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How To Paint Aluminum

Picture of some Aluminum watering cans waiting to be sanding and repainted

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Are you getting ready to embark on a brand-new DIY project, or are you looking around your house and considering some home improvements but putting it off because you are unsure of How To Paint Aluminum?

This lightweight and durable material has been used for many years on home furnishing projects, as well as construction projects.

Its natural silvery-white coat gives the metal an up-to-date and sleek look, but some homeowners wish to paint their Aluminum surfaces to synchronize with other household items.

Whether you are wanting to spruce up your old filing cabinet or redecorate your favorite patio chair or watering cans, the steps of how to paint Aluminum are fairly straightforward.

If you closely follow each of the steps laid out in this guide, your Aluminum product will have its well-deserved makeover in no time.

Continuing reading this article will provide you with a guide on how to paint Aluminum to get your home looking fantastic again.

How To Prepare Aluminum For Painting

sanding some aluminum ready for paint application- for article how to paint aluminum
Photo Credits: Pixabay.com

Just like any other paint job, preparing your Aluminum for paint is a vital step.

Ensuring your Aluminum is free from dirt, grime, dust, and any older paint is essential to securing a good paint application.

If you do not thoroughly clean your product, removing dust and older paint, has the potential to make your paint job look tacky and unprofessional.

Furthermore, if you don’t have a fully prepped surface, it may be harder to maintain and manage your painted product.

Remember: For ALL painting jobs, including painting Aluminum, the paint will adhere best to a rough surface. Paying close attention to the preparation process is vital, not taking enough care can lead to your paint peeling on your new product within just one week after painting.

For the best outcome, you will need to follow multiple steps. First, you will need to sand down the area that you are wanting to paint. Keep in mind, that a rough surface is preferred because the paint will stick to it better.  

Next, you’ll want to add a high-quality paint primer. Primers can also encourage the paint to cling to the Aluminum surface.

Key Insight: Try to pick out an affordable, but high-quality primer- this will help to provide a long-lasting and durable finish, once dried.

Preparing the Aluminum before painting is a fundamental part of the process. If the metal is inadequately prepped, the paint is more likely to chip and peel.

We will go into each step of preparation in more detail in the step-by-step guide below.

Tools and Materials

  • Drop cloth
  • Wire brush
  • Rag
  • Degreasing detergent
  • Sandpaper
  • Self-etching spray primer
  • Acrylic spray paint
  • Enamel sealant
  • Large bucket
  • Pressure washer
  • Protective gear

How To Paint Aluminum- Guide

Aluminuim door- for article how to paint aluminum
Photo Credit: Pexels.com

Step One: Clean the Aluminum

As mentioned already, fully preparing the Aluminum is vital to the overlook of your product.

Before you begin the cleaning process, you’ll want to cover the area around your product with a drop cloth. Laying down the drop cloth will help to protect the surrounding areas from any paint splatters or splodges.

Now, the surface needs to be thoroughly cleaned before considering applying primer or paint.

Using a large bucket, fill with warm water adding a few squirts of degreasing cleaner or a grease-cutting dish detergent. Using a degreasing cleaner will remove any dirt or grease from the material.

Dip a rag into the mixed substance and wipe over your product to remove dust, dirt, or grease. However, if your Aluminum has any unwanted particles or substances like rust or flaky layers of paint, you’ll need to scrub over the areas with a wire brush to remove the layer.

Tip: Look closely at your material, if you happen to see flaking paint or rust, take your wire brush to remove the layer. Leaving it can prevent the fresh coat of paint from fully sticking to the new base.

If you notice any peeling paint, and you have a hose or pressure washer you can use this to remove the excess paint. If you hold your washer or hose at a slight angle, it should take off almost all the older paint layers.

After you are happy your product is deeply cleaned, set the Aluminum upright to dry well.

Step Two: Sand the Aluminum

To further help your paint adhere, you’ll need to sand the Aluminum stripping it back to a rough texture.

Before you begin any sanding, put on your protective gear- goggles, dust mask, and gloves to protect you from metal shedding particles.

Using either a sanding paper or a sanding block, you want to sand over every side, crevice, and corner of the object you are working with.

You want to use 80 to 100-grit sanding paper. This is categorized as coarse sanding paper and is specifically designed to strip the leftover paint and to make the surface of the metal tougher and rougher.

Now go back over your area with a finer grit sanding paper, around 400-grit.

Step Three: Clean… again

You’ll notice all the unwanted dust you removed in step one, is not back so you’ll want to rewash the product.

Take back out your large bucket with warm water and degreasing cleaner mixed and wipe over the surface ensuring all dust is removed.

You can choose whether to take your hose or pressure washer to remove excess soap and dirt from the material.

We recommend that 10-15 minutes is spent removing any soap or dust residue.

Leave the Aluminum to air dry. Remember it needs to be completely dried before considering priming or painting your object.

Step Four: Self-etching primer

priming a piece of metal using the spraying technique
Photo Credit: Pexels.com

Now it’s time to add your primer to your surface. Self-etching primers are made of chemicals that micro-etch to the surface of metals like Aluminum, helping to produce the best possible bond when you get round to paint application.

Related Fact: A fine layer of oxide can be found on the surface area of Aluminum products. Therefore, a primer is needed, if not it will prevent the paint from sticking

We recommend purchasing your primer in spray form rather than the typically used paint form. This is simply because it provides a better application for Aluminum.

You want to spray the primer as thin as you can, this will help to speed up the dry times between each coat, as you may find you need multiple layers. If you are applying more than one coat, usually it takes around five minutes for each coat to dry.

Take a step back and examine your product. If you are happy that it has been adequately primed it normally takes around 4-6 hours to allow each coat to completely dry.

Tip: Always remember to look at the manufacturer’s guidelines to get an informed answer on how long to leave your primer to dry.

After the primer has dried, you can take a 400-grit piece of sandpaper to wipe away and missed dust or dirt.

Be Careful: The chemicals are also toxic so completing this stage in an outdoor space will prevent the chemicals and chemical scent from lingering inside your home.

Step Five: Apply paint

The paint you chose is a major contributing factor to your final painted piece of furniture, so try to find a top-tier acrylic or latex paint that is made for painting metal.

If you are painting something outdoors like a piece of patio furniture, ensure you pick out exterior paint that will be able to withstand outdoor elements such as rain and rust.

In some cases using high-gloss paint is preferred such as painting baseboards, but this paint type is not suitable for painting Aluminum. Glossy paints will make any scrapes and ditches stand out on a lightweight metal like Aluminum.

Flat or matte paint is the most suitable paint for this type of metal. The way you decide to apply your paint, whether spray or paintbrush, is entirely up to you are your preferences. However, take into consideration the size of your paint task when making your decision.

Aim to apply approximately 4 to 5 coats of paint to your item, but if you are unsure check out your packaging for further guidance. You should allow each coat to dry for around 1 to 2 hours before applying another layer.

Experts Tip: Sanding between each coat may be beneficial. It may help to remove any build-up of paint or any uneven clumps and this will affect how seamlessly your coats bond with the surface.

Step Six: Let your paint dry

If you are satisfied with your painting skills and overall product, it’s time to leave it to try. You should prepare to wait around 24 hours for your paintwork to be completely dried.

If in doubt check it out; pull out your paint tin or spray and check the specifications as this will tell you how long you should leave the paintwork to dry.

Place the item to dry in its own space away from different objects and surfaces and ensure it’s completely dry before you move on to the next step.

Step Seven: Sealant

Now it’s time to move on to the final stage of the How To Paint Aluminum procedure and coating your product in an enamel sealant should only be completed once the paint has completely dried. Waiting approximately 24 hours after applying the final layer of paint is ideal.

Utilizing a sealant will be beneficial if the painted Aluminum item is going to be kept outdoors.

The enamel sealant will ultimately lengthen the life span of your Aluminum, as it enhances its ability to resist several outdoor conditions, like heavy rain.

As well as its ability to withstand outdoor conditions, applying a sealant will also protect the Aluminum if it’s likely to endure heavy or intense use, i.e., constant lifting or moving.

If you have an Aluminum garage that you are wanting to paint check out our guide to achieve the best possible results.

Furthermore, using a sealant is also valuable to products you plan to keep inside your house. By protecting and prolonging the lifespan of your newly painted items from everyday wear and tear like scratches, fading, and chipping or scuffs.

Before you begin to add your sealant, familiarize yourself with the recommendations from the manufacturer on cure times so you are aware of how long you need to wait before you can use or rest anything on your item.

Remember: Curing times and drying times are different and understanding their differences is a vital factor that can impact the outcome of your DIY product.

You will likely need around two coats of your chosen sealant. This will help to ensure your product is sufficiently protected and sealed.

Once you are happy with the amount of sealant on your product, it’s time to let it cure.

Don’t Forget: The cure times for the enamel sealant you are using will always be found on your tin or spray bottle under the manufacture’s recommendations. It’s important that you do not skip this step. If you put your product outside in heavy rain, or if you rest your pictures on your newly painted indoor item, the sealant will struggle to do its job and may not preserve the surface as well as anticipated.

Roundup on: How To Paint Aluminum

Breathing new life into your Aluminum product is a big task, but if you are a keen DIYer or excited to get started on your new home improvement job, preparing, cleaning, sanding, and painting are the only aspects you need to tackle. 

If you closely follow the seven steps set out in this guide, you will have a greatly painted item that will withstand outdoor conditions and protect against wear and tear like scratches.

For health reasons, ensure you are working in a well-ventilated area and are wearing the correct protective gear. The chemicals released from etching primers are toxic, so you don’t want the chemicals to linger in your home.

As you will be required to sand your metal, you want to protect your hands, eyes, and nose from metal sheddings.

Carefully analyze your material, if you happen to see flaking paint or rust, take your wire brush to remove the layer. Leaving it can prevent the fresh coat of paint from fully sticking to the new base.

It’s highly commended that you apply a topcoat or sealant after you have applied your paint and are happy it’s fully dry. This will make sure the paint stays adhered to the surface and prevents any fading or the paint from washing away after application.  

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