Can You Spray Paint for Galvanized Steel

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Last updated: June 21, 2023

Discover Whether You Can Use Spray Paint for Galvanized Steel in This Professional Painting Guide.

Can you spray paint for galvanized steel?

If you have ever tried to spray paint galvanized steel, you will know that it doesn’t usually work well. Spray paint doesn’t normally adhere well to galvanized steel as it does to wood or plaster. 

The layer of zinc produced from the oxidation process, while it reduces corrosion, makes it difficult for paint to stick. Any paint you apply will eventually peel or shed. 

Fortunately, there’s a way spray painting galvanized steel is possible. In this article, we will look at how to spray paint galvanized steel the right way so as to restore it to top condition and give it an industrial edge.

Can You Spray Paint For Galvanized Steel?

Yes, you can spray paint galvanized steel using either zinc-rich paint or cold galvanizing spray. Adequate surface preparation is required, especially if you’re using spray paint not designed for the job. This involves priming the surface to create an even, workable surface for the new paint.

What Is Galvanized Steel?

Galvanized steel is simply standard zinc that has been coated with zinc to increase its corrosion resistance. The iron steel is the substrate, while the zinc coating is the protective layer. 

In other words, the zinc acts as a barrier protecting the underlying steel from water and oxygen, thus preventing rust. 

The process through which zinc is applied to the steel structure is known as “galvanization.”

Galvanization is extremely important because it ensures steel and iron products are more durable. This is why galvanized steel has a longer life than non-galvanized steel. 

In fact, the life expectancy of most galvanized coatings can be up to 50 years, depending on the application and maintenance. 

Talking about maintenance, without any protective coating, non-galvanized steel usually requires more maintenance to maintain its appearance and structural integrity. Galvanized steel, on the other hand, is low maintenance. 

However, while galvanization does increase the lifespan of steel, it doesn’t make it completely immune to rust. 

Galvanized steel will eventually rust, especially when in contact with high levels of acidity or salt water. Though it may take a long time for this to happen. 

What Spray Paint Works on Galvanized Metal?

Not all spray paint work on galvanized steel. For the best-in-class adhesion, use cold galvanizing spray paint. It could be water-based or solvent-based acrylic (lacquer) spray paint. Ideally, it should have a high amount of zinc.  

You can also use acrylic latex-based paint if you want something cheaper. 

Avoid alkyd-based paint as it tends to react with zinc leading to the formation of soap on the surface, a process known as “saponification.” This prevents the paint from adhering well and leads to peeling. 

Since many spray paints have alkyd resin as a solvent, you always want to check the product label before making your purchase.  

Generally, most cold galvanizing spray paints have a limited color selection. If you decide to use oil-based spray paint, make sure it’s specifically made for galvanized steel.

Other options are high-heat spray paint for items that are exposed to heat, such as a barbecue. High-grade epoxy or vinyl-based paint also works on galvanized metal but is typically unavailable in spray form. 

Regardless of what paint you use, ensure the surface is clean and remove any white rust that has developed over time. 

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Spray Paint for Galvanized Steel

Color

An important consideration to make when choosing spray paint for galvanized surface is the color. Some spray paints are available in various colors, while some have very limited color selection. 

Regardless of the product you choose, you want a color that will show up well on the object. 

Galvanized steel usually has a dark, grey, or light grey color. As a result, it’s better to paint it with a darker color that will contrast more with the natural color of the metal. 

Durability

Spray paint durability is a big deal, especially if you plan to use the spray paint outdoors or in areas with extreme heat or traffic. 

Outdoor paint jobs are usually exposed to harsh environmental conditions such as moisture, U.V. rays, extreme temperature changes, and even acid rain. 

So besides adhering well, you will want to ensure the paint provides U.V. and water resistance. If you choose anything less, it could chip or fade, or even worse, trap moisture against the metal, causing it to degrade faster. 

One way to know if the spray paint is durable or not is to check the label. Most manufacturers often use specific terms like “durable,” “long-lasting,” “outdoors,” or something similar. 

Primer or No Primer

Like any other material, metals usually require a coat of primer before painting for better adhesion. However, not all primers will work for different metals. 

Specifically, ferrous metals like steel and cast iron require a different primer from their non-ferrous counterparts like aluminum and stainless steel. This is because ferrous metals are more likely to rust sooner. 

You can treat galvanized steel as non-ferrous metal when it comes to what primer to use. 

Some spray paints come with primer built-in, so there’s no need to apply a separate coat of primer. This saves time and money. 

5 Best Spray Paint for Galvanized Steel  

1. Best Overallβ€”Rust-Oleum Professional Cold Galvanizing Compound

The Rust-Oleum Professional Compound Spray is ideal when you need to touch up damaged or weathered galvanized steel surfaces such as gutters, fences, or sheds. It gives a new life to the object while providing rust protection.

One of the main highlights of the paint is its high zinc content. According to the manufacturer, it contains about 93 percent pure zinc coating and adheres pretty well. 

Of course, surface prep is required to get the best possible finish. This means cleaning the surface and drying it thoroughly. Use a degreaser to take care of oils (if any) and remove all and any rust before applying the paint. 

One coat of paint followed by a little touch-up on uneven spots is all you need to renew the metal. However, we recommend applying at least 3 layers to stop rust completely. 

The paint dries to touch in 30 minutes, which is great if you’re in a hurry to complete the project. It’s a good idea to wait a long time (at least a few days) for the paint to cure fully before handling it to avoid leaving any scratches. We found that it hardens with time and doesn’t scratch easily once fully cured.

No top coat is required, but if you must apply one, make sure it’s a water-based product. Otherwise, if you wish to use an oil-based product, you would need to coat it with a water-based primer beforehand.

Once dry, the paint has a dull gray primer look. But after a week or two, especially if it gets wet, it takes on the original galvanized steel look – cold or flat grey. 

The paint is also available as Bright Galvanizing Spray for those who desire a shinier finish. Remember to shake the can well before use. You should hear the rattling of the ball inside. 

What We Like πŸ‘

  • Helps to prevent corrosion.
  • Easy to use and sprays well.
  • Looks great and holds up well.
  • Reasonable pricing.
  • Good coverage.

What Could Improve πŸ‘Ž

  • Looks like flat gray paint initially.

2. Best Textured Spray Paint β€”Rust-Oleum Textured

The Rust-Oleum Textured Spray Paint doesn’t only protect metals from rust but also improves their look. It’s perfect when you want to give your galvanized steel a more upscaled and textured finish. 

The oil-based formula is designed to take rust away while providing color retention and weather protection. It is also resistant to chipping once it’s fully cured. You can use it on both interior and exterior surfaces to achieve professional, high-end results. 

One of the main highlights is that it adheres to different materials, not only metals. These include wood, concrete, and even masonry. 

Like most Rust-Oleum aerosols, it comes with any-angle spray for spraying in all directions, even upside down. It also features a comfort tip with a wide finger pad to reduce finger fatigue caused by continuous spraying.

The aerosol is very easy to use, and it’s almost impossible to make a mistake once you follow the instructions. Even when you do (such as overspray), the texture takes care of it by evening out. 

Just keep the can moving at a steady rate to avoid a splotchy appearance. 

For the best results, gently sand any rust on the surface before spray painting. Once completed, allow the paint to cure fully before use. 

According to the manufacturer, the paint dries to touch in 15 minutes, but we found that it can take a few days to completely dry. So, be patient and no hand-gripping before the metal dries.

Some users complain about the nozzle getting clogged after a while. To prevent this, stop and shake the can frequently while on the job.

Each aerosol is the standard size (12 oz) but covers only 6 square feet, which isn’t that great. So, you might need a few bottles to complete your project. 

What We Like πŸ‘

  • Superior textured finish and high-end appearance.
  • Excellent color retention and rust protection.
  • Available in multiple colors.
  • Easy to use (great for beginners)
  • Comes with a comfortable spray to reduce finger fatigue.
  • Suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

We Could Improve πŸ‘Ž

  • A bit expensive but worth the money.
  • Takes a long time to cure fully.

3. Best General- Purpose Spray Paint – Krylon Fusion

Krylon Fusion is an all-in-one spray paint that includes both paint and primer, which reduces the overall work involved. It provides good coverage and adheres to most surfaces, including galvanized steel. Some of these include plastic, PVC, wood, and tile.

Besides paint and primer, the product also contains sealant. So, there’s no need to apply a separate coat of primer or sealant. Likewise, you don’t need to sand the surface unless you need to remove rust. 

The paint is available in many different colors. Each leaves a sleek, modern finish that holds up against the elements. Some of the popular ones are satin black, fire red, clamshell, pale sage, and ink blue.

The time the paint takes to dry to touch is about 20 minutes, depending on the weather condition. 

Follow the instructions on the label to apply the paint. Move your hand steadily and spray back and forth, overlapping. It’s better to use multiple light coats instead of one heavy coat to avoid any runs or drips. 

For optimal results, spray when the temperature and humidity is moderate outside. 

Each aerosol can is about 12 oz and covers up to 25 square feet, which is quite a lot. So, you will only need a few bottles for most galvanized paint work.

They can also feature a large push button for comfortable spraying. The “any-angle” makes it possible to spray at any angle. 

Since this is an oil-based product, you need to use it outside. Also, you will need mineral spirits or thinner for cleanup. 

Before applying the paint, make sure the surface is clean. It’s best to carry the project outside. 

What We Like πŸ‘

  • Doesn’t drip or run (very forgiving)
  • Comes in many different colors.
  • Very forgiving (difficult to mess up)
  • Features a comfortable spry tip.
  • Sprays in all directions.
  • Long-lasting protection.

What Could Improve πŸ‘Ž

  • Has a strong odor
  • Could be cheaper 

4. Best High Heat Spray Paint β€”Rutland Products 80

The Rutland Hi-Temp Spray Paint is specifically formulated to withstand high temperatures up to 12000 degrees F without peeling or blistering. 

It comes in a flat black color and is perfect for metal surfaces that don’t require any shine. These include items such as your grill, stove, smoker, stove pipe, furnace, lamppost, fireplace insert, or chimney cap. 

Besides steel and galvanized steel, it also adheres to aluminum, cast iron, and most other metals.

Thankfully, this is a low-VOC paint, so it doesn’t smell so much unless you use it indoors. It’s best used outdoors or in an open space. 

Another thing we like about the spray is that it doesn’t require a primer. All you need is to remove any rust on the surface; then, you can apply the paint. With good prep work, it adheres really well and will make the surface look brand new. 

However, be careful not to overspray. Use light coats, and don’t spray too close to the object to avoid drips.

Besides heat resistance, the paint also offers protection from the rain, snow, sun, and other harsh weather conditions. 

NOTE: The paint should only be used on the exterior of your grill or any other item you’re painting. It should not be used in areas that come into contact with food since the spray paint is not food safe

What We Like πŸ‘

  • High-temperature resistance.
  • No primer needed.
  • Doesn’t peel.
  • Dries up really fast.
  • Protects from U.V radiation and snow.

What Could Improve πŸ‘Ž

  • Not made for direct contact with food.

5. CRC 05048 Zinc-It Instant Cold Galvanize

The CRC Zinc-It is one of the best cold galvanizing spray paints you will find out there. However, it’s not an actual paint but a zinc coating that sticks to ferrous metals and stays through all weather. 

It does exactly what it says, which is to fight rust and corrosion and provide a long-lasting finish. 

Interestingly, the formula contains about 95 percent zinc, which is one of the highest out there. This is why it bonds so well and stops rust. In fact, it’s the perfect coverup for rust you could have.

The spray comes off nicely and provides a nice thick coat of zinc that adheres well to the surface. On a clean galvanized metal, it dries almost instantly and doesn’t run or flake off when touched. 

As earlier indicated, the spray is highly durable and works for a variety of surfaces, not just galvanized steel. Some common applications include fencing, conduit, doors, threads, welds, railings, fasteners, signs, and so on.

Some people might consider it to be a bit expensive, considering that it’s two times the price of Rust-Oleum. However, it tends to do better than the latter when it comes to long-term corrosion protection. So, we think it’s worth the extra cost. 

We noticed that the nozzle tends to clog when you don’t shake the can frequently. If this happens, you could lose whatever is left in the can. So, make sure you shake it continuously while using it.

Overall, this is an excellent cold galvanize touch-up spray. Except for the price, it’s pretty much a flawless product! 

What We Like πŸ‘

  • Prevents rust from spreading (perfect coverup for rust)
  • Dries fast.
  • Doesn’t rub or flake off.
  • Provides long-lasting rust protection.
  • Easy to use (sprays on nicely)
  • Good coverage.

What Could Improve πŸ‘Ž

  • A bit pricey
  • Nozzle can get clogged if you don’t shake it continuously.

Do you need to prime galvanized metal before painting?

It depends on the type of paint you’re using. If you’re using something that is not specifically designed for galvanized steel, you would want to prime the metal before painting. In contrast, most galvanized steel paint will require less prep work and will adhere better than other types of spray paint, even without a primer.

Notwithstanding, using a primer is a good idea because it creates a good base for the paint and ensures it dries more quickly. A primer is even more useful if the metal is going to be exposed to moisture. 

Many spray paints for galvanized metal include a primer. If you’re using any of those, you won’t need to apply a separate coat of primer. Otherwise, priming galvanized steel or any other metal before painting is almost always recommended.

What kind of primer do you use on galvanized metal?

The best type of primer to use on galvanized steel is one that is made for this type of surface. Ideally, it should be a rust-preventive primer. Two really good ones are the ZRC Cold Galvanizing Compound and the Rust-Oleum Universal Primer

The ZRC Cold Compound creates a lasting bond and protects the underlying metal from rust and corrosion. However, it’s not available in spray form. 

If you prefer a spray-on primer, then consider the Rust-Oleum Universal Primer. 

Like the Cold Compound, it creates a good surface for your paint to adhere to. In addition, it can be used on a variety of materials and works on both bare and painted surfaces. Besides galvanized steel, you can apply it to aluminum, plastic, and fiberglass. 

Regardless of which primer you opt for, follow the instructions on the label to get the best possible results. 

How Do You Spray Paint Galvanized Steel?

Follow the steps below to apply spray paint on galvanized steel:

Clean the Surface

Like any other paint job, the first step to painting galvanized steel is to clean the surface. This will take care of loosed dirt and grime. You can use hot soapy water for this step. 

Simply mix a solution of hot soapy water in a bucket, then apply it all over the surface with a clean rag or paper towel. Next, rinse off with clean water and allow it to dry. 

For larger items, it might not be convenient to wash the entire surface with soap and water. In this case, you can simply pressure wash or hose it down. 

Scrub off rust

Now, you’re ready to target areas with rust, more specifically. You will need a wire brush for this step. Scrape off the rust by applying gentle but firm pressure on the wire brush as you move it back and forth. 

For the best results, use a cleaning agent like white vinegar. Vinegar is not only safer to use but also promotes paint adhesion. You can either dip the brush in the vinegar or pour some of it on the rust and then scrub with the brush. 

At this point, you should be wearing a dust mask and goggles to protect yourself from the dust particles. 

When you’re done, wipe any residue on the surface with a damp rag. You can add 2-3 drops of liquid detergent to the water. Allow the metal to dry completely. 

Apply the paint

Once the metal dries completely, you may want to coat it with primer before painting. This is important, especially if you’re using acrylic latex paint. This type of spray paint is not specifically made for galvanized steel but can still work if you apply primer prior to using it. 

However, if you’re using paint that is made of galvanized steel, you will need to do less prep work, as most will adhere well without a separate coat of primer. The products reviewed above contain primer, so you can skip the primer step. 

Whether you’re using a primer or not, follow the instructions on each product’s label to apply it and allow full drying time in-between coats. 

Tips for Spray Painting Galvanized Steel with Success

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when painting galvanized steel. 

  • When spray painting galvanized steel, always wear a dusk mask or respirator to protect your lungs. Also, wear gloves and protective goggles.
  • Make sure your workspace is well-ventilated. Ideally, you want to work outside.
  • It’s always a good idea to test spray on a scrap material outside the work area to ensure everything is fine.
  • To avoid drips and get better coverage, use light coats of paint instead of a heavy coat.
  • Rather than spraying a constant stream, you can spray in short spurts for better control.
  • Move your hand back and forth in a sweeping motion while applying the galvanized paint.
  • Try to release the trigger or nozzle before you stop sweeping across the surface. This helps to prevent overspray at the corners.
  • Likewise, the trigger should be pushed before you start spraying over the workpiece. This will prevent overspray at the starting point.

FAQs – Spray Painting Galvanized Metal

How long does it take for spray paint on galvanized steel to dry? 

It depends on a few factors, such as the paint type, thickness of the coating, and surrounding temperature and humidity. In general, most galvanized steel spray paint takes at least 24 hours to dry properly.

Can You Use Vinegar to Clean Galvanized Steel Before Painting?

Yes, vinegar is a great cleaning solution for galvanized steel. Besides helping to remove rust, it also helps the paint to adhere better. Not to mention that it’s non-toxic, which makes it safer than commercial cleaners.

Can you paint hot-dipped galvanized steel?

Yes, you can paint hot-dipped galvanized steel, but this is usually not necessary as hot-dipped galvanized steel is extremely durable. However, if the metal is to be spray painted, adequate surface preparation is important, and the galvanizer must be informed of your decision to paint the steel.

Can You Paint Rusted Galvanized Metal?

Yes, you can, but that should be after you’ve removed all the rust with a wire brush or sandpaper. Otherwise, the rust might spread and eat through the metal piece. The only exception is when you’re using a spray paint that is specifically designed to stop rust from spreading. A good example is the Rust-Oleum Stops Rust.

How do you treat white rust on galvanized steel?

To treat white rust on galvanized steel, you can use a weak acid such as vinegar. Simply pour some white vinegar on the area with rust and rub off with a wire brush. Then, rinse with clean water.

Can you use a brush to apply galvanizing spray?

Yes, you can. Simply spray some paint into a small cup, depending on how much you need. Then dip a brush inside and begin to apply the paint. For larger surfaces, consider decanting the paint into a bigger cup or tray with the help of a straw. Applying spray paint with a brush is often required for detailed work.

Is galvanizing spray paint anti-rust?

It depends on the particular spray paint you choose. However, most galvanizing spray paint has anti-rust properties. Just to be sure, you can check the product label.

Content Summary – Spray painting galvanized metal

Whether you need to cover up rust or improve the look of your steel roofing, spray painting is the way to go. Besides removing rust, the right galvanized steel paint can restore your faded furniture and protect it from further weather damage. 

All the products reviewed are inexpensive and offer the easiest solution to your galvanized steel problems. 

Of course, each is unique and has its advantages and disadvantages. We’ve tried to select the best for different scenarios. It’s now up to you to make the most important decision. 

Remember to prepare the surface adequately before applying the paint. Otherwise, you would be wasting your time and resources. 

Let us know if you have any more questions about spray painting galvanized steel and metal. Until then, happy spray painting! 

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