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How to Use Drain Cleaner to Strip Automotive Paint

Updated February 21, 2017

Whether you are restoring a classic car or you need a new paint job for your new vehicle, stripping the paint will allow for a smoother paint job. Lye found in drain cleaner is an alternative to costly auto paint strippers sold by automotive supply companies. Although drain cleaner is a good alternative to paint stripper for small parts, it is expensive to clean an entire vehicle with drain cleaner. Use this method for individual auto body parts that can be removed from the car. It will strip paint and chrome.

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  1. Remove as many individual car body parts as possible. You will get a more thorough clean if you remove any parts that will come off the car, such as bumpers, mirrors, doors and trim. Remove all aluminium and glass from the car parts you are going to strip.

  2. Pour drain cleaner into a metal or glass pan or bucket. Leave enough room in your pan or bucket for the liquid to displace when the car parts are placed in it.

  3. Place the individual car parts into the bucket or pan. Be sure the parts are completely covered with the drain cleaner so the paint or chrome will be entirely removed from the parts. Strip one part at a time or several small parts, depending on how much drain cleaner you have available and how large the parts are.

  4. Soak the parts for 10 minutes.

  5. Remove the parts and rinse them thoroughly with water. Remove all the drain cleaner from your parts or the drain cleaner can cause new paint to bubble or peel off.

  6. Apply a metal conditioner to any metal car parts that have been stripped. The metal conditioner will remove any material from the metal that will interfere with the primer and paint on the car. The conditioner will also prevent rust and disguise sanding scratches.

  7. Mix the metal conditioner with water and place it in a plastic bucket. Read the label for the exact water-to-conditioner ratios. Work the metal conditioner into the metal with a clean cloth or sponge.

  8. Wash the conditioner off the car with clean water before it dries on the metal parts.

  9. Prime and paint the car parts.

  10. Tip

    Speak with an auto bodyworks garage before starting the project for tips and tricks to effective car stripping.


    Do not dip any aluminium pieces into the drain cleaner. The caustic chemicals will ruin aluminium.

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Things You'll Need

  • Drain cleaner
  • Metal pan or bucket large enough to fit all the major parts
  • Protective eyewear
  • Gloves
  • Protective clothing
  • Paint scraper
  • Cloth or sponge
  • Plastic bucket

About the Author

Rebekah Smith

Rebekah Smith is a writer and editor from Montana and the owner of several businesses. Smith has consulted and worked with businesses in the fields of commercial greenhouses, ecommerce, technology and home improvement. She holds a Master of Business Administration and is working on a Ph.D. in business.

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