Can You Use Latex Paint on Metal


Last updated: August 31, 2023

Find out If Latex Paint is Suitable for Metal Surfaces with Our Informative Guide

Most metal surfaces are rust-prone, so subjecting them to moisture or any product with water in its formula can present its share of challenges. 

One popular product used to treat various surfaces and protect them from the elements is latex paint. It is relatively inexpensive and adheres to a wide range of substrates. However, it is a water-based product, which begs the question: can you use latex paint on metal surfaces?

Read along to learn whether you can paint metal with acrylic latex paint and how to do it. The article also reviews some of the best products to use when painting metal doors, furniture, siding, and more.

Can you use latex paint on metal surfaces?

Absolutely. Using latex paint on metal doors or painting metal surfaces with latex paint is possible, just like you would use oil-based paint for the job. However, since latex paint has water in its formula, you must apply a primer before painting the surface to prevent rusting. 

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Metal Surfaces?

You can paint a metal surface using one of two main paint types formulated for metal. These are water-based and oil-based metal paints. However, oil-based metal paint is generally regarded as the gold standard as far as painting metallic items is concerned.

Oil-based paints stick to metal surfaces better than water-based alternatives, making them the preferred, more durable option.  

Can You Apply Latex Paint on Metal Without a Primer?

Applying latex paint on metal without priming the surface is not recommended as the water-based paint can cause rust formation, damaging the metal.

Also, metal has a non-porous or sleek surface that could see your paint peeling off or chipping prematurely. Applying a primer before painting will help the paint stick better, preventing premature weathering, chipping, and peeling. 

How to Use Latex Paint on Metal 

If you are considering painting a metal door or any metal surface with latex paint, knowing how to do it will go a long way.

Here is a list of the tools and supplies you will need and a step-by-step procedure for completing this project.

Tools and Materials Needed 

  • Latex Paint
  • Primer 
  • Applicator (synthetic-bristled  paintbrush)
  • Wire brush or metal scraper 
  • Sander and sandpaper
  • Drop cloth or plastic sheeting
  • Personal protective gear 

Procedure for Painting Metal Surface With Latex Paint

Once you have all the required supplies, follow the steps below to complete the task. 

Step 1. Clean Your Metal Surface

Metal surfaces accumulate all kinds of dirt depending on where they are located. So removing the dirt and grime that may hinder proper adhesion before you begin refinishing or coating the metal with any product is best.

Start by putting water in a clean bucket and add dish soap or laundry detergent. Stir the solution to mix properly. 

Once your soapy water is ready, pour it over the metal and scrub it thoroughly but gently with a scouring pad, and then rinse with clean water from a garden hose. 

After cleaning, allow the metal to air dry. You can also dry the water with a clean, lint-free towel to speed up drying.  

Step 2. Set Up Your Chosen Workspace 

Whether you are cleaning a fixed object like a metal door or a movable one like a patio chair or wicker furniture will determine your workspace.

Whatever the space, prepare it by covering the adjacent surfaces with a drop cloth or old newspapers for a small project. 

The drop cloth (or plastic sheeting) will help protect the surfaces and the ground beneath your project from spilling paint and sanding dust. You may have to tape the sheeting accordingly to secure it in place and prevent unnecessary movement. 

Step 3. Protect Yourself

Latex paints and paints products emit fumes that can be detrimental to inhaling for prolonged periods. Since you will be working with these products for some time, ensure the space is well-ventilated to keep the air from getting saturated with the fumes. 

You may also consider wearing a protective mark or respirator to protect your lungs from paint fumes. Also, wear a pair of gloves and protective clothing to keep the paint from staining your skin.

Step 4. Remove Any Existing Finish From the Metal Surface 

Scraping removes any existing finish coat on the metal surface to prep it for the fresh coat of latex paint. 

You can use a metal scraper or wire brush for this task, whichever you prefer. If you choose a scraper, wedge it between the paint layer and the metal surface and push it in sweeping motions to lift away the paint coat. 

If you opt for a wire brush instead, rub the surface, applying enough pressure to remove the old paint on the metal surface.

Step 5. Sand It Down 

Scraping will only remove so much of the existing finish. Sanding does the rest of the prep work, removing every ounce of paint and any other imperfections on the metal surface.

The metal surface should be clean and smooth after sanding, promoting adhesion. Once you are done sanding, wipe down the entire surface with a tack cloth or clean damp rag to remove the sanding dust and let it dry.

Step 6. Prime It

Apply your selected primer, preferably an oil-based primer, to the metal by following the manufacturer’s instructions on the label. 

Applying a primer is an essential step to ensure the paint adheres to the sanded metal better. Painting a metal door or item without priming it first could lead to peeling and chipping issues. 

While most products will specify the number of coats to apply, we recommend two to three coats as this usually gives the best results.

Once done, allow the primer to dry thoroughly for the length of time recommended on the label. 

Step 7. Paint It Up

Once the last coat of primer has dried completely, use the recommended applicator to paint the metal surface.

Like the primer, you will need to apply about three coats of your selected latex paint to achieve the desired coverage and level of protection. Most latex paints have a relatively thin consistency, making it necessary to apply multiple coats. 

You may also apply a protective topcoat such as varnish or polyurethane to the painted metal for added protection and durability. If you choose this alternative, ensure you let the last coat of paint dry thoroughly first, and follow the manufacturer’s application instructions when using the topcoat. 

Can You Use Latex Paint on Metal

What is the Best Latex Paint for Metal Surfaces?

Now that you know how to paint metal surfaces using latex paint, you probably want the product to use on your first project. Grab yourself an oil-based primer and one metal paint from the following best latex paint reviews, and you’re good to go onto your next project. 

1. Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch-Best Premium Latex Paint for Metal 

This high-quality product from the celebrated Rust-Oleum brand is formulated for various surfaces, including metal, wood, plaster, unglazed ceramic, and masonry. But, you guessed it; metal is the material where it excels best, thanks to Rust-Oleum’s primary focus on metal surfaces.

More importantly, the paint works equally for indoor and outdoor projects, making it an excellent exterior latex paint on metal.

The paint boasts a water-based acrylic paint formula that is low odor and low in volatile organic compounds, so you can use it without worrying about a respirator mask. However, ensure the space is pretty well-ventilated if you opt to skip the mask. 

2. Diamond Brite Paint-High-Gloss Latex Paint for Metal

If you want easy maintenance for your painted metal door or furniture, look no further than this latex paint from Diamond Brite Paint. Its latex enamel formula means it goes on smooth, creating a fine, glossy sheen that makes your metal look lively. 

The paint is designed for both indoor and outdoor projects, so it can be your one-stop solution for metal paint needs. 

Since it offers excellent adhesion, moisture resistance, and durability, you can be sure it will last, saving you money in the long run. 

3. Majic Paints Latex Flat-Best Exterior Paint for Metal 

This Majic Paints Latex Flat product is ideal for outdoor projects like garden chairs or handrails. 

It has premium quality latex binders and strong pigments, offering outstanding resistance to UV rays, water, and other weather elements. The high-quality pigments resist fading, ensuring the painted metal remains vibrant for longer. 

You can use the paint for new or previously painted metal surfaces with significant success, just like you would with a market leader like Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Spray Paint.

Do You Need to Sand Metal Before Spray Painting?

Yes, always consider sanding a metal surface before painting it. This rule applies to new or previously finished or painted metal surfaces. 

Sanding does two things. First, it helps remove any surface inconsistencies and bumps that could show through the paint, affecting the quality of your paint job. Secondly, it scours the metal surface, dulling it a bit to improve paint adhesion. 

How Long Does it Take for Latex Paint to Dry on Metal?

The latex paint dry time on metal ranges from 15 to 30 minutes. After this time, the painted surface should be dry to the touch but not ready for use. You must wait four to six hours before putting the painted metal to use, depending on the weather conditions. 

If the weather is cold, the painted surface may take longer to dry to the touch and even longer to cure and be ready for use. So always consider these factors when determining the dry time of your painted metal.

Can I use Acrylic Latex Paint on Metal?

Yes, you can use acrylic latex paint on metal surfaces like doors, furniture, and more. However, since acrylic latex paints are mostly water-based, you must apply an oil-based primer before painting the metal. 

Applying water-based acrylic paint directly to bare metal can result in rust problems due to the interaction of the metal with the water in your paint.

Can I Use Flat Latex Paint on Metal?

Yes. Whether your latex paint is flat or glossy, you should be able to use it on metal without problems, so long as you prime the metal with an oil-based product first. Priming is essential to eliminate the likelihood of rusting because latex paint is water-based.  

So, can latex paint be used on metal doors? Absolutely. You just need to seal the metal with an oil-based primer first. 

FAQs – Latex Paint on Metal

Can I Use Latex Paint on Metal Siding?

While oil paints are the gold standard for metal doors, windows, and siding, you can still paint your metal siding with latex paint successfully. Just ensure you invest in an oil-based primer to prevent rust from forming on your painted metal siding. The primer will also improve adhesion and lead to more durable results. 

Can You Use Acetone on Metal Before Painting?

Absolutely. You can clean your metal with acetone before painting it. The solvent is widely accepted as among the safest to use on metal. If you use acetone on metal, it will not be experimental since acetone is frequently used in industrial applications to remove dirt and grime from metal surfaces before painting them. 

Can I Use Emulsion Paint on Metal?

Yes. Emulsion paint is one of the popular paint types that you can safely use on metal surfaces. While emulsion paint is mostly used on ceilings and walls, it contains an acrylic resin binder in a water-based solution, more like acrylic latex paint. The acrylic resin binder enables it to adhere to indoor and outdoor metal surfaces without issues.

Is Oil-based Paint or Latex Better for Metal?

Oil paint is better for metal surfaces than latex paint. It adheres to metals better, creating durable and long-lasting results. The oil-based formula also lacks water as a solvent or ingredient, making it rust-resistant paint unlikely to cause rust problems on the painted metal. 

Will Latex Paint Wash Off Metal?

Wet latex paint will easily wash off metal surfaces with soap and water. But as soon as the paint dries, removing it from the metal surface will require the use of a specially formulated latex paint remover.

Can I Paint Metal With Regular Paint?

You can only paint metal with a product specifically formulated for use on metal surfaces. Metals are generally glossy, so painting them with regular paints not formulated for their surfaces will likely result in peeling, blistering, or flaking. 

Using Latex Paint on Metal: Final Thoughts 

If you were wondering whether latex paint can be used on metal, you are not alone. The water in the latex paint formula makes the painted metal rust prone, hence the dilemma of using latex paint on metal. 

Thankfully, applying an oil-based primer on the metal surface before the paint helps eliminate any concerns of rust. Once you factor in this step in the process, you can comfortably protect your metal outdoor furniture with inexpensive latex paint. 

We hope this article helps allay any worries regarding the use of latex paint on metal. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 

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