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  1. #1
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    How to remove paint from aluminum

    I bought an aluminum Vitus 979 for pretty cheap, but it had been given an unattractive home paint job in an attempt to make it look like the European bikes of the day (hence the good deal). Does anyone have a recommendation for a paint stripper/technique that will preserve the original polish, assuming it was in good shape before the paint job? I don't want the frame to dissolve on me.

  2. #2
    Senior Member ludeboy_77's Avatar
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    Aircraft Paint Stripper, it is sold at most Auto Parts stores and Wal-Mart. Wear Gloves and don't get it on anything other than metal. It will take off any paint and/or clear coat.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Chris_in_Miami's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ludeboy_77 View Post
    Aircraft Paint Stripper, it is sold at most Auto Parts stores and Wal-Mart. Wear Gloves and don't get it on anything other than metal. It will take off any paint and/or clear coat.
    The nice thing about stripper is that it works quickly on spray paint, but takes more time to penetrate a factory paint / clearcoat. You can usually remove the spray without damaging the clear if you work carefully.

    On the other hand, you may find that the old clearcoat was in rough shape prior to meeting the spray bomb.

  4. #4
    You Know!? For Kids! jsharr's Avatar
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    Isn't the 979 a bonded frame? Would be careful using chemical strippers on it if so?
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  5. #5
    Junior Member
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    Thanks. I'll try some on a beer can to make sure it doesn't look bad. Another good excuse to have a beer.

  6. #6
    Junior Member
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    Good call - It crossed my mind, too. I'll protect the seams somehow.

  7. #7
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Be sure it's aircraft or at least states that it is safe for aluminium. The other common paint stripper formula uses a caustic base that will eat aluminium.
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  8. #8
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    Be careful not to get any striper on your skin. Stuff burns like h___.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jsharr View Post
    Isn't the 979 a bonded frame? Would be careful using chemical strippers on it if so?
    This guy is making a very important point! Stripper can dissolve adhesives, too.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
    Be sure it's aircraft or at least states that it is safe for aluminium. The other common paint stripper formula uses a caustic base that will eat aluminium.
    Sometimes I guess that it pays to be lucky rather than smart.

    When i built my fixed gear bike I started by stripping all of the paint off of an old Raleigh Technium (aluminum main frame bonded to steel stays). I used some Zip Strip that I bought at the local hardware store. It says not to use it on plastics and lots of other things, but doesn't say anything about aluminum. At any rate, both the aluminum tubes and the bonding are doing fine.

    Then again, I didn't have much to lose with the Raleigh. That Vitus is a considerably nicer frame.

  11. #11
    Senior Member mtbikerinpa's Avatar
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    One mistake often made with chem strip is the duration on the surface. If it is left on too long it can be detrimental to the process, normally for drying out, but also for various effects on plastic/bonds/etc. Use a scotchbrite pad to scrub it in and test periodically over a couple of minutes until it lifts satisfactorily, scrub it the rest of the way and rinse immediately thereafter. Continue to scrub as it is rinsed to assure the stripper is cleaned off completely as it can affect the paint finish later. For most finishes this is only a small handful of minutes total.
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  12. #12
    "this is not suck" j0e_bik3's Avatar
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    I frickin HATE chemical strippers, they suck (yes even aircraft stripper, provided you stay conscious long enough while using it) they are caustic, they burn you, they DO NOT REMOVE FACTORY PAINT COATINGS VERY WELL, they are hard to remove, they are messy, they stink, they have noxious fumes,...

    should I go on?

    take it to a media blaster, and tell them how you will be painting it (or powdercoat) because they use a different media for each coating type.

    my guy charges me $25 to blast a frame, and $30 for a frame and fork.

    best thing about the blaster, is it's no work, no mess, and you get perfectly clean bare metal with no accidental stripper residue hiding in crevices just WAITING to "strip" your new paint job.

    I was a professional custom painter for almost 35 years, and I stopped using chemical strippers back in the 70's.

    maybe for your wifes antique credenza, but not for a bicycle.
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  13. #13
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    try acetone - cheap - safe on aluminium and may not damage clear coat. Do a test section on the bottom of your bb shell - media basting may be the best method - but can't be done at home, if it can please tell me how without expensive equipment.

  14. #14
    Senior Member ludeboy_77's Avatar
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    Will media blasting preserve the original polish of the Aluminum (as the OP noted)?

  15. #15
    Senior Member Joshua A.C. New's Avatar
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    If this is a crappy garage paint job, acetone will likely take off the new paint without attacking the old. It's cheap, not mind-blowingly toxic, doesn't burn your skin (though it will dry it out because it dissolves oils) and cleanup is done by leaving stuff around outside to evaporate.
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  16. #16
    Pleasurable Pain greyghost_6's Avatar
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    I have heard that Permatex Gasket remover works great on frames. Spray it on and use a brush or maybe a putty knife to scrape off decals and paint.
    I had to re-learn how to walk once, but never needed to re-learn how to ride a bike. Cyclist for life.

  17. #17
    surly old man jgedwa's Avatar
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    If this is a bonded frame, I think you would have to be nuts to use any chemical method to remove paint.
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  18. #18
    "this is not suck" j0e_bik3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ludeboy_77 View Post
    Will media blasting preserve the original polish of the Aluminum (as the OP noted)?
    I DOUBT the paint was shot over a polished surface,......if it was he wouldn't have posted this thread (the paint would just wipe off with kleenex and water)

    if you REALLY want to try and save the original finish, you can try:
    use zip ties and wrap the entire frame with paper toweling, then soak the paper towels in acetone, and wrap the entire thing with plastic wrap: tight around each tube,..and leave overnight.

    check in the morning, if the paint isn't wrinkling, unwrap and add some more acetone, and let it sit some more.

    eventually you should be able to lift the paint off quite easily, HOWEVER, you will have to use several applications of fresh acetone, on fresh towels until it's totally clean, and finally a acetone rub down to clean it all up.

    now if that IS a bonded frame, DO NOT USE ANY KIND OF CHEMICAL STRIPPING AGENT OF ANY KIND: no acetone, no alcohol, NO paint stripper, NO orange based products OF ANY KIND (containing D-limonene),pretty much all you can do is get some superfine scotch pads (grey or white) or 1500 grit (or finer like 2000, or 2500) and a bucket of clean water and start scrubbing, until all the paint is removed,....this is going to take several days of 3-5 hours of scrub/sanding.

    then you'll have to polish it again to get the original shine back.

    check with your media blasting service, because my guy has a superfine plastic bead that he uses sometimes on small parts, and they come out looking almost like polished aluminum, just not quite that shiny,..but that would be a great place to start polishing it.

    first thing is to find out if that IS a bonded frame, because that tells you what methods will remove the coating safely.


    keep in touch, I'm curious as to how this comes out.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    Stripper works for me. I use Jasco from the hardware store. I apply it with an acid brush and wipe it off with paper towels or newspaper, then I go after it with a wire brush. Some spots may require a second or third application. I wash down the frame with lacquer thinner when I'm done. I took the original paint off of a '74 Raleigh Competition a couple of weeks ago in about 45 minutes. I've never had stripper cause a problem with the paint.

    The stripper burns when you get it on your skin, but it won't even leave a mark if you wash it off right away. I got some on my eyelid once and that hurt! I always wear safety goggles now.

    I have no experience at all with aluminum frames and I probably never will.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by da$eugenstein View Post
    I bought an aluminum Vitus 979 for pretty cheap, but it had been given an unattractive home paint job in an attempt to make it look like the European bikes of the day (hence the good deal). Does anyone have a recommendation for a paint stripper/technique that will preserve the original polish, assuming it was in good shape before the paint job? I don't want the frame to dissolve on me.
    One thing you might try is nail polish remover, I've heard that it can remove paint. If that doesn't work, abatix is one place that has some lead paint remover that is usually priced more reasonably than some other brands out there. Here's a link to one of the products: ["http://www.abatix.com/default.aspx?page=item+detail&itemcode=SEC805&catlist=44" Sentinel TSP Wash For Lead Paint 5 Gal]

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by purple82 View Post
    . . .
    Only six years. BTW, you think nail polish remover works better than stripper?

  22. #22
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    I use acetone. Nail polish remove has acetone in it but at a lower percentage.
    Acetone works great. Yu can also use sandpaper.

    Or both :-)

  23. #23
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Not sure what they glued them to together with .. epoxy once cured ,doesn't un cure ..

    to be safe, mask off the joints.

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