How To Keep Spray Paint From Chipping Off Metal (5 Ways)

Have you ever spent a huge amount of time and effort painting that metal cabinet or garage door, only to see it chipping away a few weeks later? It's frustrating and also upsetting when your hard work wears away.  

Could there be an easier way to keep the paint on? This guide will explore how to keep spray paint from chipping off metal and the common reasons it could be peeling already. 

Fear not! Spray painting metals doesn’t need to be difficult. We’ve compiled a list of helpful tips to use when spray painting metal to make sure your paint stays on the surface.  

How To Keep Spray Paint From Chipping Off Metal

Correct Priming

As mentioned before, you need to make sure the surface is properly prepared. Clean the metal with a damp cloth or soapy water to wipe away debris and dirt from the painting surface. 

It's essential to sand or rough down the surface, too. Some paints will simply require a smoother surface, and bumps along the road will cause chips and peels. Using aluminum oxide sandpaper will greatly help you, too. This is designed to work for a longer period of time and will have a better abrasive action on the surface. You can use both a sanding machine or just do it by hand.  

Thin Coats

We've all been tempted to spray more paint than we should - it will cover up the blemishes, right? But, in fact, spraying thicker coats onto the metal will not allow the coats underneath to dry, leading to chips or peeling.  

Spray a thin layer by using a higher pressure for smaller paint droplets. If you're able to, you should also try spray painting outside to allow the extra droplets to disappear with the wind. Sometimes, it may even be better to use a high-quality paintbrush or roller to get the thin coat that suits your metal surface perfectly.  

Curing

The topcoat is dry, and you're ready to move your metal furniture into its spot. But be warned, you need to let the paint fully cure before putting it into full use. Some paints can take up to 3 weeks to fully cure, so it's best to avoid putting anything on top of it that could peel away the paint or leave marks.  

For cabinets or shelving units, you’ll want to keep them in a cool, dry place with little disturbance. Allowing it to cure fully will save you so much hassle in the future.  

Protection

To guarantee minuscule or no peeling, a topcoat is essential. Velvet finishes or gloss paints may already have a topcoat built-in. But it's never a bad idea to apply one yourself.  

Using Polycrylic coats on oil-based or latex paints gives you an even finish and protection against peeling. Use with caution, though, as you may find some darkening or ambering occurs. Apply a small spot test to ensure it keeps the desired color before applying it all over.  

Polyurethane topcoats can work well for water-based or polyurethane paints. The same caution applies here - discoloration can occur. While using polyurethane topcoats, you should be absolutely sure the paint has fully cured, or else it can mix or discolor very quickly. 

Strip Old Paint

It may seem kind of obvious, but it’s a really important thing to consider. If you're painting a garage door, old paint might not dry the new coat and will peel under the fresh paint.  

There are several options to stripping off old paint:  

  • Using a paint stripper that’s suitable for metal works well. Apply a generous amount of thinner to the metal surface, and allow it to work its magic until the paint bubbles. This takes anywhere between 30 minutes - overnight. Use a scraper to remove the paint from the surface, being careful not to scratch it.  
  • A mix of Water and Vinegar/Baking Soda for smaller metal items will remove paint well. For each liter of water used, add 60ml of vinegar or baking soda, and add the metal to the water. Boil for approximately 15 minutes and remove. Use tongs or heat-resistant gloves to take it out of the water, and scrape the old paint. 
  • For a simpler option, an Angle Grinder with a paint stripping disc works pretty fast. However, it can get very dusty and noisy, so make sure you're wearing proper protection and that the old paint doesn't contain lead.  

Common Reasons Why Spray Paint Chips Off Metal 

There are several reasons it could be chipping, peeling, or not adhering. Different types of paint may not accept a particular material, and this could be causing problems. Below are some common reasons paint begins to chip away quickly:  

  • 1
     Dirty Paint Surface  
    It’s arguably most important to make sure your painting area is clean and clear of debris before you start. Any dust, dirt, or other foreign objects on the metal will prevent the paint from adhering. Wipe the metal with a wet cloth to clean the surface. If it’s particularly dirty, you may want to grab a bucket of soapy water to give it a really good clean. You’ll need to then run over it with a dry tack cloth afterward, just to make sure there’s nothing left over.  
  • 2
     Wrong Type Of Paint  
    Most paints will sit fine on a metal surface. Using oil, latex, or water-based is generally the go-to. But if you’ve used a solvent-based paint, you may find that it will start to peel after a few days. This might be because the metal surface was too hot, and the paint began a process called a solvent boil. Make sure you're using solvent-based paints on cooler areas and definitely not on garage doors.  
  • 3
     Surface Not Primed Correctly  
    If you’re using a velvet finish or oil-based paint, you should be able to paint the metal with no problem. These won’t require as much priming, but it’s a good idea to smooth the surface beforehand. If your paint has a waxy, shiny, or laminate finish, or is just made with polyurethane, you will need to prime. Simply sand down the metal surface and smooth any bumps to make sure it can easily attach.  

What To Do If Spray Paint Is Starting To Scratch? 

Peeling paint can be a nuisance. If you’ve noticed a part of your garage door, car, or just metal shelves have started to peel, don’t panic! There are things you can do to fix it.  

  • 1
     Inspect & Clean  
    An area of chipped, scratched, or peeled paint can reveal a bigger problem under the surface. Check the affected area and all the patches to see if the problem is bigger than at first glance. Remove the flaked and peeled paint; there's no fixing it.  
  • 2
     Sand Down  
    You'll need to remove each coat of the affected area—sand down with 1200-grit sandpaper right to the bare metal. You should also account for the area about 10 centimeters out to prevent any problems in the future.  
  • 3
     Primer  
    Like the first coat, make sure to use a primer coat to prevent it from peeling again. Clean the area, too, just to make sure.  
  • 4
     Apply Again!  
    Spray the area with a thin coat and clear coat. It’s important to make sure you use the exact same color you did on the first attempt, as the mismatch will be obvious and stick out like a sore thumb. After painting, it’s a good idea to keep the original paint as a reference. Leave to cure as you would the first coat, and check to see if the problem is gone.  
spray paint

Common Questions 

Will a clear coat stop spray paint from chipping? 

Yes! Most clear coats are designed to protect the paint underneath to give a clean finish. A varnish might be better for certain paints, but mostly polyurethane or polyclyrics will work nicely. 


Does spray paint on metal need to be sealed? 

Not necessarily. For glossy or velvet finishes, a seal may not be as useful. However, for matte finishes and water or oil-based paints, they can protect it from the elements and stop chips or peeling.  


How many coats of spray paint should I use on metal? 

You should aim to do about 3 - 4 coats of paint, with approximately 30 minutes between each coat.  


Does primer prevent paint peeling? 

Yes and no - primers clear the metal from impurities that could cause chipping or peeling. However, it won't stop any external forces from causing damage or chips.  


Conclusion

Peeling paint on metal can be a nightmare - and now with ways to prevent and fix it, we can rest easy knowing that our metal will stay painted for a long time to come. Make sure the surface is adequately prepared, and keep your coats thin. Get that chip off your shoulder, protect those coats! 


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