How to Degrease & Paint Metal

Written by ryan lawrence
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How to Degrease & Paint Metal
Condition the metal with a special acid-based primer. (metal image by Kirill Zdorov from

When do-it-yourselfers attempt to refinish metallic surfaces with paint, peeling and flaking often result. The cause is inadequate or improper surface preparation. Metallic surfaces are notoriously ill-suited for paint adhesion. If you paint underprepared metal, expect rampant paint failure. Promote paint adhesion by pretreating the metal with a special acid-based primer formulated with the ability to etch metallic surfaces. Once the metal is properly conditioned, apply a durable coating, or you may end up with cracking and fading.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Trisodium phosphate cleanser
  • Steel wool
  • Pressure washer
  • Rags
  • Galvanised metal etching spray primer
  • Acrylic spray enamel
  • Roller frame
  • Nap roller cover
  • 2- to 4-inch paintbrush

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  1. 1

    Scrub the metal with a trisodium phosphate cleanser, using steel wool. Rinse exterior metal, using a pressure washer. Use wet rags to rinse interior metal. Wait two to four hours for the metal to dry.

  2. 2

    Coat the clean metal with galvanised metal etching spray primer. Promote a smooth, professional finish by maintaining an 8-inch distance between the metal and the spray nozzle at all times. Wait four hours for the primer to dry.

  3. 3

    Coat the primed metal with acrylic spray enamel. Maintain an 8-inch distance between the metal and the spray nozzle at all times. Wait four hours for the enamel to dry.

Tips and warnings

  • You may use a roller and paintbrush to apply primer and paint to large metallic surfaces.
  • Do not paint unprimed metal, or the paint will peel.
  • Do not use latex, acrylic or oil primers on metal, or the final finish will ultimately flake.
  • You may use ordinary latex paint on interior metallic surfaces; however, do not use it with exterior metal, or cracking and fading may result.
  • Be sure to degrease the metal, using a heavy-duty trisodium phosphate cleanser, or you will have problems with adhesion.

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