Easy way to remove paint from metal heating grates / grilles

softball_80February 18, 2011

I'm redoing my daughters bedroom. My house is nearly 50 years old and the metal heating grates have, conservatively, 10 coats of paint on them. In the past I tried chemical strippers and while they worked after a fashion the smell was overpowering and if you get a little on your bare skin it starts to burn within seconds. I heard recently that you can remove paint from metal by boiling it in water with a little baking soda added. I decided to try it out.

My wife donated a large aluminum stock pot that she never uses - say's it's too big for the burners (?). I added the smallest grate and covered it with the water - it only needed a little over two inches. I added the baking soda and fired it up. Within 15 minutes it started coming loose! I took it out and started scraping it off. With a little effort a good bit came free. Back it went into the water solution (which was turning black!) The second attempt got nearly all of the old paint off; the metal slots gave me the most trouble. I used an old toothbrush on them but wished I had something a little more substantial; anyway it took maybe 40 minutes start to finish. I then did two others; one was so long I could do only one end at a time so it took extra time.

BTW I wouldn't cook in that pot anymore, likely some of the old paint had lead in it.

A few light coats of spray paint and they look brand new, which is good because they are odd sizes and can't be replaced easily.

If you find yourself in a similar situation you should give it a try. You won't be disappointed; I've never lied to you before, have I?

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I did the same thing with some metal register vents from an old house and it worked great.

By the way, you can buy paint strippers that don't smell and don't burn your hands now.

And you can buy wire brushes that are about the size of a toothbrush.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 9:20AM
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question, exactly how clean is the grate, like it is all gone or one still needs to use stripper?
I have ten grates at my daughter's house and using stripper is a forever project into my next life I think

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 2:15PM
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I did the register vent project years ago, but I seem to recall that the boiling water removed all the paint. I don't recall using a stripper afterwards.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 9:00AM
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I used the boiling method as well as non-toxic paint stripped and steel wool. The 1942 heat grates/vents came out nice. Primed them and painted them. Look great. Only issue is that my vents are at a slight angle pointing toward the ceiling (top of vent is 1.5" and bottom is 2.5"). Before the grates would stay closed because of the friction in hinge on the backside ... but not they are "
floppy" and swing back/forth. When the heat is on, the forced air pushes them closed. Any idea on how to increase the friction in the simple hinge? I thought about bending the metal sides ... but it would ruin the new paint job and the old metal is very sturdy. Thanks for your thoughts. Jim

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 12:28AM
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