How to Remove Spray Paint from Metal

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

Because metal is non-porous, it's not too difficult to remove unwanted spray paint. The challenge is to do so without damaging the surface beneath. Whether your aluminum door was the victim of a graffiti hit or you want to strip last year's dreadful paint job off your bike, modern paint-removal products and the right removal method can help.

Chemical Removers

Chemical paint removers have come a long way from the days when you would open a can of stripper and develop an instant headache. Today's formulas are more environmentally friendly, and some have almost no odor.

  • Soak small items, like brass knobs and hardware, in paint thinner or liquid paint remover until the paint softens. Use a stiff natural-bristle brush to scrub off the loosened paint without scratching the metal surface.
  • Spray-on paint removers are great for evenly coating tight angles and rounded surfaces on bikes and patio furniture. Once the paint loosens, simply wipe it away. Automotive stores carry professional strength spray-on removers.
  • Brush-on gel-type remover is a good option for cutting through multiple coats of spray paint. The thick gel doesn't evaporate as quickly as liquid remover, so you can leave it on longer without reapplying.
  • Wipe spray paint off vehicles with carnauba wax. Available in liquid or aerosol spray, carnauba wax dissolves acrylic spray paint on vehicles without damaging the clear coat finish beneath. It's important, though, to rinse off the wax residue as soon as the paint dissolves to keep flakes of paint from re-adhering.

Follow manufacturer's application and safety instructions when working with any type of chemical remover.


  • When stripping paint all the way down to bare metal, repaint quickly to prevent flash rust, which can develop within hours on unprotected metal, especially in humid environments.
  • Removing graffiti from aluminum siding or painted metal garage doors is tricky because chemical remover can quickly strip away the painted factory finish along with the spray paint. Apply remover sparingly and immediately rinse with water. If the underlying finish comes off or is noticeably dull, it might be better to just paint over the graffiti.


Blasting has been around for decades, but sand is abrasive and can result in pitting on metal objects. For large projects, such as removing spray paint from construction or farm equipment, you can rent a blasting rig from a construction rental store. Use finely ground walnut shell media or blasting soda to remove the paint without damaging the metal.

Glenda Taylor

Glenda Taylor is a contractor and a full-time writer specializing in construction writing. She also enjoys writing business and finance, food and drink and pet-related articles. Her education includes marketing and a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.