How to Clean Metal Before Painting

How to Clean Metal Before Painting

When undertaking any type of project that involves painting, it’s important to ensure the surface of the material is clean and prepared accordingly to achieve the best results. When you don’t clean the metal before painting, it can impact the quality of the paint job and the finished work. Let’s take a look at how to clean metal before painting for the best results, what to clean metal with before painting, and why it’s important to prepare the metal.

Why is it important to prepare metal before painting?

Regardless of what type of metal or item you are painting, you need to ensure you have a good surface to apply the paint. When painting metal fences, cars, furniture, or gates, you’ll want the paint job to look professional. In order to achieve this, you need the surface of the metal to be free from dirt, oil, or grime. These can all get in the way of the paint adhering to the metal, which can leave you with streaks or chips in the paint.

With proper preparation of your metal surface, you’ll find the paint immediately adheres to the metal. Any rust or debris could stop this from happening, which could mean the paint takes longer to dry or can’t stay on the metal at all. Especially when you are painting metal for commercial purposes, you need to ensure you offer your clients the quality of work they expect. Otherwise, you may find they are unhappy with the finished results and ask you to repeat the process again.

How to Clean Metal Before Painting in 3 Steps

By following the steps below, you can avoid the potential issues we’ve shared above and ensure you have a clean metal surface to paint. The paint will then effectively adhere to the metal, allowing you to create a stunning finished product.


  • Rags
  • Acetone
  • Rust remover (optional)
  • Scuffing pad
  • Self-etching primer


Step 1. Get the Right Materials for the Job

When painting metal, the first thing to keep in mind is where you are going to complete this job. You need to ensure you are working in a well-ventilated area with your work suspended from above for larger metal pieces. You’ll need materials such as rags, acetone, a scuffing pad, and self-etching primer. You’ll use all of these to clean and prepare the metal for painting. Try to invest in good quality materials for this process so that you avoid scratching or damaging the metal during your work.

Step 2. Cleaning the Metal

The first stage you need to complete before painting metal is giving the surface a thorough cleaning. Even if you think the metal looks clean from a distance, there could still be oil or grease on the surface. Instead of using water to clean metal, opt for acetone. This dries very quickly, so there will be no delays to your work. If you notice there is rust on the metal, use a rust remover to clear this first.

After cleaning your metal with acetone on a clean rag, make sure you don’t touch the surface again. You can easily add grease or oil from your fingers to the material, undoing your cleaning preparation. To finish off the process, use a scuffing pad along the surface you are planning to paint. This will prepare the material for the next stage, which involves priming the surface for the paint.

Step 3. Prime the Metal for Painting

Now that your metal is clean and clear for painting, we always recommend priming the material for the job. Use a self-etching primer to create a base for your painting to bond to the metal. Make sure you shake the can first and then use short strokes to cover the surface. Two coats of primer are sufficient for most jobs. From there, let the primer dry, and you’ll be ready to start painting the metal.

While it can be so tempting to skip over the process we’ve described above, don’t skip it! When you have invested so much time and effort into creating metal goods and painting them, you’ll find that the proper preparation always gives you the best results. Putting in this little bit of extra time and effort will make a huge difference to your work and create the final results that you expect.

Visit Tampa Steel & Supply for Steel

Are you in need of steel supplies? Look no further than the professionals at Tampa Steel & Supply. We stock an extensive list of steel products for whatever project you need to tackle. We’re proud to have served our customers for nearly four decades and are ready to assist you with your steel needs. Have questions? Give us a call today to learn more, or stop by our Tampa showroom.

Request a Quote Online
 Or Call Tampa Steel & Supply at (813) 241-2801