Painting Metal Surfaces with Aerosols

Painting Metal Surfaces with Aerosols

Level: Experienced

Painting drywall, wood and masonry surfaces isn't the only way to update your home's interior or exterior. You can also update or customize metal surfaces with paint to create a dazzling makeover effect.

Painting iron railings, mailboxes, patio furniture, chain-link fences or even indoor appliances can be simple if you have the know-how to get it done.

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Project Steps
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    • Step 1: Prepare to Paint
      multi-purpose tarp

      Even if you're painting something that stays indoors, you'll want to paint it outside because the outdoors is well-ventilated. Painting outdoors will also help to avoid getting paint anywhere you don't want it. Pick a warm, dry day to tackle this project. Avoid painting when surfaces are damp, when the humidity is more than 80 percent, if the temperature is less than 50 degrees or if the object you're painting is directly in the sun.

      Depending on what you're painting and whether you can move it, choose an open area and cover the ground with a large drop cloth or tarp to create your workspace. If you're painting something that's immobile, such as a fence or railing, just make sure that the ground and surrounding surfaces are protected by drop cloths so they aren't marred by the paint if the overspray is caught by the wind.

      Helpful Tip

      For railings and fences, consider setting up a large piece of cardboard, lightweight wood, or hanging a drop cloth or sheet as a shield against overspray that might blow onto other objects. Place the "shield" on the side opposite of the one that you're painting.

    • Step 2: Clean the Metal

      Clean surfaces with a vinegar/water solution (50/50) or use water with a mild detergent and a scrub brush or rag to remove dirt and grime. If you're redoing something like old patio furniture and you notice that there is mold or mildew on it, clean it off with a bleach/water solution or use a commercial mold remover.

    • Step 3: Remove Flaking Paint and Rust

      Paint will not adhere well over rust, so the rust must be removed along with any old, flaking paint. There are a number of ways to do this. You can remove both rust and paint using a stiff wire brush or an electric drill equipped with a sanding pad and abrasive discs. Emery cloths (cloth-backed abrasive sheets) can be used when there is minimal rust. Emery cloths work well because they are sturdier and easier to use than sandpaper on items such as railings or fences. Scrapers come in handy as well.

      Safety Alerts!

      If you scrape, sand or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. Lead is toxic. Exposure to lead dust can cause serious illness, such as brain damage, especially in children. Pregnant women should also avoid exposure. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself by contacting the National Lead Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log on to

      Wear a tight-fitting dust mask, safety goggles, and appropriate clothing that covers your skin for the entirety of the project.

      After you've removed bubbling or flaking paint and rust, brush on a commercial rust remover. When applying rust remover, always follow the manufacturer's instructions on the label. After it has dried, wipe the surface down with a rag to remove any leftover dust or debris.

      Helpful Tip

      Iron railings are usually professionally finished before they're installed. If you were careful to avoid chipping the finish, this protective coating should still be intact and will last for many years to come. Proper maintenance will ensure that the railing will last indefinitely. Typically, rust begins where the railing posts are embedded in concrete or where the finish has been chipped. You should scuff sand and recoat the bottom 2" of the posts every year. Touch up any chips as soon as you notice them, and repaint the entire railing every five to eight years

    • Step 4: Decide on a Finish

      Consider how you want the finished product to look. Aerosol paints come in flat, semi-gloss or high-gloss finishes. Also, take some time to think about the color you want and how the color will work with the rest of your house colors, patio décor, etc.

    • Step 5: Apply Primer
      metal primer

      Spray metal surfaces with a primer made specifically for metals, such as True Value X-O Rust rust-inhibiting primer. You can also apply metal primer with a brush. This method may be necessary for some areas, but using an aerosol primer and paint often provides the best, smoothest coverage results on metal. For best results, apply two coats. When spraying, "back-brush" (painting over just-applied paint before it begins to dry) to work the paint into the surface so it will adhere better and any drips will be smoothed out. If you are painting something exposed to the elements, such as patio furniture, or an object exposed to high humidity, such as a kitchen appliance or a piece of furniture to be used in a bathroom, be sure to use a primer with mildew prevention.

      Allow primer to dry thoroughly for at least 24 hours. Primer does not always feel wet or tacky before it is completely dry.

      Helpful Tip

      After using aerosol primer (or paint), tip the can upside down and depress the nozzle for a few seconds until paint stops coming out. Next, wipe off the nozzle with a cloth. This prevents the nozzle from being clogged the next time you use the can.

    • Step 6: Apply Topcoat
      finished paint job

      Spray on a coat of True Value X-O Rust Paint & Primer in One or apply it using a small to medium-sized paintbrush. Spray painting gets the job done fast and provides excellent coverage and a smooth finish. Hold the can about 8 to 12 inches from the object you're painting and keep the can moving to avoid excess paint that can drip. Apply several light coats. If you've painted furniture or an appliance, let the paint dry for at least 24 hours before using.

      Helpful Tips

      For best results, apply a second coat of paint within 1 hour of applying the first coat.

      Using X-O Rust Paint & Primer in One allows you to skip priming in most cases.

      That’s all there is to it. You can start refreshing your metal surfaces now!

  • Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.

    Before you begin, use the shopping list below to uncheck the tools you already have to complete this project.

    Then, print or save your updated list and bring it to your local True Value hardware store, where an expert Hardwarian will give you the remaining tools and expert advice you need to complete this project.

    You can also shop online for these project items at and receive FREE shipping to a participating store.

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