Can You Paint Stainless Steel Without Damaging It?

Last Updated on August 1, 2021 by Cristina

Can you paint stainless steel without damaging it? Will paint stick to stainless over time? I have been asked this many times. If you do paint it, does it damage it? This article will answer those questions for you. I will give you some tips on how to paint stainless steel and what kind of paint you should use.

I would think the answer to the question “Can you paint stainless steel?” would be obvious. Look around your home and your cars and you will find stainless steel that is painted. Stainless steel is rust and heat resistant. It is one of the world’s strongest components. Painting it not only increases its attractiveness, but it also increases these properties as well.

What Is Stainless Steel?

Before you can talk about painting stainless steel it is important to understand what stainless steel actually is. It is not one metal but a group of metals or alloys. In order to be considered stainless, the alloy must be ferrous with at least 11% chromium. It is the chromium that prevents overheating and rust resistance in the metal. However, different types of stainless steel contain different types of elements. For instance, some contain carbon while others might contain silicon, nitrogen, or selenium. The strength of the stainless steel depends on the elements contained within it.

What Is Stainless Steel

How To Paint Stainless Steel

So how to paint stainless steel becomes the question as opposed to can you do it. First of all, it is important to make sure you use the right materials and the right paint. What kind of technique and what kind of tool will you use for painting stainless steel? Can you paint stainless steel with a brush or do you need a roller? Maybe a sprayer is the best way to paint stainless steel.

Even more important is the preparation of the metal prior to painting it. If it is already painted you will need to scrape off any old or loose paint. You can use sandpaper or a wire brush to do this. However, some painters prefer a combination of both.

You will want to be sure the metal is primed with a galvanized etching primer. Scratch the surface well before applying any paint. You might even want to apply a second coat of primer. Be sure your primer is dry before applying any paint.

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What Kind Of Paint To Use On Stainless Steel?

Now you have cleaned, primed, and prepared your object. What kind of paint to use on stainless steel is the next question.  In order to paint stainless steel one of your best choices is to use oil-based paint.

It is also true that the more damaged or pitted and scratched your stainless steel is, the better it will absorb the oil-based paint. A galvanized etching primer is the best choice.

Even though oil-based paints are excellent for stainless steel any paint will adhere to a properly prepared surface. If you want exceptional sheen and durability use two-part epoxy paint. It is also helpful to dilute the paint with water – for instance, one ounce per gallon of paint. This will make it easier to apply the paint to the metal. Apply two coats of paint and let it dry before using.

Some Applications For Painting Stainless Steel

Where are you most likely to find painted stainless steel? In the automotive industry of course! Think of all the parts of an automobile that are made of painted stainless steel. Usually, a heat treatment has been applied to the stainless parts of a car before painting. Heating and painting the stainless steel parts of an automobile only adds to the anti-corrosion elements of the car.

Most cars today are still not made of stainless steel. However, this has not always been true. From the 1930s to the 1970s Ford had many concept cars with stainless steel bodies that were painted.

Cadillac put a stainless steel roof on an Eldorado Brougham in 1957 and ’58. The DeLorean of 1981 and 1982 had stainless body panels. Some Motor Coach buses use stainless and the Porsche Cayman is still made of stainless today.

All of these automobiles use successfully painted stainless steel. None experienced any cracking or corrosion of the steel.

Some Applications For Painting Stainless Steel

However, if you really want to find the stainless steel in automobiles look no further than the exhaust systems. Ferritic stainless steel is used in mufflers, collectors, catalytic converters, tubing, and tailpipes. Some are painted and some are not.

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Can You Paint Stainless Steel?

Yes of course and done correctly you certainly won’t damage the steel. Let’s review how to paint stainless steel.

  • Examine the article to be painted well. Observe and loose skin and scrape it off with a steel wire brush and sandpaper.
  • Prime the metal to be painted with a galvanized etching primer. Give it two coats.
  • Let the primer dry.
  • Now you are ready to paint. Any type of paint should now adhere well to the metal surface.
  • However, when it comes to what kind of paint to use on stainless steel, my two favorites are an oil-based paint, or a two-part epoxy paint. You can get a smoother application and better outcome if you water down your paint to just about 1 ounce of water to a gallon of paint.
  • Give your stainless steel item two coats regardless of the type of paint you are using.
  • Allow the paint to dry completely before attempting to use the item or component that you have painted.

Rust-Oleum 247963 Specialty Oil Based Appliance, Stainless Steel

Can You Paint Stainless Steel Without Damaging It?


Can you paint stainless steel without damaging it? If you follow the instructions in this article, the answer should be a resounding “Yes!” There is no reason to think that you cannot paint stainless steel. It is done all the time. From automobiles to major and small appliances, shiny, glimmering stainless steel can come in many different colors. Pick out your favorite colors, get your tools and go to work!