How to Remove Spray Paint From Metal


Last updated: August 31, 2023

Learn the Tips and Hacks of Removing Spray Paint from Metal Surfaces in this Comprehensive Painters Guide.

How to remove spray paint from metal.

Metal is one of the materials that receive paint coating well. As such, the strong adhesion can be challenging when you need to remove spray paint from metal. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t remove spray paint from metal; several practical ways exist. 

You can use fine-grit sandpaper or steel wool to scrub the finish off the surface. Rubbing alcohol also works best for water-based spray paint, while acetone suits oil-based paint.

However, you should avoid using bleach or similar acid-based solvents as they can adversely corrode the metal surface.

We will share a comprehensive guide on removing spray paint from metal surfaces without damaging it. We explore the different methods you can use, how to remove rustoleum spray paint from metal, and how soon to recoat the surface after removing the spray paint. 

How to Remove Spray Paint From Metal

Mix warm water and dish soap, then dip a cloth in the solution and rub over the paint. Alternatively, sand or scrap the paint and wipe away the debris with a damp cloth. Solvents such as baking soda and acetone will remove spray paint from metal but avoid bleach vinegar and nail polish remover. 

What are the Methods of Removing Spray Paint From Metal Surfaces?

You can remove spray paint from metal in multiple ways. However, some methods are much safer than others. For example, bleach, vinegar, and W.D. 40 will damage the metal surface. 

Similarly, strong chemical paint removers increase the risk of corrosion. So how can you remove spray paint safely without damaging your metal surface? Below are some safe alternatives to consider.

Removing Spray Paint from Metal Without Using Chemicals

Method 1: Using Sandpaper

Sandpaper is an effective way to eliminate spray paint from metal. It entails rubbing the paint off with a medium grit sandpaper, then a fine 240-grit until the paint comes off, leaving the surface smooth. Below is a step-by-step process for this method:

  • Clean the surface to remove dirt and debris.
  • Sand with medium-grit sandpaper (about 150-grit).
  • Finish off with fine-grit sandpaper of about 240-grit.
  • Use a vacuum to clean the dust off the surface.
  • Keep scrubbing until the residues are gone.

Method 2: Heating with a Hairdryer 

A hairdryer is another excellent option for removing spray paint from metal. However, this method is best for softening the paint from the surface and then scraping it with a scraper. If you’d like to try this method, refer to the following steps:

  • Wear a pair of protect gloves.
  • Plug the hairdryer into the power socket and turn it on.
  • Hold the hairdryer about four inches from the substrate and hover the coating in a circular motion.
  • Keep moving the dryer over the surface until the paint starts to bubble, then turn it off.
  • Using a scraper, scrape off the loose paint.
  • Repeat until all the paint is gone.
  • Let the surface cool down and then wipe it with a clean rag.

Method 3: Scrapping

Another safer way to remove spray paint from metal surfaces is scrapping off the old, chipping finishes. If the coating is old and worn out, you don’t need to preheat the paint first. Below is what you need to do:

  • Apply warm water on the coating and let the old paint soak in the water.
  • Scrape the finish with a wire brush or plastic scraper.
  • Observe any residues and wipe them with a clean rag.

Note: Scraping is time-consuming, so only use this method on small surfaces 

Using Chemical-based Spray Paint Removers

As we already pointed out, solvents can be harsh on your metal surface, so they’re not recommended for removing unwanted spray paint. However, there are a few safer options you can try. They include:

Method 1: Baking soda

Despite being a solvent, baking soda contains natural alkaline ingredients that are metal friendly. Mixing baking soda and warm water provides an aggressive cleaning solution that easily peels off the paint. 

It’s best used to remove paint from smaller tools, objects, and art pieces. Here’s how to use baking soda to remove spray paint from metal:

  • Add some baking soda to a pot of cold water.
  • Put the metal pieces in the pot.
  • Place the pot on the stove and turn on low heat.
  • Let the water warm up for 20-30 minutes.
  • Turn the stove off, remove the metal pieces from the pot.
  • Scrape the loose paint from the metal pieces with plastic scrapper.
  • Wipe with paper towels and leave to dry.

Method 2: Using Acetone to Remove Spray Paint From Metal 

Acetone contains large amounts of rubbing alcohol, which is good for removing spray paint from most surfaces, such as metal. The alcohol helps to penetrate the paint causing the finish to dissolve and swell up. This makes it easier to scrape off the paint. It’s important to note that, similar to baking soda, this method is best suited for small surfaces or objects.

  • Add some acetone or rubbing alcohol to a container. If you prefer, mix acetone with rubbing alcohol for better results.
  • Dip a cloth in the container, then squeeze it to remove the excess chemicals.
  • Wipe the finish with the damp rag and let the chemical sit on the finish until it forms bubbles.
  • Use a microfiber cloth to scrub off the loose paint.

Method 3: Paint Stripper

Paint stripper penetrates deep into the paint coating, breaking the bond between the paint and metal. The paint then swells, making it easier to wipe or scrape off. To use this method, follow these steps.

  • Clean the surface.
  • Use a paint brush to apply the paint stripper to the coating
  • Allow to sit for a few minutes.
  • Scrape off the swelling paint with a paint scraper.
  • Repeat until all the leftovers are gone.
  • Use mineral spirits to clean the surface and leave it to dry.

What Other Methods Can You Use to Remove Spray Paint From Metal?

Below are additional techniques for spray paint removal.

  1. Power washer: This option is recommended for removing old paint that is peeling or chipping, not for new finishes. For best results, use a stripping compound after power washing to remove paint leftovers.

  2. Paint thinners: Use metal-friendly paint thinners that do not contain naphtha, toluene, or xylene, as these may cause discoloration.

  3. Turpentine: This option is ideally a stain removal agent, best for stripping fresh coats of spray paint.

How to Remove Spray Paint From Metal Easily

Water alone cannot remove spray paint from metal unless it’s wet paint that’s yet to harden. Therefore to remove spray paint from metal easily, you’ll need the following:

  • Baking soda.
  • Paint thinner.
  • Paint scraper.
  • Cloth.
  • Safety gear.
  • Paint stripper.
  • Chip brush.
  • Acetone/rubbing alcohol/nail polish remover.

Step 1: Fill a pot with cold water, then add some baking soda. 

Step 2: Add the metal pieces to the pot and lower the heat. Let it simmer for half an hour until the paint starts to bubble. 

Step 3: Turn off the heat and remove the objects. Carefully scrape with a razor blade or putty knife, and do not damage the surface. 

Step 4: For several or bigger metal pieces, wear safety equipment and apply a small amount of paint stripper on the objects.

Step 5: Leave the paint stripper to sit for a few minutes as per the specifications from the manufacturer. Next, use a stiff brush to scrub off the paint residues.

Step 6: Rinse with clean water or use mineral spirits to wipe the surface clean from paint stripper and residues.

How to Remove Rust-Oleum Spray Paint from Metal 

When you need to add a new layer of Rust-Oleum spray paint to a surface, it’s recommended that you remove the old, peeling paint first. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to remove Rust-Oleum spray paint from metal. First, you need a few materials, such as: 

  • A clean cloth.
  • Wire brush scrub brush.
  • Medium-grade sandpaper.
  • Household cleaner.
  • Garden hose.

Once you have everything ready, follow these steps: 

  • Step 1: Use a spraying bottle to spray the household cleaner on the metal surface to remove the dirt, grease, and debris. Scrub with the scrub brush until all the impurities are removed. 

  • Step 2: Use the wire brush to scrape the surface and remove all loose paint and rust. 

  • Step 3: Use medium-grade sandpaper to sand the entire surface until the paint is removed. 

  • Step 4: Rinse the metal substrate with water, then wipe thoroughly with a damp cloth or towel. Confirm that no Rust-Oleum spray paint patches are left on the surface. 

How to Remove Krylon Spray Paint from Metal?

You might need to remove Krylon spray paint from metal due to a paint overspray or accidental spills. How well you remove the paint depends on the type of the spray paint. 

Some Krylon spray paints are water-soluble, meaning you can easily remove them with water, while others dissolve easily in lacquer thinner. Here’s how to revive Krylon spray paint from metal. You’ll need the following: 

  • Hot water and dish soap.
  • Paintbrush or scrub brush.
  • Lacquer thinner.
  • Scraper.

For water-based Krylon spray paints:

  • Step 1: Mix the hot water until it forms bubbles. 

  • Step 2: Dip the scrub brush bristles in the soapy water mixture, leave for a few minutes, then apply on the Krylon spray-painted surface. Scrub with the brush until the paint dissolves. 

  • Step 3: Rinse the metal surface with warm water until the paint and the cleaning solution are gone. 

For oil-based Krylon paints:

  • Step 1: Use a paintbrush to apply lacquer thinner on the old Krylon spray paint.

  • Step 2: Leave the thinner on the surface for 5-10 minutes until the paint loosens. 

  • Step 3: Use a paint scrapper to remove the loosened paint. Apply more lacquer thinner as needed until the paint is removed. 

  • Step 4: Rinse with clean water, preferably warm, to wash away the residues. 

How Do You Remove Spray Paint From Metal Without Damaging It?

Metal is non-porous, so it’s easier to remove spray paint from it compared to masonry surfaces (We have a dedicated post where you can learn how to remove spray paints from walls and other masonry surfaces like bricks)

However, water alone will not effectively remove spray paint from metal. 

For instance, the binding agents in water-based spray paints tend to set in and harden, making the spray paint resistant to water. The same is true with oil-based paints containing alkyds as binding agents that don’t dissolve in water easily. 

You can use safe chemical paint removers on metal without causing any damage. If removing spray paint from smaller metal items like a Yeti cup, use paint removers like baking soda or paint thinners. 

You can then scrub with a brush once the paint has softened. If the objects have complicated surfaces and angles, a spray-on paint remover is a better option. 

Another safer option is applying generous amounts of dish soap over the old spray paint. Next, rub over the paint with a microfiber cloth dipped in warm water. 

Keep rinsing the cloth as you rub until the paint comes off. However, do not use toxic solvents like nail polish remover, vinegar, or gasoline, as these will damage your metal. 

If water and dish soap don’t work effectively enough, use a piece of clay cleaning bar. However, this option requires a clay bar lubricant for optimal results. Spray the lubricant over the paint, then rub it with the clay bar. Once everything looks good, wipe it with a damp cloth. 

How Soon Can You Repaint After Removing Spray Paint from Metal?

Once the paint is removed from a surface, the metal should dry before repainting. An average of four hours is enough, but the removal method is another factor worth considering. For example, if you apply the sanding or scrapping method, the surface doesn’t require drying time, so you can repaint immediately.

On the other hand, if you used paint removal solvents, you should give your substrate a few hours to dry, depending on its size. 

It’s advisable to prevent the surface from damage caused by solvents used in paint removal. Residues of these solvents can also cause adhesion problems. Mineral spirits or turpentine are good neutralizers that we recommend. You can use a good quality metal polish to give the substrate a new look before repainting. 

FAQS: Removing Spray Paint from Metal surfaces

How do you remove dried spray paint?

Several safer methods exist for removing dried spray paint from metal. These include sanding or scrapping away the old paint with fine-grit sandpaper or a plastic scraper. You can even use water and dish soap. In other instances, lacquer thinner and baking soda works just as great. 

Does WD-40 remove spray paint from metal?

WD-40 is ideally used for cleaning and stain removal. It’s best used to clean tough stains, not stripping sprayed coatings from surfaces. As a cleaning product, it’s paint-friendly and will only help remove surface dirt, not the paint coating.

Can You Use Vinegar to Remove spray paint from metal surfaces?

Vinegar is acidic and highly corrosive. It can also discolor your metal surface, making it impossible to repaint. While vinegar contains mild acid, it’s dangerous to use on metal unless you can dilute it with baking soda and warm water before using it on metal. 

Does Stripping Gel Remove Spray Paint from Metal?

Yes, you can use a paintbrush to apply striping gel over the paint. Apply a generous amount or a thick layer and wait for it to work on the paint for half an hour or the time indicated by the manufacturer. Once the paint starts to bubble, scrape it with a plastic scraper. 

Should You Use Bleach to Remove Spray Paint From Metal 

No. You should avoid using bleach since it’s highly toxic. It causes corrosion and can eat into your metal surface and frames. Bleach also causes discoloration and can leave your metal substrate weaker. 

Content Summary: How to Remove Spray Paint From Metal

Most avid DIYers often feel frustrated when removing spray paint from metal surfaces. Durable as it is, metal can be delicate. The surface can be corroded or damaged from using strong chemicals to remove spray paint. Similarly, water alone will not effectively remove dried paint from metal. 

But all that doesn’t matter now. In this post, we’ve shared various proven methods you can try the next time you need to remove paint from your metal pieces.

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