Spray painting a propane tank can be a daunting task. Is it legal, and if so, what precautions should you take? In the following guide, we will answer whether you spray paint a propane tank, what tools are required, and what paint color restrictions are imposed by law. Let's get started!
Whether you’ve gone off the grid or used it alongside standard electricity, propane is a safe and reliable way to provide heat, cook food, or power household appliances. Nonetheless, a propane tank cannot be kept inside and is usually found in a cool place that provides good ventilation.
Since a propane tank may be susceptible to the elements, can you give it a makeover? The answer is absolutely! You can spray paint a propane tank to improve its appearance.
With that said, before you go out and start spray painting your propane tank, there are several restrictions and considerations you should be aware of. These rules are mandated by federal and state laws based on safety and serviceability. For starters, you can't choose any color, and it must be your own propane tank, but more on that later.
How To Safely Paint A Propane Tank? (DIY Guide)
Things You’ll Need (Tools, Supplies & Safety Gear)
1. Prepare The Propane Tank Surface
Before painting your propane tank, you must prepare the surface properly. This includes removing flaking paint, debris, and any visible rust.
Start by using a wire brush to get rid of most of the old paint, and then finally use a fine 120-grit sandpaper to smooth things over. Once the surface is smooth, you can then wipe it down with a clean cloth.
2. Wash The Tank
Before attempting the paint job, you will need to clean the tank after wiping it down with a cloth. Dish detergent, clean water, and a sponge should do just fine. When the tank has been soaped up, you can then rinse it off and leave it to dry.
3. Prepare The Area and The Tank
Painting can be messy, so it's a good idea to prep the area using drop cloths. Place the drop cloths on the ground surrounding the propane tank. The more paint it catches, the less time you have to spend cleaning up after.
You’ll also want to avoid getting paint on the data tag. If the data tag is no longer readable, you may be refused a refill in the future. Therefore, use painter’s tape to avoid any future issues.
4. Apply A Metal Primer
Metal surfaces are prone to rust, so you should add a primer to increase your paint job's longevity. With a can of rust-inhibiting metal primer in hand, shake well, and apply even strokes using a side-to-side motion. Allow the primer to dry, and add a second coat for the best results.
You can skip this step if you’re planning to use an all-in-one metal paint and primer for your rusted propane tank. Just make sure you’re using a trusted brand and it definitely includes a rust inhibitor!
5. Paint My Propane Tank
Now that all the preparations are done, you can finally move on to the fun part of painting your propane gas tank. Like the metal primer, you'll need to shake the can well, apply the paint using a side-to-side technique, and then allow the paint to cure for 24 hours.
Once the painted tank is dry, you can then add a second coat until you achieve your desired result. Depending on the quality of your paint, you may need to apply a third coat, so again, let the paint fully cure before doing so. Remember to also wear a mask at all times while spray painting to avoid the hazardous fumes produced by the paint.
Last but not least, the color you choose to paint your propane tank is also important. You should avoid heat-absorbing colors such as black. Lighter colors reflect heat; hence, white is ideal.
What Type Of Paint Is Best For Propane Tanks?
The best spray paints for propane tanks are likely products from the Rust-Oleum brand. These spray cans are all-in-one, with a primer, which also includes a weather/corrosion-resistant formula. Rust-Oleum spray cans are usually around $10, so in terms of value, you're getting a good deal.
If spray painting isn't your thing, you can opt for a paint roller. This will give you a chance to use an oil-based metal paint, which adheres better to metal and offers a much longer-lasting finish. With that said, you'll need an additional primer, and the job itself will take much longer.
What Color Should You Use (Does It Matter?)
Propane tanks cannot be painted any color. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has set guidelines to minimize risk and ensure safety.  Dark colors absorb heat, which could lead to the gas expanding. As a result, the safety valve may then open, releasing the gas and potentially causing life-threatening situations such as fires.
The NFPA, therefore, recommends lighter colors. Light colors are heat reflective and are particularly useful against the sun. A few examples of a heat reflective color tank would consequently be light gray, off-white, and silver (the most popular color). 
The only flexibility to this rule is if your propane tank is situated in an extremely cold climate. You’ll then be able to choose a ‘dark color’ such as red, but even then, it's recommended that you contact the NFPA or your propane supplier to confirm.
Common Painting Propane Tanks Questions
Can I add patterns or custom designs when I paint my propane tank?
Yes, you can add aesthetically pleasing patterns/designs to propane tanks, but they must be within the limitations set by the NFPA. As previously above, a light color reflects heat, while a dark color absorbs heat. Your patterns or custom designs should therefore be light gray, white, or silver.
How can I blend my propane tank with the landscape?
Light colors are sometimes not ideal if you’re trying to blend your propane tank in with your garden. Instead of adding dark green paint (which may not be legal), you can fill the surrounding area and tank with landscape shrubbery or a painted fence. Safety should always be prioritized.
Can You Pressure Washer A Propane Tank?
Yes, you can use a pressure washer on a propane tank. Whether for general cleaning or paint stripping, a pressure washer is a great way to keep your tank clean. Be aware that paint not applied correctly may be at risk of unintentional flaking.
You can spray your own propane tank if you take the necessary safety measures. That means wearing a mask to protect your lungs against hazardous fumes and keeping within the rules set by the National Fire Protection Association. You should consequently always stick to light colors and avoid heat-absorbing dark colors.