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Historic Preservation - Technical Procedures
Cleaning/Removing Paint From Wrought Iron, Cast Iron And Steel Using Mechanical/Abrasive Methods
Developed For Hspg (Nps - Sero)
Cleaning/Removing Paint From Wrought Iron, Cast Iron And Steel Using Mechanical/Abrasive Methods
CLEANING/REMOVING PAINT FROM WROUGHT IRON, CAST IRON & STEEL USING
CAUTION: MECHANICAL/ABRASIVE METHODS OF CLEANING MAY DAMAGE
HISTORIC FABRIC. THIS METHOD OF CLEANING SHOULD BE PERFORMED ONLY
BY AN EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONAL AND ONLY UPON APPROVAL FROM THE
REGIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICER.
THE CLEANING OR STRIPPING OF METALS MAY INVOLVE THE USE OF
ABRASIVES, LIQUIDS OR SOLVENTS WHICH MAY SPLASH OR RUN OFF ONTO
ADJACENT MATERIALS. TAKE SPECIAL CARE TO PROTECT ALL ADJACENT
MATERIALS, AND DO NOT USE THIS PROCEDURE ON METALS OTHER THAN
THOSE SPECIFIED IN THE SUMMARY.
BEFORE UNDERTAKING ANY PROJECT INVOLVING PAINT REMOVAL, APPLICABLE
STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS ON LEAD PAINT ABATEMENT AND DISPOSAL MUST
BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT AND CAREFULLY FOLLOWED. STATE AND FEDERAL
REQUIREMENTS MAY AFFECT OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO OWNERS ON BOTH PAINT
REMOVAL AND REPAINTING. THESE LAWS, AS WELL AS ANY REQUIREMENTS
PROHIBITING VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS (VOCs), SHOULD BE REQUESTED
FROM THE STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICER IN EACH STATE. (From
Preservation Brief 28, "Painting Historic Interiors".) REGULATORY INFORMATION MAY
ALSO BE REQUESTED FROM THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)
REGIONAL OFFICE AND/OR THE STATE OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY.
A. This procedure includes guidance on abrasively removing
paint from wrought iron, cast iron and steel. These
metals should be repainted immediately following paint
removal in order to prevent exposure to the atmosphere
and subsequent corrosion.
B. For information on painting and coating these materials
see 05010-13-S "Primers and Paints for Wrought Iron, Cast
Iron and Steel", 05010-18-R "Applying a Sacrificial
Coating to Wrought Iron, Cast Iron and Steel", and 09900-07-S
"General Guidelines for Painting Exterior and
C. There are several causes for paint failure on metal.
Excess moisture can cause rusting. As metal rusts, the
rust expands breaking the bond between the metal and the
paint. Inadequate or improper surface preparation can
interfere with the proper bonding of the new paint. The
wrong primer can cause anything from pitting of the metal
surface to peeling of the new paint.
D. It is not necessary to remove all previous coats of paint
1. they are adhering soundly,
2. the new painting system is compatible,
3. important design details are not being obscured by
the paint layers.
E. An archives of the paint history of the building is to be
maintained. This is to include the paint samples taken
during research, samples of the new paint colors and the
manufacturers technical information.
F. Safety Precautions:
1. No food or drink shall be allowed near any work
station so as to prevent contamination from paint,
paint chips or paint dust which may contain lead
and other toxic substances.
2. Paint being removed most likely will contain lead.
All workmen must wear protective clothing,
(including hair), goggles and respirators with
proper filters. FOLLOW ALL APPROPRIATE REGULATIONS
PROVIDED BY THE EPA REGIONAL OFFICE AND/OR THE
STATE OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY.
3. Protective clothing shall be removed at the end of
each day and kept at the site to prevent workers
from taking dust and paint chips to other parts of
the site or to their homes.
4. Wash hands and face often, especially before eating
and at the end of the day.
G. See 01100-07-S for general project guidelines to be
reviewed along with this procedure. These guidelines
cover the following sections:
1. Safety Precautions
2. Historic Structures Precautions
4. Quality Assurance
5. Delivery, Storage and Handling
6. Project/Site Conditions
7. Sequencing and Scheduling
8. General Protection (Surface and Surrounding)
These guidelines should be reviewed prior to performing
this procedure and should be followed, when applicable,
along with recommendations from the Regional Historic
Preservation Officer (RHPO).
H. For additional information on cast and wrought iron see
05010-04-S "Cast Iron: Characteristics, Uses and
Problems", 05010-11-S "Wrought Iron: Characteristics,
Uses and Problems", and 05010-01-S "Checklist for
Inspecting Cast Iron Failures".
A. Mechanical/Abrasive Methods: as used herein shall apply
to the approved methods of mechanical or abrasive
removal. This includes sanding blocks or simple sand
paper, power flexible sandpaper wheels and rotary wire
brushes made to be chucked into a power drill, even the
limited use of wet and dry air-abrasive cleaning.
B. Controlled air-abrasive cleaning with a fine grit may be
considered for cast iron features and on heavier wrought
iron sections. A successful job is directly related to
the skill of the operator. The individual must be able
to judge pressure and grit of abrasive, and be diligent
about masking all other surfaces.
1. Dry air-abrasive cleaning - No water is involved in
process. Excessive amounts of dust are produced
which may be illegal in local municipality.
Airborne dust which may contain lead will also be a
2. Wet air-abrasive cleaning - Preferred method.
Water is mixed with abrasive and air to cut down on
dust generated. Useful in washing soluble iron
salts from pitted areas. Good also for removing
paint from iron structures in marine and heavily
C. Abrasively cleaned surfaces are usually specified in
terms of surface cleanliness and surface roughness.
These standards generally apply to modern commercial and
industrial applications their applicability to historic
metal surfaces must be carefully studied.
NOTE: Chemical products are sometimes sold under a common
name. This usually means that the substance is not as pure as
the same chemical sold under its chemical name. The grade of
purity of common name substances, however, is usually adequate
for stain removal work, and these products should be purchased
when available, as they tend to be less expensive. Common
names are indicated below by an asterisk (*).
A. Mineral spirits:
1. A petroleum distillate that is used especially as a
paint or varnish thinner.
2. Other chemical or common names include Benzine*
(not Benzene); Naphtha*; Petroleum spirits*;
3. Potential Hazards: TOXIC AND FLAMMABLE.
4. Safety Precautions:
a. AVOID REPEATED OR PROLONGED SKIN CONTACT.
b. ALWAYS wear rubber gloves when handling
c. If any chemical is splashed onto the skin,
wash immediately with soap and water.
5. Available from construction specialties
distributor, hardware store, paint store, or
printer's supply distributor.
B. Trisodium Phosphate:
NOTE: THIS CHEMICAL IS BANNED IN SOME STATES SUCH AS
CALIFORNIA. REGULATORY INFORMATION AS WELL AS
ALTERNATIVE OR EQUIVALENT CHEMICALS MAY BE REQUESTED FROM
THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) REGIONAL OFFICE
AND/OR THE STATE OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY.
1. Strong base-type powdered cleaning material sold
under brand names.
2. Other chemical or common names include Sodium
Orthophosphate; Tribasic sodium phosphate;
Trisodium orthophosphate; TSP*; Phosphate of soda*;
(also sold under brand names such as).
3. Potential Hazards: CORROSIVE TO FLESH.
4. Available from chemical supply house, grocery store
or supermarket or hardware store.
Sudsy ammonia mixed in clean, clear water. Follow
manufacturer's instructions for proper dilutions.
C. For light surface rust:
1. Emery paper
2. Sandpaper - useful for smaller jobs or final
feathering of high paint edges, corners or hard to
3. Fine steel wool
4. 600 grit aluminum oxide
D. For medium surface rust:
1. Putty knife
2. Wire brush - removes rust and flaking metal as well
as loosened paint.
3. Scrapers - help to get under the paint and
crevices. Do not chip or bang the paint off cast
pieces as the iron may become fractured.
4. Rust remover solution containing orthophosphoric
acid. Several are available in gel form from
E. For heavy rust: Coarse to medium grits of open-coat
aluminum oxide or flint sandpaper, or emery paper.
F. Soft rags
G. Clean, potable water
A. Rubber gloves
B. Eye and skin protection
C. Paint scrappers and putty knives
D. Ball peen hammer
E. Sanding blocks, sanding sponges, sanding wheels
F. Wire brushes
G. Stiff natural bristle brushes
H. Rotary wire wheels
I. Proper, heavy-duty extension cords
J. Air-abrasive cleaning equipment (80-100 psi) for use with
fine grit dry and wet abrasives. Consult RHPO.
K. Water hose
A. Before work is begun on removing the existing paint film
or otherwise preparing the surface all sources of excess
moisture shall be determined and repaired as required.
B. Execute test samples of the cleaning methods specified in
this procedure to determine which method(s) are to be
used. Sample areas shall be selected by the RHPO and
shall include at least one ornamental area and one flat
area, or as necessary to include all surface types likely
to be encountered in this work.
C. Method(s) used in the actual cleaning shall be the one(s)
which provide the necessary level of cleanliness with the
least amount of surface alteration. Final selection of
methods shall be made by the RHPO.
1. Protect adjacent surfaces, including grass, shrubs
and trees with paper, drop cloths and other means.
Items not to be painted which are in contact with
or adjacent to painted surfaces shall be removed or
protected prior to surface preparation and painting
operations. All methods of enclosure and
protection should be approved by the supervisor.
2. Work area shall be sealed to prevent the spread of
dust, debris and water beyond the work site, and to
assist in the collection of contaminants.
3. Provide protection boards to vulnerable decorative
work and maintain for the duration of operations.
4. All waste material shall be collected at the end of
each work day and properly disposed of. It is
considered Hazardous Waste.
5. After each days paint removal work is complete,
area shall be vacuumed with machines equipped with
HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters to
insure all lead dust has been removed.
3.03 ERECTION, INSTALLATION, APPLICATION
A. Paint Removal, General: Clean small pieces which can be
NOTE: REMOVE ONLY AS MUCH PAINT AND RUST EACH DAY AS CAN
BE PRIMED THAT SAME DAY. BARE IRON AND STEEL WILL BEGIN
TO RUST AGAIN WITHIN A MATTER OF HOURS. IT SHOULD NOT BE
ALLOWED TO SIT UNPROTECTED OVERNIGHT.
1. Soak in a solution of hot water and TSP or sudsy
ammonia to loosen the paint.
2. Remove paint with scrapers and/or a wire brush.
3. Wipe with mineral spirits to remove final traces of
4. Dry immediately and prime to prevent rusting. A
heat gun, set at the lowest temperature, may be
used to hasten the drying time.
CAUTION: DO NOT USE HIGH HEAT AS THIS MAY DISTORT
THE METAL MEMBERS.
B. Mechanical/Abrasive Rust/Paint Removal: OBTAIN RHPO
APPROVAL BEFORE PROCEEDING WITH WORK.
1. To determine the degree of deterioration and the
level of paint removal required, clear away all
dust and debris followed by rub-down with mineral
2. To remove light rust and flaking, peeling paint:
a. Begin with emery paper or aluminum oxide
b. Use scrapers to get under loose paint and into
c. Use a wire brush, or an electric drill with a
special wire brush or rotary sandpaper whip
attachment if above two methods do not remove
C. Air-abrasive Paint Removal: OBTAIN RHPO APPROVAL BEFORE
PROCEEDING WITH WORK.
NOTE: WHILE AIR ABRASIVE CLEANING (COMMONLY KNOWN AS
SANDBLASTING) IS DESTRUCTIVE FOR SOFTER BUILDING
MATERIALS, IRON, A HARD MATERIAL WITH A NATURAL UNEVEN
SURFACE, WILL NOT BE NOTICEABLY DAMAGED BY ITS CAREFUL
CAUTION: DO NOT USE AIR-ABRASIVE CLEANING METHODS IN THE
FOLLOWING SITUATIONS: 1) ON THIN SECTIONS OR FINE,
INTRICATE DETAILS OF WROUGHT IRON FEATURES. 2) ON ZINC
AND GALVANIZED IRON AND STEEL. 3) ON FEATURES FOR WHICH
THE ORIGINAL SURFACE TEXTURE IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE
DESIGN (AIR-ABRASIVE CLEANING WILL ALTER ORIGINAL SURFACE
TEXTURE AND APPEARANCE). 4) ON STAINLESS STEEL
1. Air pressures at the compressor shall be between 40
psi to 70 psi.
2. Grit size shall be in the range of #10 to #45, i.e.
copper slag. Other abrasives, such as ground
walnut shells, or other abrasive methods such as
glass bead peening, may also be appropriate but
should be performed only under the direction of an
architectural conservator and/or the RHPO.
3. A pencil-point nozzle shall be used to allow more
complete control. Nozzle shall allow for
independent control over air, water and abrasive
and should be held no closer than 12" from the
surface to be cleaned.
4. Flush all surfaces with water to remove all traces
of slurry and spent abrasive. Final rinse shall
contain rust inhibitor with no more than 5000 ppm.
CAUTION: LARGER CONCENTRATIONS OF RUST INHIBITOR
WILL RESULT IN THE DEPOSITION OF SALTS ON THE METAL
SURFACES WHICH WILL CAUSE THE PAINT TO PEEL.
5. Dry surfaces immediately, especially any horizontal
surfaces or water traps which might collect water.
D. Prime as soon as possible after surfaces have been dried
but before rust has a chance to reform.
E. Caulk all areas which have been damaged by the abrasive
cleaning, especially seams, screw and bolt holes, and at
junctures with dissimilar materials.
F. Fill all holes, depressions and cracks with metal filler
and sand to conform with surrounding contours. See
05010-12-R for guidance.
G. Prime and paint all surfaces. For guidance see 05010-13-S
"Primers and Paints for Wrought Iron, Cast Iron and
Steel", 05010-18-R "Applying a Sacrificial Coating to
Wrought Iron, Cast Iron and Steel", and 09900-07-S
"General Guidelines for Painting Exterior and Interior
A. Protect cleaned or final finishes from damage during
building or project cleaning period by use of temporary
protective coverings approved by RHPO. Remove protective
covering at time of Substantial Completion.
END OF SECTION