Last year, I visited my aunt in Los Angeles and saw her painting the garden equipment made up of stainless steel. After thinking for a while, I inquired about the reason as stainless steel is corrosion resistant and therefore, does not need to be painted for protection.
She told me that it can improve the aesthetic appeal of the products and will make them look new and she was right. After several hours of application, I could clearly see the difference and also adopted a similar practice. Oftentimes, people ask me if it is difficult to paint stainless steel or can you spray paint stainless steel. My answer to both questions is yes, but it is worth it. Let’s get into some more details about it.
Can You Spray Paint Stainless Steel?
The Science Behind the Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is the latest or the updated version of ordinary steel and is renowned for its anti-corrosive nature. This means that this material will not get damaged even when it is exposed to intense and harsh weather conditions. Furthermore, it is lightweight and highly sturdy, which makes it a perfect option for manufacturing purposes.
Recently, the material has also been used in the medical industry and has proved to be superior as compared to aluminum and ordinary steel. Since stainless steel is malleable in nature i.e., it can be drawn into sheets and turned into wires, it serves a purpose in a variety of industrial practices. Below I have explained some unique properties of stainless steel, which have led to its immense popularity.
1. Fire resistance and Malleability
As mentioned earlier stainless steel has a specialized composition, which allows it to be drawn into sheets without twisting or breaking. Furthermore, you can also manufacture tubes and a variety of other materials as well using this metal. This property is termed malleability.
Malleability is the reason for the exceptional versatility of stainless steel in manufacturing a diverse range of materials for different industries. Additionally, this version of steel is also fire resistant in nature and therefore, will not catch fire or over-heat during cutting. You can heat it to cut and turn it into a variety of shapes without any fear of starting a fire or damaging the steel in the process.
Have you heard about the green construction material or the term green substances? It refers to the construction or manufacturing materials that are recyclable in nature and do not emit unwanted harmful chemical compounds when they come into contact with other materials, for example, water.
Fortunately, stainless steel is a green material, and therefore, it is a perfect option for manufacturing a variety of substances. Its recycling ability and recovery rate are 100 percent and therefore, the majority of the manufacturers prefer using it in their products. This coupled with its negligible emission of harmful compounds into the atmosphere further increases its superiority over other manufacturing compounds.
The best part about stainless steel is its non-corrosive nature, which is the main reason for its use in a variety of appliances and products. It is available in different grades, all of which belong to the group of the ferrous alloy and are highly sturdy and weather resistant in nature.
This means that you can use it in intense and harsh weather such as heavy rain and areas with relatively high moisture content without worrying much about corrosion or damage. What is even surprising is that the stainless steel is capable of regenerating itself in case the upper chromium layer is damaged. This means that even if you observe the layer deteriorating in some cases, there is no need to worry as it will repair on its own.
If you are thinking that you need to paint the stainless steel to protect it from damage then let me assure you that there is absolutely no need to do so. As mentioned earlier, the material is self-generating and can regenerate itself in case of damage. Furthermore, it is corrosion and fire-resistant in nature and therefore, will not get damaged easily. Then, most people question why we need to paint stainless steel.
Well, it is not compulsory to paint stainless steel; and you can skip the process if you don’t want to, however, painting has its own benefits. The majority of individuals prefer painting it because it improves the overall outlook of the product and makes it aesthetically appealing. Stainless steel itself is silver in color and might be boring for some people. Thus, painting is a good option to bring vibrancy and attractiveness to your surroundings.
Besides this, a handful of users also paint because the steel is aging and needs to be painted in order to make it look new. Now, if you are here because of the second option, you have the choice of skipping paint and just cleaning the stainless steel properly with a clean cloth in order to bring back its original shine. But, I would recommend choosing to paint as it will improve the overall outlook of the paint.
Another thing worth mentioning in this regard is that painting stainless steel is not a piece of cake and therefore, you will have to put in a considerable amount of effort in order to complete the task and might also have to face failure initially. But with patience and proper practice, you will definitely be able to achieve your goal.
Paints for Stainless Steel
As mentioned earlier it isn’t that easy to paint stainless steel and therefore, not every paint can be used for this purpose. Although no specific paints have been designed for stainless steel, there are some oil-based, water-based, and epoxy paints that are compatible with the specified material and will adhere properly on various ferrous and non-ferrous surfaces.
I also suggest applying primer to the surface before the application of the spray paint for better adhesion and smooth application. Primer will also cover the imperfections of the steel and will contribute to a flawless output, which will improve the aesthetics of the compound in the long term.
1. Oil-Based Paints
There are various advantages and disadvantages associated with using oil-based paints on stainless steel. You can use certain types of paints in this category for painting the surfaces made up of this specific steel. The best part about these paints is that they are smooth and can be cleaned easily. It means that it is easier to clean surfaces painted with oil-based colors and therefore, can be relieved from staining and maintenance. However, they are highly flammable in nature and usually generate extremely strong odors.
2. Water-Based Paints
Besides oil-based paints, you can also use water-based paints because of their quick drying time and odor-free nature. This means that you can apply them easily without worrying about the difficulty in breathing during the application, which is mostly the case with oil-based paints.
Moreover, you do not need any solvent to work with these paints and they are also relatively affordable in nature. Therefore, they are often highly preferred. However, they also have their cons. These paints are as long-lasting as oil paints and are also extremely difficult to clean. Cleaning water-based paints can sometimes also leave visible marks of water on the surface and affect the overall look of the object.
3. Epoxy Paints
Epoxy paints are perfect for painting stainless steel surfaces. This is because of their exceptional durability and long-lasting nature, which makes them an ideal option for a substance like stainless steel. Furthermore, these paints are also resistant to chemicals and do not wear off easily when exposed to external stimulants.
They are also less prone to cracking and will not get damaged or fade away under extremely high temperatures. Thus, you can use them for large objects. On the downside, these paints are not for smaller applications as they are tricky to use and can harden immediately after application, which makes them relatively difficult to work with especially for beginners.
How to Spray Paint Stainless Steel?
You can spray paint stainless steel, however, the process requires patience and time and will not be easier especially if you are new to it. But, painting the surface also comes with its own advantages. There are a few steps that should be followed in order to achieve a smooth and proper application of the paint on surfaces made up of stainless steel.
1. Prepare Your Paint Space
Preparing a proper workspace before painting the desired surface is important to keep the surroundings free from mess. Furthermore, it is also important that you place cardboard and newspaper in the nearby areas and cover the furniture and other objects properly to prevent them from staining. Place the newspaper under the stainless steel before the application of the spray paint to keep the floor clean and tidy.
2. Cleaning the Steel Surface
After you have prepared the workplace, you should focus on cleaning the substance that you are going to paint. First, use a dry clean cloth to remove any debris or dirt from the stainless steel surface. The presence of dirt can lead to uneven application of the paint and will also affect the adhesion properties of the paint. After you have cleaned the surface using a dry cloth, then use a clean wet cloth to wipe the surface. You can also use acetone to further prepare it for painting and you are good to go.
3. Wear Protective Equipment and Start Painting
You should also prepare yourself before beginning with the painting activity. Use safety goggles, gloves, and a mask before you start applying the paint. Doing so will protect your eyes from the fumes and will also prevent you from inhaling them. Gloves will protect your hands from staining and are highly useful. Now, you are ready to spray the stainless steel. Check for the possible rusting of the upper surface.
Though it is highly unlikely, if you observe any rusting, scrape it off properly. Then, use a primer to prepare the steel surface. The primer helps in proper adhesion and leads to the smooth application of the paint. Then, allow the primer to dry properly before applying the paint.
Do not paint multiple coats in a single attempt. Apply a single coat and then wait for it to dry before the application of the second coat. Doing so will lead to even application and a smooth output.
FAQs about Stainless Steel Painting
Does stainless steel rust?
Stainless steel is different from other types of steel and is corrosion-resistant in nature. It reacts with oxygen and develops a layer of chromium on top. Unlike other types of steel that immediately start rusting, the newly developed chromium layer is corrosion-resistant in nature and possesses regenerative abilities in case of excessive damage. So, to answer your question, it is highly unlikely that stainless steel will rust.
Will spray paint stick to stainless steel?
Yes, stainless steel can stick to the stainless steel surface, however, it isn’t that easy. You need a specific type of paint and proper priming before achieving the desired results. A good primer is a key to the remarkable adhesion and smooth application of the spray paint on a surface made up of stainless steel.
What type of paint will bond to stainless steel?
As mentioned earlier in this article, different types of oil and water-based paints can bond well with stainless steel and adhere properly to their surface, however, they have their own associated advantages and disadvantages. Besides these, epoxy paints are the best when it comes to adhesion and durability. These paints are wear-resistant in nature and can be applied on stainless steel surfaces, however, they dry quickly and are extremely tricky to work with.
Wrapping Up Stainless Steel Spray Painting Guide
Planning to paint your stainless steel objects can take considerable time and might also require detailed knowledge about the stainless steel and the paints that are compatible with it. Even so, you might find it difficult to apply the paint especially if you’re new to this.
I have compiled a detailed guide on the nature of stainless steel, compatible paints, and various steps that can be followed in order to effectively paint a stainless steel surface without wasting your time or creating a mess.
Hi, I am Pete Fagerlin, carpenter by profession and working on different DIY projects is my passion. For more than a decade, it’s been my weekend hobby to dig into different tools for my favorite DIY projects which helped me to become knowledgeable about different DIY tools. With a combination of my profession and passion, I am here to collaborate with Adam Wilson to share my DIY tools knowledge with the MechanicsGear readers.