types of paint strippers available you may be feeling overwhelmed as to which paint stripper is best. The best paint stripper will depend largely on the size of your project as well as your personal preference. You may need to tackle a large surface area of painted metal or you may be wanting to find the most effective eco-friendly paint stripper. In either case, you are on the right path as we have selected only the most rated and recommended paint strippers available. Read further to find out more.
Best Eco-friendly Paint Stripper for Metal: DUMOND Smart Strip Paint Remover
Regarding the best paint stripper for metal, Dumond’s Smart Strip is an ideal choice for the environmentally conscious DIYer that wants to remove paint from metal without subjecting themselves or those around them to toxic chemicals and noxious vapors. This eco-friendly paint stripper is formulated without caustic and other harsh chemicals. It is odor-free, water-based, and biodegradable. Best of all, it is effective in removing virtually any coating and is ideal for removing paint from metals such as brass, aluminum, and stainless steel.
- Biodegradable formula is water-based, odor-free, and safe to use
- Formulated without methylene chloride and is non-carcinogenic
- Can effectively remove up to 15 coats of virtually any coating
Best Bulk Buy Paint Stripper for Metal: SUNNYSIDE CORPORATION Multi-strip Advanced
This is the best paint remover for metal that comes in a larger quantity. Sunnyside Corporation offers a perfect bulk option in their gallon bucket of Multi-strip Advanced. This versatile stripper is ideal for use on metal and can remove around 15 layers of paint. The thick formulation is ideal for coating vertical areas and is easily applied with a paintbrush or roller. Although this product is not entirely eco-friendly it is far more gentle than other paint strippers on the market. It contains no methylene chloride or other caustic chemicals.
- Safe paint and varnish remover contains no methylene chloride
- Capable of removing up to 15 layers of paint, varnish, and stain
- A light coat will remove 1-4 layers of paint in 30 minutes
Most Convenient Paint Stripper for Metal: SUNNYSIDE CORPORATION: High-Speed Ready Strip
If you are looking for the best paint remover for metal that is also convenient and easy to apply, then Sunnyside Corporation’s High-Speed Ready Strip is an ideal option. This premixed formula is packaged in a trigger-operated spray bottle which means there is no need for brushes or rollers. The trigger spray is also ideal for getting into tricky areas. The formula gets to work in 30 minutes and can remove up to 3 coats of paint. As the name suggests, High-Speed Ready Strip is ideal for getting the job done fast. It does not contain harsh chemicals and has a pleasant citrus smell.
- Capable of removing up to 3 layers of oil or water-based paints
- The no-drip formula makes removing paint quick and easy
- The fast-acting stripper starts to work in about 30 minutes
How to Remove Paint From Metal Using Paint Stripper
When it comes to stripping steel, using a chemical paint stripper is often the best way to remove paint from metal surfaces. This process is a lot easier than mechanical methods which often require power tools. What follows is a tutorial that will show you how to remove paint from metal using a chemical stripper. It is important to consult the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results. Take your time, be patient and be sure to adhere to the safety precautions as these chemicals can be harmful to your health.
Supplies Needed for Stripping Paint From Metal
- Chemical paint stripper
- Respirator mask
- Rubber gloves
- Safety goggles
- Paint scraping tool
- Mineral spirits
- Paintbrush or roller
- Scrubbing pads
- Dropcloth or newspaper
Prepare and Protect
Before you get to the task of removing paint from metal it is best to take some time to protect your workspace as well as yourself. Drape a drop cloth over the table that you are working on or lay it down if you plan to work on the floor. Doing this will protect your work surface from accidental spills and splatter as well as catch all the paint as it is removed from the metal, this will make for easy disposal. If you do not have a drop cloth some old newspaper can be just as effective. Use masking tape to secure the newspaper and prevent it from shifting.
Chemical paint stripper may be very effective when removing paint from metal but it can be harmful to your health if you are not careful. Make sure to wear rubber gloves, a respirator, and safety goggles. Wearing full-coverage clothing is a great way to protect your arms and legs from accidental spatter. Make sure to wear clothes that are old and that you do not mind ruining.
Apply the Paint Stripper
Once you have prepared your work surface and donned the appropriate safety gear it is time to remove the paint from metal using a paint stripper. Be sure to select a high-quality chemical paint stripper. Refer to the previous sections of this article for a list of our top picks. Apply the paint stripper to the painted metal surface using a paintbrush or roller.
Apply generously and evenly to make sure not to miss a spot. For the best results follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
As the paint stripper begins to work you will notice bubbles begin to form in the paintwork. This is a sign that the paint is beginning to lift off the surface of the metal. The time it takes for this to happen will vary depending on the type of paint as well as your specific paint stripper. Be patient and watch the magic happen. Alternatively, make a cup of tea and put your feet up for five minutes. This is how to remove paint from metal.
Scrape and Scrub
After allowing the paint stripper some time to do its job, it is time to start scraping. Attack the larger areas first while holding the paint scraper about 30 degrees from the surface of the metal surface. Some areas may only be accessible with the use of scrubbing pads or a stiff-bristled brush. Scrub these areas to remove the paint from the metal.
Work methodically over your entire project and reapply paint stripper to stubborn areas and repeat the scraping or scrubbing if necessary. This process may take some time depending on the size of your project. It is important to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions that are supplied with the paint stripper as waiting times may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Wipe and Clean
Once you have removed the paint from the metal it is recommended that you wipe down the metal surface with mineral spirit. Do this by wetting a rag with mineral spirits and simply wiping down your project.
This process will remove any remaining paint chips as well as excess paint stripper residue.
Once you are sure that all the paint has been removed, it is time to give your project a thorough rinse with clean water. This will ensure that all the residue has been removed from the metal surface leaving it squeaky clean. Next, dry your project with a lint-free cloth and bask in the glow of the shiny bare metal.
Alternative Methods for Stripping Paint From Metal
Using smelly chemical paint strippers may not be your thing or you may prefer removing paint from metal through abrasive techniques or the use of power tools. If this is the case, you have a few options. Let us take a look at a few of the alternative methods for removing paint from metal.
The humble paint scraper is ideal for flat surfaces with loose and flaking paint. This simple tool comes in a range of shapes and sizes to suit many different surfaces. Some of them are narrow which is ideal for smaller surfaces and others are wide which is great for tackling larger areas. Paint scrapers that have a steel blade are tough which means that they are perfect for removing paint from hard metals like stainless steel and carbon steel.
Scrapers with plastic blades are perfect for removing paint from softer metal like brass and aluminum.
Angle Grinder With Stripper Attachment
To make easy work of large areas of tough paint you may want to consider using a power tool. An ideal option is using an angle grinder or a straight grinder. These tools are very noisy and can create a lot of debris and dust which is a drawback. However, when an angle grinder is fitted with the correct attachment it can prove to be very effective in removing paint from metal. Paint stripping wheels and discs come in an array of different sizes. These discs are also made from a variety of materials, some of which are more abrasive than others.
When choosing a paint stripping wheel or disc it is important to take into consideration the condition of the paint as well as the type of metal you are working with. Choosing an incorrect attachment can damage your surface or be ineffective. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and advice. When using power tools and abrasive attachments be sure to wear the correct safety gear such as goggles, a dust mask, and gloves.
Heat guns are very handy tools. Using a heat gun may sound like a great way to simply melt away paint from metal surfaces. However, the extreme heat from a heat gun can warp the metal if one is not careful. Rather than cranking up the heat and going into the task guns blazing, It is important to start with the lowest heat setting while moving the heat gun from side to side until the paint starts to bubble and lift.
If the lowest setting is proving to be ineffective then crank up the heat incrementally until you start seeing the desired result.
Patience is key. Easy does it. Once the paint starts to lift or bubble, use a paint scraper or putty knife to remove the paint from the metal. It is wise to wear heat-resistant gloves when using this method. Be Careful not to touch the metal before it has cooled down as metal tends to retain heat for some time and it can severely burn your skin if you are not careful. This method is ideal for loosening up tough paint especially in those seemingly inaccessible nooks and crannies.
Boiling Baking Soda Solution
You may be trying to remove paint from a small metal item that is awkward to take a scraper or grinder to such as a metal hinge. If this is the case you can try boiling up a quart of water with a quarter cup of baking soda. Bring the solution to the boil and lower the painted object into the liquid with a pair of tongs while being careful not to splash yourself.
Boil the metal object for about 15 minutes. This should loosen the paint. Once you have removed the object from the boiling liquid, use a coarse bristled brush to scrub away the paint. It is advised to use heat-resistant gloves when using this method to avoid burning our hands. An alternative to using a quarter cup of baking soda is using a quarter cup of white vinegar instead.
Tips and Tricks for Stripping Paint from Metal
Stripping paint from metal can be a tricky process, but with our help, you can easily do it yourself. To help you, here are some of our top tips and tricks for stripping metal paint.
- When it comes to stripping steel mechanically, there are specialized abrasive paint removing attachments available for hand drills that work well. These attachments are able to get into spaces where an angle grinder may not be able to reach.
- Once you have applied the paint stripper and it has worked its magic you may struggle to get into tight spaces. A neat trick is to use a toothbrush. Not your own or a loved one’s toothbrush. An old toothbrush that is not being used anymore will work just fine.
- Be sure to clean your metal project thoroughly before you repaint. Any residual paint stripper can hinder the proper adhesion of your fresh coat of paint. Rinsing the metal with water and allowing it to dry before you paint can save you time and money.
- Using a grinder will cause dust and debris which you do not want to spread around indoors and chemical strippers contain toxic fumes. For this reason, when using paint strippers of any kind, make sure to do so outside or at least in a well-ventilated area.
- Be cautious when dealing with old paint that may have been applied pre 1980. This paint could contain lead which can be harmful to your health if the correct removal method is used. Do not attempt to use any abrasive techniques but rather call a professional.
- Use a plastic paint scraper to avoid damaging the metal surface below the coat of paint. Softer metals like brass and aluminum are more prone to scratches than metals like stainless steel and carbon steel.
- It is important to note that using sandpaper or a wire brush can scratch a metal surface. However, an effective way to put a brushed finish onto a flat piece of steel is to sand the surface using 800 grit water paper in a single direction.
When it comes to choosing the best paint stripper for metal it is best to assess the size and the condition of the project before you go out and purchase paint stripping chemicals. Consider whether or not a chemical paint stripper is necessary. The first prize would be to get the job done without using toxic chemicals but sometimes this is not possible, especially when faced with tough paint on a large area of metal. So when opting for chemical paint removal it is always best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions as well as the safety precautions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Use Chemical Paint Stripper on Brass?
Yes. Chemical paint strippers will work in removing paint from brass. If you find that the paint stripper has tarnished, try using a brass polishing solution such as Brasso to restore the brass to its original luster. To prevent the brass from tarnishing, consider applying a coat of clear lacquer paint. This will seal the surface of the brass from the elements.
Can I Use a Paint Stripper on Aluminum?
Yes. However, high alkaline paint strippers such as caustic paint strippers can damage the surface of the aluminum. Take care when removing paint from aluminum using abrasive methods as aluminum can be quite soft, thus it is easy to damage the surface. Ideally, you should opt for solvent strippers when stripping paint from metal.
Can I Use Vinegar to Remove Paint?
Vinegar alone may not be effective in removing paint from metal but using it in conjunction with heat can do the trick. Heat a quart of water with a quarter cup white vinegar in a pot. Lower your painted metal item into the solution once it is boiling. In about 15 minutes the paint should soften which will allow you to simply scrub it from the metal. Needless to say that this method is not ideal for large projects.
How Long Should I Leave Paint Stripper on the Painted Metal Surface?
The time it takes for a paint stripper to do its thing on paint will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so it is best to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. Usually, you should allow the paint stripper to sit for about 30 minutes before you start to see the paint begin to bubble. Make sure to apply the paint stripper generously and evenly.
What Chemicals Are in Paint Stripper?
Paint strippers contain a variety of chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, ammonia hydroxide, acetone, methylene chloride, toluene, lacquer thinner, and isopropyl alcohol. These chemicals are toxic and some can severely damage one’s skin, eyes, and respiratory system. It is always wise to wear the appropriate protective gear when dealing with paint strippers
Can Paint Strippers Remove All Types of Paint From Metal?
Most paint strippers will be able to remove oil-based and water-based paints from metal. However, efficacy will vary between manufacturers. For example, when it comes to removing tougher paints such as powder coatings and polyurethane paints, some eco-friendly paint strippers may not be as effective as caustic paint strippers. If you are unsure it is best to speak to a professional.
Can Paint Stripper Permanently Damage Other Surfaces?
Paint strippers are made from very harsh chemicals that can potentially ruin a wide variety of different surfaces. This is why it is best to protect your work surface with a drop cloth or old newspaper when using a paint stripper. To avoid ruining your Sunday best it is also a good idea to wear your old clothes or overalls.