As you’re looking to spruce up your faded or chipped metallic surface, you’ll need to use the best techniques to remove every inch of old paint. Sand painting is one great way to remove paint from metal surfaces. But for successful outcomes, you’ll need to know how to sand the paint off metal.  

To sand paint off metal, it is advisable to use sanding blocks or orbital sanders. A sanding block is ideal if you want a hands-on approach where you put in most of the effort. On the other hand, orbital sanders make life a lot easier as the machine will do most of the work.

Want to sand paint off metal surfaces, and you don’t know where to start? Read on as we discuss how to get the paint stripping job done using sanding blocks and orbital sanders. 

Using a Sanding Block

A sanding block like the Warner Hand Sander will come in handy if you’re looking to strip paint off a metal surface on a budget. Although cheaper compared to orbital sanders, you should be prepared to put in a lot more work when using sanding blocks.

Also, since you’ll be performing all of the sanding work manually, be on the lookout for surfaces that you might easily miss, such as edges and corners.

Attach a Sheet of 80-Grit Sandpaper to the Block

Metal is a tougher surface to strip paint compared to wooden surfaces. As such, you’ll need to have high quality 80-grit sheets like the Dura Gold sandpaper attached on your block when you start sanding.

People have different preferences when it comes to sanding technique. You can choose to sand in a circular motion or use a back and forth technique. Either way, it is advisable to stick with one motion to leave the sanded surface looking neat.

Switch Up to a 220-Grit Sanding Paper

Switching up to a 220-grit sheet will simplify the process of removing the final layer of paint, allowing for a smooth finish. It’s important to switch the sheets as using the coarse 80-grit sheet with excessive force can eat into the metal, thus weakening it.  

Again, it’s advisable to sand in a uniform direction since observing a similar pattern will make it easy to spot remaining paint, especially those in hard-to-reach areas.

Use Pieces of Sandpaper to Remove Paint From Hard-to-Reach Surfaces

Regardless of the method you choose to sand paint off metal, you’ll need to get creative when you get to corners and edges of your metal surface.

Naturally, the large sheets of 80-220 grit sandpapers won’t maneuver tight spots successfully. This is where you get creative and use pieces of the sandpaper sheets to strip paint off the metal surfaces.

Use a Piece of Steel Wool to Complete the Process

Sandpaper will make the metal surface rough. And to soften the surface up a bit, it is advisable to rub a piece of steel wool on the surface. Rubbing the steel wool in a circular motion will give your metallic surface a smooth appearance.

Using an Orbital Sander

An orbital sander is an effective way to strip paint off metal surfaces. Orbital sanders are often preferred to sanding blocks as they are faster, meaning more work can be done, especially for industrial purposes. However, when using this technique, you’ll need to be extra careful to ensure that you completely remove all paint from the hard to reach surfaces.

Fix an 80-Grit Disc to the Orbital Sander

After wearing your safety gloves, next is to attach an 80-grit disc such as the Dewalt 80-Grit Hook to the orbital sander and begin sanding away. This machine can be powerful, so you’ll need to use it cautiously to avoid ruining the metal, especially if the surface has a thin coat of paint.

Switch to a 220-Grit Disc

It’s crucial to switch to the 220 grit disc a few moments after sanding using the 80-grit sanding disc. Failure to switch the discs can damage the metal surface you’re working on due to the extra-coarse nature of the 80 grit disc.

Although some experts might strip paint using an 80-grit disc only, doing so is ill-advised, especially if you have little experience using orbital sanders to remove paint from metal surfaces.

Use Pieces of Loose Sandpaper to Target the Hard-to-Reach Surfaces

Although effective and fast, orbital sanders will struggle when sanding tight spots. Therefore, you should have tiny pieces of 80 and 220-grit sandpapers on standby to clean up the remaining paint.

Start with the 80 grit sheet and move on to the 220-grit sheet to prevent weakening the metallic surface you’re working on.

Finish the Sanding Process With Steel Wool

While some might argue that steel wool isn’t compulsory when using orbital sanders, five to ten gentle scrubs will help to smoothen the surface further. Remember to gently rub the steel wool in a circular motion to achieve a smooth look. 

Alternative Ways to Strip Paint off Metal Surfaces

In case you want to try out different methods to remove old, faded or chipped paint off a metal surface, consider trying the following techniques.

Use Baking Soda

For some DIY enthusiasts, removing paint from metal surfaces shouldn’t consume too much time. If that’s you, then you’ll probably want to try out the baking soda technique.

All you need is a generous amount of baking soda, a throwaway pot, water, and a source of heat for this method to work. 

Once you’ve rinsed the disposable pot that can conduct heat, fill it (halfway) with clean water and add the baking soda. Please note that the baking soda should fill the bottom of the pot.

Allow the mixture to boil before you drop the metal. Insert your metallic object in the boiling mixture and reduce the heat. You should allow the metal to sit in the mixture for thirty minutes to an hour, depending on the size.

You’ll notice most if not all paint will be gone by the time of removing the metal. Rinse the metallic surface with warm water and use a dry sheet to get rid of any stubborn paint.

Disclaimer: Boiling paint and metallic objects can lead to the emission of hazardous fumes. Due to this, it is advisable to wear protective equipment, especially a mask when using this baking soda technique.

Use Chemicals

You can also use chemicals to remove paint from metallic surfaces. With several paint-removing chemicals in the market, it is advisable to check the labeling of various products to ensure that you choose the one that suits you best.

Chemical paint removers come in three main forms, paste, aerosol, and liquid. Aerosol sprays are ideal for items with large surface areas. They cover loads of space in little time, making it easy to remove paint. Liquid chemicals are also great options as they tend to dry fast and work best when used on small metallic surfaces.

Whichever chemical you opt for, it is advisable to check its intended use and the ingredients since not all chemical paint removers are meant for metal. Also, always put on protective gear when using chemicals to remove paint.

Use Heat

This paint removing home remedy isn’t for all as it requires loads of patience. You’ll need to soak the metal in a pot and fill it with soapy water. But for this method to work, a crock pot such as the Quart Slow Cooker is required.

Ensure that you set the crock-pot to low heat to prevent the soapy water from boiling. The lowest possible heat settings are preferred for this method to yield positive results.

After allowing the metal and soap mixture to sit in the crock-pot overnight, it’s time to remove your now paint-free metal. Although this method is efficient, not all paint is completely removed on most occasions. Therefore, in case you spot paint flecks on the metallic object you’re working on, you can use a tough, dry cloth or toothbrush to remove the remaining paint.

Again, safety should come first when using this technique to remove paint. Always use this method in a workshop or garage. It is also advisable to avoid reusing the crock-pot for cooking purposes as the paint and metal objects usually contain toxins. Get a separate crock-pot for your workshop if you fancy this technique.

Another solution using heat to remove paint from metal is to use a heat gun. If you want to find out more about this technique, check this article.

The Bottom Line

Stripping paint from a metal surface shouldn’t be an uphill task, especially when using sanding techniques. 

A sanding block is a hands-on approach to removing paint and should be used when dealing with small to medium-sized surfaces. If you’re a beginner, you might want to start with this method to learn the art of sanding metal surfaces.

On the other hand, orbital sanders add an edge of efficiency since it’s the machine that’ll do most of the work. But when using this technique, be sure to change the 80-grit disk and replace it with a 220-grit disk shortly after starting. Failing to change the disks might end up weakening the metal you’re working on.

Whichever sanding technique you choose, prioritize your safety by putting on safety gear such as masks and gloves.

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