How to Remove Paint and Rust from Metal Tools

Two popular methods to remove rust, paint, and other contaminants from metal are chemical and mechanical. The chemical process can be toxic, messy, and can take time. While the mechanical approach is built with clean and strip discs and wire brushes to make it a choice that is simpler, quicker, and safer.

Chemical Method to Remove Paint & Rust

Using chemicals containing acid is the old traditional way of eliminating rust and other contaminants from metal. Apply the chemical first to the metal.

After this, the released paint or rust will still need to be scraped, sanded, and rubbed off, and you will need to do this a number of times to get it back to clean metal. 

Mechanical Method to Remove Paint & Rust

Try the mechanical way if you are looking for a safer and easier way to remove paint, rust, and other surface contaminants from metal. Using a power tool like a grinder, sander, or even a drill with an angle or straight grinder. The paint, rust, or other surface coatings can be taken off by an angle grinder fitted with a Strip and Finish disc or roller, wire cup brushes, or wheels, but will not be stripped or cut into the base metal or material.

There are multiple mechanisms to remove paint and rust layers from metal surfaces, from small hardware tools to large, or as removing paint from a classic car.

How to Remove Paint From Metal with Abrasives?

You can sand the paint off metal in quite a variety of ways. Usually, it is the easiest way to remove paint, rust, and other toxins from the metal surface.

Different abrasive tools, such as a portable belt sander, angle grinder, straight grinder, orbital sander, or even a drill, are the perfect tools for paint-off. Each of these power tools has a particular wheel or belt available for paint stripping.

Below you find how to remove paint from metal with an abrasive wire wheel, wire brushes & the clean-n-strip method.

1. Wire Wheels and Brushes

A wire wheel & brush is the best tool for removing paint. However, you can switch over to wire wheel brushes when you have larger areas to finish the work faster with less effort.

You can choose wire cup brushes, end brushes, wire drums, or wire wheels to remove paint from metal, depending on the tool you are using and the surface you are working on.

2. Wire Brushes

Steel wire brushes are available in two basic forms- crimped and twist knots. They are ideal for removing paint from the metal surface.

  • Crimped Wire Brushes: Best to use for small stock removal.
  • Twist Knot Wire Brushes: Best to use for heavy stock removal.

Wire brushes are better for light stock removal, soft paint coatings, or coating that is not strongly bonded to the metal. The wire brushes de-burr or round off the edges with thick, hardened, or firm coatings.

3. Clean and Strip

Clean n strip tools are hard non-woven fibers with extra coarse abrasives. They are specially built to extract and clean rust, coatings, and other surface contaminants without removing the base material (in glass, stainless steel, plastic, and wood), and leaves a clean, smooth surface. 

Clean n strips are better than wire brushes. It reduces brush wires falling and removing any coating much easier and cooler from the base metal than a wire brush.

How to Remove Rust From Metal with Abrasives?

Using abrasive tools and accessories is an easy way to remove rust from metal surfaces. Abrasives are mostly used for sanding, scraping, stripping, and industrial washing. They are available in various shapes, sizes, and materials and can be attached to many portable tools such as drills, angle grinders, die grinders, rotary tools, etc.

Below you find different methods for How to remove rust from metal using grinding, sanding, wire cup/Brushes, and other abrasive techniques.

1. Grinding Method

A grinding is the most aggressive method that can be used on metal surfaces to effectively remove the worst deposition of rust. Grinding is also applicable to post-welding for the removal of extra welds and cleaning. While using grinding wheels on metal use extreme caution as it can damage the metal.

2. Sanding Method

Using sanding is another effective method to remove rust and oxidation when the surface you are cleaning has a wide flat surface, use an orbital sander with hook and loop sanding discs, they can remove surface rust so quickly, easily, and cheaply. Sanding is probably less aggressive than grinding.

3. Wire Cup/Wire Brushes

Wire brushes are less aggressive than grinding, also a fast method than sanding. These are the best tool to remove rust from metal.

Use wire brushes with caution as soft metals (copper and brass) can damage with excessive brushing. Ther are perfect for precious metals such as silver and gold or even aluminum alloys such as aluminum car rims. Wire brushes are typically made of hardened carbon steel and some of them are coated with a brass coating to avoid sparking.

Basic Home Remedies to Remove Rust From Metal
Baking Soda & Vinegar Bath Method

These two home remedy method is less expensive and easy to try, but not suitable for heavy stock or rust removal. It is best for a light rust surface. 

  • Baking Soda Method: For this method prepare a thick paste by mixing  50/50 baking soda water solution. Now apply on a metal surface with the help of a crumpled-up aluminum foil. Leave it for few minutes and then rinse it off. Repeat the procedure as needed.
  • Vinegar Bath Method: The vinegar bath method is best for small metal items that can soak in vinegar easily. For a few hours, soak the metal in vinegar, and the vinegar can react and melt the rust off the surface of the metal or help loosen it to make it easier to clean.