Powder coating is a fantastic and economical way to protect a part from corrosion and abrasion while also electrically insulating a part and adding some visual flair. It is an extremely durable coating that adheres very well to most metals. Because it is so tough, powder coating removal is not an easy task. However, sometimes mistakes are made, and that powder coat has to go. Perhaps the wrong color was chosen, or a DIY powder coat job didn’t come out right, or maybe you powder coated a rotary shaft throwing all design tolerances out the window (guilty). However, not to fear, because there are four ways you can safely remove that powder coat and get on with your tinkering.
How You Can Remove Powder Coat: 4 Safe Methods
Despite the strong bond powder coat has to the underlying metal, it can be removed. There are four established ways to remove powder coating: chemical stripping, thermal stripping, abrasive (aka sandblasting or media blasting), and laser removal. Each process has both advantages and disadvantages. Most are more suited for industrial application due to specialized equipment; however we will outline the steps for a DIY process as well.
Chemical stripping is the lowest cost option on this list, and is also the method with the least equipment required, making it the best option for the DIY audience. The process is very simple, typically just submerging the part in a solvent, then neutralizing the caustic solution before rinsing and drying the part. Some basic safety precautions should be taken to make sure harmful fumes from the chemical strippers don’t irritate your eyes or lungs. Also, depending on the chemical chosen, it might require hazardous waste disposal. It is recommended to check local resources for disposal services if needed. A simple internet search for “hazardous waste disposal (insert city name)” should inform you of the local resources. A step by step guide on DIY chemical stripping is at the end of this article should you decide to try your hand at home.
Chemically Stripping Powder Coat
No metal removed
Potentially difficult chemical disposal
Thermal stripping powder coat is typically best used for large batches and frequent powder coat stripping operations. The process involves heating the powder coat to the point that it loses adhesion or even to the point of combustion. It typically requires an industrial oven, as the minimum temperature to remove powder coat is 650°F. Additionally, the burn-off of the powder coat emits dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that need to be ventilated properly, not something you want floating around inside a home. There are numerous methods that range in temperature from 650°F to 1,200°F. Baking off the powder coat at the lowest temperature would take several hours, while the most aggressive high temperature method can burn-off the powder coat in a matter of minutes. There are also hybrid methods that combine heat and abrasives, or heat and chemicals to remove powder coating more efficiently. A limitation of this process is that it should not be used on temperature sensitive materials; even aluminum would lose a significant portion of strength at the minimum operation temp of 650°F.
Thermally Stripping Powder Coat
Large batches possible
High energy costs
If refinishing the piece is the end goal, abrasive blasting, also known as sandblasting or media blasting, is a great option. This process leaves the part with a slight texture to the surface that readily accepts new coatings. Abrasive blasting processes use particles of various media to remove surface coats. This media is typically applied with pressurized air or water. Examples of the media include water, glass beads, aluminum oxide, steel grit, garnet and more. Think of this as a more aggressive version of a household pressure washer. This process is great for hard parts, but softer metals like aluminum can sometimes be damaged if not handled carefully.
Abrasive Media Powder Coat Removal
Can choose which areas to remove powder coat from
Cheap in large quantity
Manually intensive process
Can erode soft metals
A fairly new method that has been implemented in recent years is laser stripping. A specialized laser burns off the powder coating layer, leaving the underlying material intact and untouched by the heat of the laser. For this reason it is an ideal process for temperature sensitive materials such as aluminum, which can lose heat treat properties at a relatively low temperature, and thus lose significant strength as a result.
Laser Removal of Powder Coat
|Can be automated|
Suitable for temperature sensitive materials
Can precisely choose which areas to remove powder coat from
Which Method Should You Choose for Powder Coating Removal?
There are several considerations to help select which process is most suitable for your powder coat removal needs.
- Each process will vary in cost depending on number of pieces and process used
- Frequency of removal needs
- If a single piece needs to be processed, perhaps a simple chemical removal process makes sense. If powder coating removal is a regular occurance, perhaps the capital investment in specialized equipment of the other processes makes sense.
- Batch size
- For small batches, chemical, laser, and abrasive stripping often make most sense. Both chemical and thermal stripping can be scaled very effectively for large quantities of parts.
- Environmental and safety considerations (including waste disposal)
- Each process has potential considerations for safe operation as well as environmental considerations that should be considered.
- Partial powder coat removal or complete removal
- Abrasive stripping and laser stripping both offer the ability to only partially remove powder coating, with the later offering very precise control.
- Intricacy of part
- If a part has many small features or internal geometry that was powder coated (such as threads that were mistakenly coated), then chemical or thermal stripping would be your best options.
- Replacement cost
- Sometimes it is more cost effective and faster to simply replace the part with an uncoated or properly coated part, be sure to factor in cost of your time with this evaluation
How You Can Remove Powder Coating with a Stripper on Your Own in 5 Easy Steps
While most methods require extensive equipment, chemical removal of powder coat can be done at home. Precautions should be taken, such as proper ventilation and/or wearing a respirator depending on the chemical to be used. Refer to the chemical safety data sheet (SDS) for proper precautions for the selected chemical. Some chemicals will also require disposal at a local hazardous waste facility. Paint strippers such as Klean Strip or generic acetone will work on some powder coats, such as many DIY powder coatings. However, if the coat was fully cured, these might not be strong enough to remove it. If you are uncertain of the effectiveness, try a spot test with the chemical before committing to fully submerging the part. Specialized chemicals will be the most effective on the widest range of powder coats. One such example is Remove 9000 Dissolver by Miles Chemical Solutions, and it will work with all types of powder coats plus epoxy, enamels, urethane, etc.
Below are the basic steps for stripping using a specialized powder coating stripper, Remove 9000 Dissolver.
- Put on proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
- For Remove 9000, eye protection and heavy nitrile gloves are required
- Pour the chemical into a steel, stainless steel, or polypropylene container with a lid
- Submerge the parts to be stripped in the solution
- Parts should be submerged for 15 minutes to 2 hours.
- Submersion time depends on the durability of the initial powder coat, coat thickness, and if the parts are agitated regularly
- Mechanical agitation will speed up the stripping process.
- Note that introducing air to the solution will reduce solution life.
- Remove the parts from the solution once the coating is dissolved
- Scrape away any stubborn residue with a plastic scraper or abrasive pad
- Rinse part clean with water
Giving Your Parts Bold and Long-Lasting Finishes
Utilizing the proper coating on your parts is often a critical step in the design process. Corrosion resistance, abrasion resistance, conductivity, surface hardness, and even chemical reactivity can all be altered with the proper coating. Our experts ensure a consistent and quality application of all the coating options we provide so you don’t have to worry about removing any poor quality finishes. We have an article all about SendCutSend’s powder coating process available here. Also, check out all the coating services SendCutSend offers: SendCutSend services.
If you are new to SendCutSend, here’s a handy step-by-step guide on how to order parts from us: How to Order Parts from SendCutSend (spoiler alert: it’s super simple and intuitive to order from us)
- How do you remove powder coat at home?
- The recommended way to remove powder coat at home is with chemical stripping due to the minimal equipment, minimal cost, and simple process.
- What can I use to remove powder coating?
- Chemicals, heat, high pressure abrasive media, or lasers can be used to remove powder coats.
- How hard is it to remove powder coating?
- Without the proper tools and techniques, it is difficult to remove powder coat due to its strong adhesion to the underlying material. However, the processes outlined above will easily strip powder coat without damaging the underlying part.
- Can powder coats be removed by acetone?
- Acetone can be used for removal of some powder coats. The bonds of fully cured powder coats will sometimes be too strong to be removed by household chemical strippers like acetone.