Do It Yourself Knowledge

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Spray Painting Galvanized Metal

Posted by diynovice on September 16, 2009

I recently made the mistake of promising my future wife that I could easily and cheaply spray paint a galvanized steel lantern we bought from IKEA.  After three cans of spray paint and a couple of lanterns, I found out I was dead wrong.  Now, I know a lot about metals, but I was never told that galvanized steel is difficult to paint.  So, this post is about galvanized steel, and ultimately, the only spray paint that will work on it.  For the readers who don’t care about the details, scroll down to the “**********” and continue reading.

Galvanized steel cannot be painted with normal alkyd-based paints, which almost all spray paints are based on (check the ingredients on the back of the can.  If there is any “alkyd…” don’t even think about using it).  Rust-o-leum is nice enough to put on the back of their spray paint cans to not use their spray paint on galvanized steel.  However, beware, most spray paint companies do not include this warning.

First, what is galvanized steel?  It is steel that has a zinc coating to increase the steels corrosion (rust) resistance.  Most galvanized steel is created by a process called hot-dip galvanization and a common characteristic of these steels is their display of  Spangle.  Spangle is just a fancy word for visibly large crystalline grain size.  Small amounts of lead and other impurities will increase the size of the spangle and make it more noticeable.  You can see the spangle in the galvanized steel guard rail below.
Other galvanization processes used to apply zinc coatings usually do not produce noticeable spangle but instead have a dull gray finish.  These processes are briefly described below (from Grip-Rite fasteners website):
Electrogalvanized – zinc coating applied to steel with an electric charge – offers limited corrosion resistance – typically applied to roofing nails
Mechanically galvanized– zinc applied by tumbling with powdered zinc and glass beads – provides slightly better corrosion protection than electrogalvaized steels.
Hot galvanized – zinc is applied through a heat treatment.  Provides best corrosion protection behind Hot-dip galvanization.

How does the zinc coating work?  The zinc coating provides corrosion protection by actively reacting with the atmosphere to form a thin, tough, inert layer of zinc carbonate to prevent the steel from rusting.  The zinc coating will also provide cathodic protection if the underlying steel is ever exposed (such as by a scratch).   While the zinc will always provide cathodic protection, it takes time for the zinc carbonate to form, and must undergo three transformations.  First, the zinc rich coating will react with oxygen in the air to form zinc oxide.  Second, the zinc oxide will react with oxygen and moisture to form zinc hydroxides.  Third, the zinc hydroxides will react with oxygen, moisture, and carbon dioxide to form zinc carbonate.

Depending on the atmospheric conditions that the galvanized steel is subjected to, the time required for each of these layers to form will vary.  Pure zinc will be present from 0 to 48 hours after the galvanization process; zinc oxides/hydroxides will form anywhere in 24 hrs to 2 years, and zinc carbonate will form in 8 months to 2+ years.  Galvanized steel exposed to the elements will quickly form zinc carbonate (within 8 months) whereas galvanized steel located indoors and not exposed to the elements, can take more than 2 years to fully form the zinc carbonate layer.  As the transformation advances, the surface will start to appear duller, but, the spangle of the surface will not be lost.

This is important for surface preparation, especially if you decide to brush paint and the steel is exposed to the elements.  The zinc oxides and zinc hydroxides are not well adhered to the surface and can easily chip off.  Zinc carbonate bonds well to the underlying zinc and provides an excellent painting surface.  More in depth details on the surface preparation for painting can be found on the American Galvanizers Association (AGA) website (see links at the end).   Rubbing the galvanized surface with a damp, lint-free cloth is most likely all that is required for the average DIY’er.  Oils can be present on the surface from the manufacturing process, however, items for indoor/home use should not have these oils.  Mineral spirits, turpentine, or vinegar can be used especially to remove any surface oils, however, these will leave a residue.  Be sure to thoroughly wash the surface to remove this residue if you choose to clean with one of these.

Why can’t galvanized steel be spray painted?  Alkyld-based spray paints will react with the zinc during any stage of the galvanized layer, in a process called saponification.  The alkyd-base interacts with the zinc to form a soap at the interface.  This will result in poor paint adhesion and paint peeling.  Cold galvanizing spray paints will adhere to galvanized steel because of their high zinc content, however, top-coats of regular spray paints still will not adhere, and the colors of cold-galvanizing spray paints are very limited.

LatexMany brush-on paints exists to cover galvanized steel, but spray paints appear to be non-existent.  After much research, I finally found the solution.  Acryllic latex will adhere to galvanized steel with minimal surface preparation.  Therefore, the solution is Krylon’s H2O Latex spray paint.  It is an acrylic latex that will not chemically react with the galvanized surface.  [Krylon is one of the companies that does not include a warning against using their regular spray paints on galvanized steel.  Don’t be fooled.  All of their alkyd-based spray paints cannot be used on galvanized steel.  And, I don’t think they realize that they have the only spray paint that can be applied to galvanized steel.]  The spray paint costs about the same as any other spray paint and since it is a latex paint, it is more environmentally friendly.  It is difficult to find in stores.  I found it at Ace Hardware, but you can also find it from online retailers.  This spray paint is less viscous (more watery or runny) than the average spray paint, so use multiple light coats to prevent the paint from running and pooling on your project (I learned this the hard way).  DO NOT try to cover it in one coat.  The paint dries in about 15 minutes, however, the paint will not fully cure for about 7 days.  Also, do not use the Krylon H2O Latex primer.  It is alkyd-based (so technically, not a latex spray paint) and will not adhere, just like any other spray paint.

Hopefully, this information will help any future DIY’ers with their projects.  For more information, and more in depth explanation, visit the American Galvanizers Association’s (AGA) website at and check out their free publications on painting galvanized steel.

For general painting of galvanized steel, here is an excellent list of paints and their compatibility with galvanized steel.  This table comes from “Duplex Systems: Painting over Hot-Dip Galvanized Steel” which is available on the AGA’s website.

Type (paint base)…..Compatible…..Comments

Acrylics …….Sometimes……If the pH of the paint is high, problems may occur due to ammonia reacting with zinc
Aliphatic Polyurethanes…..Yes…..If used as a top coat for a polyamide epoxy primer, it is considered a superior duplex system
Alkyds…..No…..The alkaline zinc surface causes the alkyds to saponify, causing premature peeling
Asphalts…..No…..Petroleum base is usually not recommended for use on galvanized steel
Bituminous…..Yes…..Used for parts that are to be buried in soil
Chlorinated Rubbers…..Yes…..High VOC content has severely limited their availability
Coal Tar Epoxies…..Sometimes…..Rarely used, only if parts are to be buried in soil
Epoxies…..Sometimes…..If paint is specifically manufactured for use with galvanized steel
Epoxy-Polyamide Cured…..Yes…..Has superior adherence to galvanized steel
Latex-Acrylics…..Yes…..Has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly
Latex-Water-based…..Sometimes…..Consult paint manufacturer
Oil Base…..Sometimes…..Consult paint manufacturer
Portland Cement in Oil…..Yes…..Has superior adherence to galvanized steel
Silicones…..No…..Not for use directly over galvanized steel, can be beneficial in high temperature systems w/ base coat
Vinyls…..Yes…..Usually requires profiling, high VOC’s have severely limited their availability
Powder Coating…..Yes…..Low temperature curing powder coatings work exceptionally well over galvanized steel

Works Cited
American Galvanizers Association. (n.d.). Duplex Systems: Painting over Hot-Dip Galvanized Steel.Retrieved from American Galvanizers Association: 

American Galvanizers Association. (1999). Practical Guide for Preparing Hot Dip Galvanized Steel for Priming. Retrieved from American Galvanizers Association: 

Avallone, Eugene A., Theodore Baumeister III, eds. Marks’ Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. Pgs. 6-93 & 6-110.

Grip-Rite. (2008, june). Grip-Rite Fasteners Catalog. Retrieved from

Malone, J. F. (1992). Painting Hot Dip Galvanized Steel. Materials Performance , 31 (5), 39-42:

Peeling – From Galvanized Metal. (n.d.). Retrieved from Sherwin Williams:

Painting Galvanized Steel.

Why does Rustoleum Rusty Metal Primer say not to use on galvanized metal?
. (2008, May 8). Retrieved from Handy Man Club:


118 Responses to “Spray Painting Galvanized Metal”

  1. Donna said

    Oh my gosh, do you miss grad school or something? Why are you writing these research papers on your blog? AHHH!

  2. coatings said

    I have previous coatings in my garage floor. How can I remove it to install a new one?

    • Jim said

      You might try a furniture stripper, like “stripeeze”, comes in gallons, or navel jelly, not very practical in such a large area, but will strip about anything down to the base & washes off with water.

  3. w e kenyon said

    Your article is excellent. Thanks for putting it up. And for even including a photo-example of spangle. Now I know (among other things) why galvanized items spangle brightly in the store and only dully when they’re old.

  4. Lauren said

    Thanks so much for this article! I also just purchased a galvanized steel lantern from Ikea a few days ago for my wedding and was hoping to paint it white. Now I know!

  5. […] Quite interesting scientific background of galvanization is presented on Do It Yourself Home Repair blog. […]

  6. Ike Herbst said

    i am so grateful that was the best coz i am in the look out to refurbish some guardrails, thank you thank you, very interesting blog.
    cheers Ike (Swaziland, Africa)

  7. Woody McTootle said

    I beg to differ from all of the above. I took two galvanized fenders off my boat trailer, rusted to beat shit. I soaked them in a big bucket with a 50% solution of phosphorous for an hour, pulled them out and sanded them, put them back in for an hour. When I pulled them out I had bare metal. I rinsed them clean for about 5 minutes. The next day I lightly sanded the flash surface rust with 250 grit sandpaper, then put 2 coats of rustoleum primer on top of it. The next day I painted them with black rustoleum. Wet sanded between three coats. My fenders have been on the trailer for 6 months now and look just as good as the day that I painted them. Phosphorous etches the metal so that primer will stick to it.

    • Andrew said

      You just defeated the purpose of the galvanising !!! You want to paint over it not remove it

    • Jerri Sue Dawson AKA Gillmore said

      Hi Woody, So you got a boat and you’re Florida? Funny!

    • Steve said

      Yup…you ‘de-galvanized’ the fenders with the phosphoric acid bath…so when you primed and painted, you were working with bare, non-galvanized steel…as evidenced by the flash rust you found the next day.

  8. Thank you for the wonderful ideas on Spray Painting Galvanized Metal.

  9. How timely that I found this.
    I just bought two nice outdoor light fixtures, but they are galvanized metal. So, seeing the labels on Rustoleum spray paint, I asked the clerk if I could use some kind of primer. She found a brush-on primer for galvanized metal.
    It’s acrylic based grey and also made by Rustoleum.
    Comes in a quart can though, so seems like a waste if I can find the spray paint you mention, in a color I like! One step- less cost. And we have an ACE store downtown.

  10. Gitmoir said

    Great explanation. I would be curious of using “rust converter” products on galvanized with rust breakthrough and of using “hammered” paints on galvanized (which Rust-Oleum licensed for its spray cans). I have used “hammered” spray paints on a variety of metals with excellent results, it bonds with rust, what it does on galvanized I do not know yet.

    A relative reported that the “Grip-it” product sold by Home Depot bonds well to galvanized permitting a top coat with most any paint desired.

    I have tried a variety of automotive paint products including “engine enamel” all of which eventually peeled sometimes in a little as two week sometimes up to 10 years, but eventually all peeled.

  11. Gitmoir said

    I tried painting a galvanized steel door with the Krylon H2O product, it bubbles and peeled within 6 hours and absolutely did not stick to the galvanized at all. Maybe Krylon has changed its formula since this article above was written. Krylon does offer an H2O Primer though it makes no mention of galvanized.

    At this point I’m totally stripping the door and will use an airless sprayer to apply “Gripper” a Glidden product specifically rated for galvanized metal. It could just as easily be applied with a fine finish roller.

  12. Kari said

    Thanks for this! We were wondering why the galvanized wash tub we need to make black wasn’t cooperating. We looked at the H2O at the store, and thought it wouldn’t be right for our needs–so thanks for setting us straight!

  13. Tom said

    Dude! You knocked this topic out of the park for me! Your article explained the problem and solution in perfect detail… I’ve got galvanized joist hangers I’m using for a pergola and want them to blend into the beams, so I will take this great information to heart and see about the Krylon H2O.

    • Sahak said

      I’m a contractor and a customer of mine wanted all Simpson Tie Galvanized hardware for their pergola in black. It was all sent to powder coating. $450 material +$450 powder coating service……very expensive but 3 years outdoors in Los Angeles and looks good as new. Seems to be the way if you can afford it!!!

  14. Ciara said

    wow! thanks. we just bought some galvanized brackets to build our fence and decided to spray paint them a bronze color. when we went to the spray paint section, we couldn’t find anything and the guy at the store couldn’t think of any solutions.

    do you think this stuff will hold up through the rainy portland seasons?

    thanks so much!


  15. adrian catalano said

    there is a paint made for galvanized metal. this is the website.

  16. M said

    I wish I had found this article an hour ago. I just bought a 17 gallon galvanized steel wash tub and literally just spray painted it an hour ago with Rustoleum’s Ultra Cover. I was reading the back to see how long until it’s dry and just realized it said do not use on galvanized steel. So i googled to learn why, now I know. How long before it starts to peel and do not need to strip this paint off before I apply the acrylic latex spray paint?

  17. Chuck said

    I just called Rust-oleum product support. I wanted to use their Rusty Metal Primer on galvanized — they confirmed you can’t (generally) spray paint galvanized metal. Their solution: use a “latex primer” on the galvy, then “any kind” of spray paint over that. Specifically they recommended Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3 spray latex primer, and said I could use any kind of Rust-oleum spray paint over that — I want to use Rust-oleum hammered finish and they said that would work fine.

  18. Myles said

    Wow! found this in the nick of time. doing some Reno work in an old warehouse. For what reason I don’t know they have Galvanized I-Beams running through the place. The owner is going for a whole open concept which exposes all mechanical piping and so forth. Anyhow, he wants everything painted. This is a good start.


  19. Ashkey said

    A scrapbook company I took a class from said they spray painted chalkboard paint onto the galv. Steel boards I bought from them. I just don’t remember if they primed or not? They looked really good . What do u think?

  20. crystal said

    Does the spray paint you mentioned have a color that looks galvanized. I borrowed a friendscarrier and it got damaged by humidity (it does not do well with humidity and amonia from rabbit urine.

  21. mike emm said

    I tried and liked the results with H2O on galvanized metal and was just informed by Krylon that they are discontinuing the product…..probably because people don’t know how to use it correctly. (it is a lot “runnier” than ordinary spray enamels). So you will find the product on sale ($3.99 at our local Ace). Stock up.

  22. Dude! You knocked this topic out of the park for me! Your article explained the problem and solution in perfect detail… I’ve got galvanized joist hangers I’m using for a pergola and want them to blend into the beams, so I will take this great information to heart and see about the Krylon H2O.

  23. Ali said

    Thank you for this article, informative, clear and well structyred.The best I found covering the subject withot technical details

  24. raquel chaparro said

    Thank you! I really needed this!

  25. CJ said

    Excellent Article, I now know all I ever wanted to about Galvanized steel. Thank you!
    Now, I have a galvanized chain link fence around my pool area. The actual chain link is black and the posts and crossbars are just galvanized steel colored. My wife wanted a new fence due to the two different colors so I suprised her and spray painted the posts and crossbars. The rustoleum at Lowes had the “do not use on galvanized metal” warning so I asked the “paint expert” who recommended Lowes brand because it sticks to anything. There was no warning so I tried it. Four cans and 3 months later it still looks great. I used the Valspar gloss black spray paint. I guess only time will tell if it’s going to last but if I can get 2-3 years out of it with minimal touch up I will be happy. (BTW the fence is about 20 years old with no rust). $15 poorer but happy!!

  26. sal said

    FYI…Rust-o-leum has a customer support phone number on their spray can to assist with paint questions. Prime with a water base and then use either an oil base or water base top coat. Just spoke to them this a.m.
    Question: once galvaized metal rusts, is it still galvanized? Can you sand the galvanized out of galvanized metal?

    • Steve said

      The steel base starts to rust when zinc has corroded away. The last stages of galvanization are marked by ‘white rust’, white pimples of–drum roll–zinc oxide. Yep, the same white stuff used as sun block.

      Shortly after the ‘white rust’ zinc oxide appears, the base steel will start rusting.

      And yes, you can sand/grind the zinc off the steel.

  27. Rick said

    Our church has recently decided to paint the outside of building and would like to know we are on the right track. The building is sheeted with galvanized material. The front side was powder-coated probably in the factory, while the back side is bare. We were told to treat/prep the bare material with a solution of acid diluted with water 20 to 1. This was the the advice of Sherman Williams pain store. This will allow the primer to adhere to the metal. Next we were told we can get the same life from a water based acrylic latex as with an oil based paint when applied correctly. Please advise. Thank you.

  28. RG said

    I can’t find this stuff anywhere. I spoke to someone at a Sherwin-Williams about the H20 Latex, They were supposed to carry it, but no luck. He did say however, that all of the Krylon acrylic latex paint could be used on galv. Can anyone confirm?

  29. stephen paul said

    After struggling to replace an old suspention unit on my trailer I am pleased to read your article that makes it easy to put a uniform finnish on the whole of the underside, wood metal ang galvanized steel. Thanks

  30. Thad said

    Just ran across this post while trying to find a suitable solution to paint galvanized joist hangars and post caps for a patio cover.

    After much searching for the Krylon H20 in my local area, I came up empty. So I started looking on the internet for places that would ship it. This stuff is EXTREMELY difficult to find!
    The solution I found is much simpler. Instead of the consumer level Krylon H20, I found that Krylon makes an “Industrial” line of paints, including latex based spray paints.

    You cannot find them on the main Krylon website but instead on From there search for Eco-Guard™ Latex Spray Paint Enamels.

    These turned out to be much easier to find (although still online) than the H20 line.

    I ended up buying from Grainger, and did NOT need a contractors license or account to do so.

  31. Frank said

    I read your info on painting galvanized steel. You mentioned that there are many brush on types, but I only found the spray type. Could you tell me what are the brush on types? Send response to: Put PAINT in the subject line. Thanks.

  32. Krakus said

    Thank you for posting your article. I built an EMT conduit fixture stand for my aquarium, and it’s time to paint it. My search for prep/treatment brought me here several times.

    I just hacked my way through the myriad of mis/information on the web, and in retail stores, trying to figure out next steps. So, admittedly, I did not contact a paint retailer like Sherwin, CIL et al. But I was

    I ended up buying a product at Canadian Tire called “Armor Coat Galvanized Metal Primer” (~$4/340g spray can). I can’t find anything on the internet about the brand, so I wrote CT about the product. CT Customer Support referred me to Rust-Oleum Consumer Brands Canada @ (800) 387-3625 (currently closed eh!). The only indication that the primer is oil based is the instructions say to soak the nozzle in paint thinner if it becomes clogged.

    I also bought a 340g can of Krylon Outdoor Spaces for a top coat. The only indication on the can that it’s oil based is the instructions say to use paint thinner to clean over spray (immediately after spraying).

    News at 6

  33. Smoke said

    Dude, Zinsser Bulls Eye 123…you can put that sh*t on anything. It even specifies in the specs that galvanized metal (interior and exterior) is a surface it covers. I used to paint for money, and that was always my go to primer. Great price for the product also.

  34. Max Osterhasi said

    Thank you for very much for summarizing this information, very useful indeed.
    A) You state that ” Acryllic latex will adhere to galvanized steel with minimal surface preparation.” Will Valspar’s Latex Enamel brush-on paints (sold at Lowes, for example) also adhere to galvanized steel? (it does’t say “Acryllic latex” on the label, only Latex Enamel).
    B) If so, would it be enough of a surface prep to wipe it down with vinegar on paper towels?

  35. wayne said

    Someone asked “why are you posting this”? I want to say thank you, thank you, this is first-class information. I was just about to make a screen door kick plate with galv. and spray it brown, but just from the look and feel of the material I suspected the material wouldn’t easily hold paint, and you confirmed that. Thank you, and the details on the galv. process are also very useful.

  36. Michelle said

    Thank you.

  37. John said

    This is an OUTSTANDING resource material you’ve provided. Thank you for sharing your trials helping the rest of the world save time and money! 😉

  38. John said

    You rock! I especially appreciate the curiosity apparent in your quest to learn ‘why’ – and that you shared it with us in such detail! Thanks!

  39. Steve said

    You can use a product called T-Wash which is a liquid solution that will etch into the galv then use a primer coat then top coat, or alternatively use Etch Primer this does exactly the same as the T-Wash then base coat the galv then top coat.
    Simple 🙂

  40. Robert said

    This is a great blog and great information.
    I have owned a sheet metal shop for 25 years and when we have need to paint galvanized metal that is non-paint grade. We rub it down or dip it in vinegar. After it dries, it is ready to paint. Very seldom do we have a problem with it flaking.

  41. sawndra said

    hi! Any help would sooooo greatly be appreciated! i teach 2nd grade and need to paint a galvanized trash can (that will be used outside) for a school carnival project. ICK! i am an artist, but no NOTHING about galvanized metal. I am planning on painting it a base color and then have students paint on it various designs and their name. Am i able to use the Krylon H2O latex on the trash can? If so, what kind of paint can i purchase for the students to do their work on top of the Krylon H20? Could I have them use permanent markers? Don’t laugh! hahahaha Thank you!

  42. I make metal art. I want to put a clear over galvanized to keep it shiny and use the natural zinc color as a decorative element alongside copper or brass. Rustoleum has a latex clear and I may try water based polyurethane clear.

  43. Glenn said

    I never knew about how a zinc coating protects the underlying metal. Thanks for a very informative article and a good, um, primer, on the subject!

  44. Ruben said

    Thank you, this was very informative. I’m going to bury a galvanized pole to mount a security camera and I want it to last as long as possible for the customer. Thanks again.

  45. […] you can’t spray paint galvanized steel. If you’re a nerd, you can read all about why here.  Otherwise, just trust me on it. So we ended up using Martha Stewart’s Metallic Paint […]

  46. Dane Of the house of McHadden said

    Great write-up. Page is bookmarked. I am refurbishing an antique boat,motor,trailer. The whole package is original from 1979 and the trailer is galvanized and in great shape. I am planing on painting it white and stenciling the thunderbird emblem from decal onto the fenders. This post has given me the information to be 100% confident in the process and practice of doing such a thing. I too have had failiures in painting galvanized items in the past, but, no more.

    Thanks again.

  47. Adam said

    Very good….got a good knowledge through your theory …I tried acrylic paintt over galvanized dipped paint and it worked out quite well and that was in Fiji back in 1990s …

  48. Johne267 said

    Thanks for the sensible critique. Me &amp my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research about this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I am very glad to see such wonderful info being shared freely out there. agadebbddcak

  49. […] Spray painting galvanized metal « do it yourself knowledge […]

  50. […] Spray Painting Galvanized Metal « Do It Yourself Knowledge – Sep 16, 2009 · I recently made the mistake of promising my future wife that I could easily and cheaply spray paint a galvanized steel lantern we bought from IKEA…. […]

  51. […] Spray Painting Galvanized Metal « Do It Yourself Knowledge – Sep 16, 2009 · I recently made the mistake of promising my future wife that I could easily and cheaply spray paint a galvanized steel lantern we bought from IKEA…. […]

  52. Shaniul said

    I have use your idea and success

    Want more tips on plastic

  53. Reid said

    Unfortunately the colors are rather limited for the Krylon latex spray paints. I instead found a product at Ace Hardware called “Krud Kutter Metal Clean and Etch” which removed the galvanization. I was then able to use the Rustoleum Clean Metal Primer on the metal. From there, Rustoleum has many colors of spray paint to choose from.

    The Krud Cutter works well. Many acids will remove galvanization, and a guy at Ace even recommended vinegar. However, the Krud Kutter mentions “no harmful vapors”. Nevertheless, make sure there’s adequate ventalation.

    Next time I’m going to try using standard Kilz 2 brush on primer (search “Kilz 2 galvanization”) over the galvanization, rather than removing it.

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  56. Dawn Murakami said

    Thanks!! I had started in on the articles at Then my husband found your post when I finally asked him for help with my research. I appreciate all the time you saved me. BTW, I want to paint some IKEA Hyllis shelves (galvanized steel, of course)

  57. Laura said

    How about ZG-90 cold zinc galvanized spray? Says it comes in black, white, blue, green, red and silver?

  58. Chris said

    Best to use a solvent based acrylic (lacquer) spray paint for painting the galvanized surface. You’ll have to make sure that the surface is clean. I would not waste time trying to convert the galvanized surface. Coincidentally, these acrylics are often the cheapest spray paints.

  59. M. Watson said

    My misfortune not to have read this article two days ago. I stopped at the Home Depot paint department to ask the ‘experts’ about painting galvanized metal and 2 salesmen told me that Rustoleum paint would work. Only THEN did I go back to the home decor store and buy 2 metal planters.

    The only reason that I’m online was to complain to Rustoleum that the spray nozzle on the ‘hammered finish’ paint cans gums up in between coats (we’re talking as little as 1 hour). While browsing their site, I stumbled upon the product specification sheet that says…….’do not use on galvanized metal’. $70 project down the drain 😦 because I didn’t do a web search first.

    Thank you immensely for every bit of detail that you put into this article. If I have to repurchase….and repaint….the detail in this article will help me make the correct paint selection. Knowledge like this is too good to lose. Glad you took the time to share it.

  60. rogerdpack said

    Apparently you can use normal paints if you first apply some specific “primer” on it or what not. Or the latex stuff as suggested here 🙂

  61. 1poematatime said

    I made a wire sculpture out of galvanized wire and painted it with rustoleum. I noticed some of the paint has chipped off and want to repaint it with the product you suggest. How do I remove the rustoleum? I cannot sand it as it is thin wire and the shapes will be ruined.

    • Chris said

      If the sculpture is small enough to dip, I would use a solvent like xylene (xylol) to remove the paint. The Rustoleum film will dissolve quickly in it. If it is a larger sculpture, you may have to sand blast it with a very fine grit so as not to damage the galv wire. As far as repainting, stay away from alkyd resins. Find a laquer (acrylic), or latex, to recoat.

  62. David said

    Thanks for taking the time to help us! Your research is great!! QUESTION: What would you use to coat and protect galvanized water pipes that are used as railings for a building from ocean salt rust?

  63. Chris said

    David — If you are looking for a topcoat for the galvanized surface, look for a lacquer (acrylic) paint (you could also use a latex). Stay away from an alkyd resin system.

  64. Mike said

    David, did Krylon just re-brand the “H2O Latex” as “ECO Guard” or can we no longer buy what we need? FYI, I want to dip rolls of cage wire before using them.

  65. nice

  66. David said

    Thanks for providing the “Works Cited”. it makes it easier for us to read more to learn how best to paint our tons of galvanized railings.

  67. Katie said

    We have a galvanized zinc table top that we bought from someone and it has some of the coating scraped off. If we sand off the coating and the zinc and get down to the steel, will we still have trouble with the different paints/lacquers/etc sticking to it? I want to find the best way to refinish the table. Thanks.

    • Chris said

      Katie — If you strip the table down to the bare steel you should not have a problem coating it. I would recommend finding a primer designed for “direct to metal” application, especially if you are keeping the table outdoors. If you do not decide to primer the table, find an industrial “direct to metal” coating that will hold up to environment and keep you from having to repaint it anytime soon.

  68. Lindsey Carlton said

    I have the same galvanized metal lantern from IKEA, and I want to do the same thing and paint it! I am so glad your post came up in my Google search. This is valuable information, and I will buy the right paint to do the job.

  69. can we paint polyurethane paint on galvanized steel sheets directly and air dry it. how long does it take to completely dry before use and what will be the life of the polyurethane paint coating please reply early Thanks.

  70. […] Spray Painting Galvanized Metal « Do It Yourself … – Sep 16, 2009  · November 10, 2010 at 11:26 am. I tried painting a galvanized steel door with the Krylon H2O product, it bubbles and peeled within 6 hours and absolutely … […]

  71. […] Spray Painting Galvanized Metal « Do It Yourself Knowledge – Sep 16, 2009  · November 10, 2010 at 11:26 am. I tried painting a galvanized steel door with the Krylon H2O product, it bubbles and peeled within 6 hours and absolutely … […]

  72. Joe said

    People, speaking as someone who has spent a life time restoring metallic components via plating and organic coatings, there is a whole world to applying paint to a surface,(seriously like PHD^10 knowledge involved here). This includes air temperature, paint temperature, surface temperature, air humidity, surface substrate chemistry, coating system chemistry… etc etc etc. To simplify painting on a galvanized surface. Quick Easy 99% Should Work Last Long Time Method. A. Use fine grit sand paper (250 or greater) to break up the loose microscopic oxide salts on the surface, best you can, to allow for better adhesion (60 or less if its corroded). B. Clean it well. Use isopropol alcohol, clorinated break clean, etc. Make sure there is no residue and the cleaner doesn’t cause flash rusting by activating the metallic substrate, if possible use compressed air to dry. C. Use a zinc based primer, (remember in chem 101, Like likes Like), make sure the zinc primer is system based or just make certain via the MSDs that the zinc is zincdicromate, (Rustoleum makes a etchant primer, and Krylon makes a more expensive primer with the zincdichromate), DO NOT use a straight zinc oxide such as CRC cold galv. Then you can use whatever spray paint you want as long as you follow the instructions on its can, temp-humidity-recoat window, etc. (My favorite is 2 part epoxy, but as a rule, the more resins in the paint the tougher it will be). Should work on your old wash tub, bolts, nails, if you want to remove the galvanization. Dip it in a 30% solution of HCl or muriatic acid, be careful, research HCl before you try this. Also, most galvanization contains Lead and Arsenic, so don’t breath it in or ingest it. Its why when you buy hardware now you get a Prop 65 letter with it.

  73. *There are some interesting points in time in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There is some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as well


    To avoid problems with solvent based rattle can spray paint adhesion on zinc plated steel parts, wash the parts with a water based cleaner degreaser, rinse well with clean water and follow up with a sodium carbonate wash (aka washing soda, aka mechanical dishwashing detergent aka Cascade solution). Use a green scotchbrite pad to provide a light mechanical abrasion and wear gloves to protect your hands. 10 minutes of harsh sodium carbonate action on the zinc plating will produce a thick film of zinc carbonate. Rinse well and dry overnite before painting with a typical DTM (direct to metal clean metal primer) aka Rustoleum clean metal primer in rattle cans for under 4 bucks. I have had zero paint film failures and that is after dip coating and spray coating thousands of Simpson metal connectors for outdoor decking.

  75. Axe Lujabe said

    Am axe Lujabe am doing Steel work in Tsolo EC so now need to no where can I get galvanizing paint plz

  76. […] center for academic success (cas) provides many resources in support of academic success for all. Spray painting galvanized metal do it yourself. Sep 15, 2009 i recently made the mistake of promising my future wife that i could easily and […]

  77. Great summary, thanks for posting! I’m looking to paint some galvanized 2×8 hangars for a patio covering project…you definitely saved me some aggravation!!

  78. darren Johns said

    I’m trying to find this product in Europe as I work on a yacht and thinking of trying this product on our anchor chain. Does anyone know where I can find this stuff over here or do I have to ship it from the U.S? Also has anyone ever tried this on an anchor chain and had success?

    • Steve said

      Don’t bother, yes, and it worked poorly, on an anchor chain.

      The original galvanization had been expended, and the zinc
      paint did not hold up well to steel-on-steel contact between
      links, or when chain was stored. The paint is just not as
      hard and doesn’t hold as tenaciously as zinc plating.

      If you have a yacht, you can get the chain re-galvanized.
      For small boat owners, the only economical option is buying
      a new length of galvanized chain.

  79. […] Spray Painting Galvanized Metal « Do It Yourself … – Sep 16, 2009  · November 10, 2010 at 11:26 am. I tried painting a galvanized steel door with the Krylon H2O product, it bubbles and peeled within 6 hours and absolutely … […]

  80. Jane said

    Once that spray paint has cured well, can you spray a different form of spray paint on top of the H2O?

  81. daniel said

    Wow I can see no contractors post here , Dudes all you need to paint galvanize is let it age a few weeks outside , soak it good with a rag that you dip in straight white vinegar and let it sit till it drys and then wash it with plain water . Repeat process again and when it drys dont wait over an hour to paint , the galv will get powdery again and no stick then , plain latex is best for first coat . with brush or spay gun , when it drys break out the rattle cans and spray away .

  82. I hate that all it says on cans is “do not use on galvanized metal” and nothing more. I don’t know about you but I won’t settle and need to know “why?” when something like this evokes a question. I must know. So after further research lead me here. I just want to say thank you for taking the time to write this article. It was clear and concise, informative and for me, very interesting. So thank you.

    • daniel said

      I forgot a couple of items , the surface should be washer first with warm soapy water and rinsed to remove any oils . That should be done before starting with the vinegar . Also I used to watch a program on tv about a guy in the restoration business , I think it was Ricks restoration but not sure. Any way he mostly did antique or vintage metal items like old coke machines , farm and garden equipment , etc . Any way he used what he called etching paint or etching primer on galv . and it was in a spray can and made for the purpose . I dont know where he got that or the name . If you can find info on where to find that please post . I dont get that channel any more on tv . That gives me an idea , I will see if I can find a web address for him and might can email him . I was in the restoration business of old buildings and sometimes we used a mild acid wash instead of the vinegar but it is dangerous to work with so I dont want to give instructions on that .

      • Steve said

        Using acid or vinegar on galvanized steel is ok, just understand you’re DE-galvanizing it.

        The acid/vinegar solution is simply removing the zinc (and all the corrosion protection
        it provides).

      • daniel said

        no no , it only removes the powdery deposits and etches the galv slighty . You cant see any difference by looking , the zinc is still there . You would have to soak it in strong acid and probably submerge it quite a while to eat all the zinc off . Vinegar is very weak acid and wont damage the zinc enough to matter . Remember the purpose is to apply a new surface finish the same way you would to bare metal so you dont really need the zinc any more anyway , but it will still be there if you decide to strip the paint back of .

      • Steve said

        Yes, yes.

        The “white powdery deposits” is zinc oxide, and yes, your process ‘degalvanizes’
        the galvanizing, and that’s why it “works”.

        For a contractor, who’s looking to come back and re-do the job in a few years when rust
        develops, your method will work just fine.

      • daniel said

        Do you really think a little vinegar on a rag will remove all the galv from something ? Yes it removes the powdery zinc oxide . That is not doing much good any more except to keep paint from having a surface to bond to . If vinegar would wash the whole zinc surface off do you think people would be pouring it on their salad to eat with just a little olive oil added ? Any way lets just pretend you are correct , the purpose of this thread was to be able to paint a galv surface . It would not matter if all the zinc was gone , it is still as good as any other piece of painted metal . You cant have your cake and eat it too . !!! Why dont you harass the people that sell galv primmer and tell them they are damaging precious zinc by etching it ? Or tell people to never wash their cars because they finally wash all the paint off ?

  83. F*ckin’ tremendous things here. I’m very glad to see your article. Thank you so much and i’m taking a look ahead to touch you. Will you please drop me a mail?

  84. Steve said

    Thank you for sharing this info.

    • daniel said

      Try this experiment . Put a tarnished penny in a dish and cover it with vinegar and rub it in some . Wait 20 min. and rinse off . A lot of the tarnish will be gone . Now try the experiment with another penny but mix in some salt with the vinegar before applying the mix . You should see a like new penny . Im sorry I dont remember the salt ratio but start with a pinch in a tbsp and keep adding till best results . Now that is the best mix to but on the galv metal . I had forgotten that we added salt on my previous post and that gives a supper good job on the galv metal .

  85. Chrissie said

    Thank you for this & savinge a huge headache. I knew there was some reason it couldnt be painted but never understood why. The best part is that the new knowledge will save me time i didnt want to spend, i can get this project done and enjoy the finished product sooner. Thanks for using terms anyone can understand.

  86. Otha Buttz said


  87. David Legge said

    This is awesome! Thank you very much for the great explanation and advice. It is much appreciated.

  88. Cana said

    We have galvanized pole fencing for horse corrals. The old paint is peeling. Need a good solution for a larger scale project. Ideas?

  89. If you wash galvanised steel in warm soapy water, rinse let dry and wash again in a weak ammonia solution and let dry, alkyd paint will adhere and prevent rust bleed through.

  90. […] […]

  91. Daniel Molatore said

    Excellent Article and in perfect timing. I had ordered some galvanized piping for floating shelves with wood planks. And was planning on painting them. Black. Thank you!

  92. Spray Painting Galvanized Metal

    […]Insurance coverage and guarantee are essential elements too when it comes to hiring a painting contract job.[…]

  93. Tammy said

    We purchased a 10′ round galvanized stock tank last summer for use as a pool. We set it up with a sand and salt water system, plus a solar copper diode float that ionizes the water & kills algea. We used the pool all last summer with the plan to let it “age and weather” for a year before painting the inside this year. Now we are ready for painting and we drained it completely. All of the area that was below the water is nice and smooth and rust free but does feel like it has developed the heavier carbonation needed. Areas on the inside, above the water line, have much heavier white carbonated weathering plus some rusty spots, and there’s one area on the outside that has the much heavier white carbonation plus rust where one of the pool fittings leaked a while before we fixed it. The rest of the outside appears to have fully carbonated weathering, although, we do not plan to paint the outside, with the exception of the area where it leaked & rusted. We had thought we would use a 2 part epoxy paint, but it sounds like it would be terribly expensive for a 10′ pool. I’m just wondering if anyone can provide any tips on what we need to do to prepare the rusty areas inside and outside, prior to painting, and then what other prep/primer and paint would be the overall most cost effective? And by cost effective, I do mean long term, so even if the epoxy is more expensive up front, but will be more durable, and be worth it because it will last longer, that’s what I’m looking for. We want to do this right to ensure that it lasts as long as possible. Thank you in advance for any info that anyone can provide. I have already read numerous reports on the AGA site but they do not have an option for asking questions.

    • sweedld said


      If the “zinc carbonate” is heavy, spongy or flaking in any way, it will not hold a paint, even epoxy two part without failing due to water and increased oxidation of the zinc layer surviving underneath the oxidized zinc carbonate. If you see signs of rust, the zinc protective galvanization layer is gone. Note that if the substrate is chalky or flaking due to excessive zinc carbonate, that issue must be addressed BEFORE using a primer and paint system. Really aging a galvanized tank for a season outdoors while filled with water appears to be a recipe for deep corrosion to set in. Make sure you inspect all areas that have signs of visible rusting BEFORE you apply any paint.

      Also note that painting galvanized steel tanks that will be used to hold water is a very tough additional environmental factor that may cause the paint film to bubble and fail due to microscopic pinholing that your eyes cannot detect. There are specialized paints used to seal concrete and masonry based water basins but they are based on chlorinated polymers and use toxic solvents that make application problematic unless you are invested in a self contained breathing apparatus, in other words, a protective suit and sealed face visor forced air breathing system. That equipment is expensive to buy and impossible to rent as far as I know. Dedicated autobody paint shops must use these systems for spraying dangerous catalyzed paint systems, but the weekend warrior should not jump into this level of paint application unless they are well suited out and at great expense. MIC and other isocyanates used in urethane paint catalysts and hardeners can cause irreversible damage to lungs and eyesight so be very careful with application exposures.

      There are some nice zinc based metal primers (Rustoleum has several different price points) that will be very compatible with your oxidized galvanized stock tank. One of the most cost effective (inexpensive but not low quality) catalyzed paint systems is made by Valspar and sold as Tractor and Implement Enamel. You must buy and add the Valspar 4625 Enamel Hardener – 8 oz at the specified ratios to ensure a much harder and more durable finish. These may be applied with a brush but note that the catalyst based hardener will make the paint cure MUCH faster than an single part non catalyzed paint system, so only make up what can be applied in the specified amount of time. Spraying can cover more area much faster but the spray equipment will expose the applicator to much higher levels of paint and hardener exposure due to paint and solvent aerosols created by the spray equipment. HVLP or low pressure spray systems by Apollo and Fujispray will greatly reduce the amount of overspray but eliminate it.

  94. Christopher P. said

    I don’t see it listed here but one can always remove the galvanized coating easily enough. Just buy a gallon or two of muriatic acid at the local big box store. I find it in the nursery section at Home Depot by the pool supplies. Pour it in to a plastic tub, and paint it on with an old brush. Wearing old clothes, gloves and eye protection would be a good idea too. It will immediately bubble and make the coating turn black. Keep brushing it on until the black disappears. The galvanized plating is now gone. Rinse with a hose and let dry in the sun. Now you can use your regular primer and paint after that. Dispose of the leftover solution by neutralizing it with baking soda before pouring it down the drain (a must!) or on the ground. I’ve read where others have even poured it around their garden as the now neutralized components serve as nutrients for some vegetables. I’ve never done that though. But it makes sense as these are very simple, organic chemicals. Finally, I’m a machinist and sometimes I need to weld on galvanized items and when the angle grinder isn’t enough, this is the favorite way to go.

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