To refinish a metal part or product (such as expensive car wheels, bike parts, window frames, etc.), you will often need to strip away the old powder coating that it might have. But the greatest strength of powder coating, the durability, is what makes it difficult to remove.
So, in my opinion, unless it is necessary, you should not try to remove powder coating from metals. But if you need to remove it for any reason, the easiest method is to try Sandblaster. Although it won’t be easy, the process can work and help you remove powder coat from most metals successfully.
Alternatively, there are a few different ways that you can go about it. These methods and tips will help you retreat the metal surfaces later per your requirements…
Method 1- Chemical Stripper to Get Powder Coat Off
The chemical stripper is usually the fastest option available to remove stubborn powder coats from metals. You can choose from a wide variety of chemical-based strippers depending on the application.
For example, a high-production industrial setting where plenty of thick coating must be removed may require a dip tank. However, if a dip tank is not an option because of the size of the part or product, you may use a brush.
Different chemical strippers like Oven cleaner, Miles 8660 liquid, Miles 8659 Gel, Benco B-17 (or 1010P), etc. to get rid of coatings. You can pick the one suitable for your job depending on the extent or the area in which you need to use a chemical stripper.
Arguably the biggest pro in using a chemical stripper is that you will get an even result, and the part or product is uniformly cleaned, which is especially true if you use the dip tank method.
It helps that the purchase price of most strippers is quite low and affordable. Plus, you can use chemical strippers for either large or small parts or products equally.
The biggest issue with chemical strippers is the danger they may present.
Using a chemical stripper will require protection, normally a respirator or mask that can filter harmful chemicals. Plus, you will need to work in an area that is well-ventilated.
The disposal of chemical strippers will also require some environmental guidelines, as you can’t just pour them down the drain.
One other drawback, which may not be a disadvantage at all, depending on why you are stripping away the powder coating, is that the chemical stripper will leave no profile behind on the part or product.
If you are planning on using paint to cover the surface after removing the powder coating, the lack of a profile may make it more difficult for the paint to stick properly. This means using additional methods to create a profile for the paint to adhere properly to the surface.
Method 2- Heat Removal for Powder Coating
If you are uncomfortable using chemical strippers or want a profile on the surface after the powder coating is removed, heat removal may be the answer.
For engine parts or equipment that have been exposed to oil and grease, it is recommended to use thermal stripping which will not only help eliminate impurities but also powder coating.
Applying intense heat will either fluidize, bake, or burn away the powder coating without using chemicals. There is, however, a difference between these three results that you must consider before using heat in the removal system.
Fluidizing: This stripping system is abrasive in nature and causes the bed of the coating to heat up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
Baking: This involves heating 640 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 to 6 hours. You will need to wash away the remaining powder once the process has been completed.
Burning: This involves 1000 to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, which should burn away the coating in just minutes. It provides rapid results, but the part or product must withstand the high temperature.
Heat may be your best solution if you have large amounts of powder coating to remove. The removal method is fast, efficient, and does not use any kind of dangerous chemicals, so there is nothing to dispose of.
One of the most prominent is the cost of heat removal, which may run into thousands of dollars. Plus, you may also have to pay for the natural gas or electricity used to generate that much heat. Even getting that type of heat in an oven may be challenging.
Also, you will need to purchase a special wash that will remove the burnt remains of the powder coating once the heat has been applied.
And just like using a chemical stripper, there will not be a profile that remains after the powder coating has been removed, which makes the part or product more challenging to paint.
Method 3- Abrasive Blasting to Blast Away Powder Coats
As the name suggests, this process uses an abrasive media (such as steel shot, corn cobs, walnut shells, dry ice, plastic pellets, etc.) propelled at high speeds to wear down the powder coating.
The process is also often known as sandblasting, even if sand is not used. In this, you will need to set up a room or cabinet for the blasting to take place. A “sandblasting cabinet” is better suited to remove powder coating from small parts. While a “sandblast room” is better for larger parts or products.
The material you use for the blasting process will depend on how much powder coating needs to be removed. So, you may need to run a few tests on small areas to find the right one.
For small parts like rims and wheels, abrasive blasting may be the best method available. It’s simple, fast, and works well while leaving a profile behind so you can easily paint the part or product later.
As fast as abrasive blasting is, it is not as fast as chemical strippers or heat removal. You may also need to use compressed air, which may be problematic depending on your situation. Plus, it can be pretty expensive to use depending on the size and number of parts or products that need abrasive blasting.
Method 4- Laser for Stripping Away Powder Coat
Lasers can do a lot of things, including removing powder coating from surfaces. In fact, it can be the best removal system available, depending on the type of powder coating used in certain cases.
The laser is good enough to be used on small or large surfaces. No heat is involved in this method, so it will not alter the product’s surface. Also, it does not alter the substrate, which means you do not have to worry about the environment once it is completed.
Lasers can be quite expensive to rent or maintain, especially for those who only occasionally need to remove powder coating. Also, when trying this method, you will need to be extra cautious. It’s often the job of a professional and should not be done DIY.
So, there you have it—everything you need to know about removing powder coating from metals. If you are careful and take your time, the processes I mentioned above are not too complex.
Just be sure to follow all the safety precautions and use the right tools and chemicals; you should be able to get the job done without any problems.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.