I have an old exhaust fan from the 50s in my kitchen; the kind where you let a bead chain loose and it opens a hatch and the fan engages. Anyways, the fan has a metal faceplate, and a stainless steel grill in front. I cleaned the grill up and it's shining nice now, but the metal faceplate (which also holds the fan attached to it and the whole thing is then screwed into the housing) is covered in probably 15 layers of paint over the years. There's some pink, then green, and yellow over that, and then white, and probably plenty of other layers I can't make out. What's the best way to remove all that paint? I want to strip it down to bare metal (it can be submersed in something if need be), and then I will either try to finish the metal (don't know where to start there), or I will just paint it again to match my refinished kitchen.

So the meat of this question is, how to strip 60 years worth of layered paint from a metal faceplate so it's down to bare metal again, and if I were to finish the metal, what are the options there (i think it's steel)?

  • 1
    If you decide to start stripping the paint then be careful to be in a well ventilated area, wear a dust mask and keep small children and pets away because there is a possibility that at least one of those layers of paint may contain lead. If you are careful then you should have nothing to worry about though for just a small faceplate. Jun 18, 2012 at 1:02
  • Thanks for the comment. You're right, there probably is some lead paint in it. Luckily the fan comes off the faceplate, so I can take just the faceplate outside and strip it, and I have a respirator that I'll wear.
    – Jim
    Jun 18, 2012 at 13:12

1 Answer 1


If you can remove the entire face plate use regular paint stripper. When you get it down to bare metal you can polish the surface with scotchbrite pads or steelwool. You might find something to attach to your drill to make this part easier. Once you get the finish you are looking for cover it with clear enamal to protect it. If you can't get an acceptable finish for a clear coat look at some of the metal finish spray paints like hammered bronze or antique copper etc. I would avoid the spray chrome as I haven't found one yet that yields decent results.

  • Cool, thanks for the tips. My wife was asking about a stainless-steel type finish. So first I think i'll try to polish it like you said, and see if it polishes up nice. If not, I'll look into spray paints specifically for metals.
    – Jim
    Jun 18, 2012 at 13:10
  • Just as a follow-up, I did use regular paint stripper, and it worked wonderfully. I then used a dremmel rotary tool with a few brass wire brush attachments to polish the metal, and it looks great. The brass wire brushes probably would have taken all the paint off without any paint stripper, but then it would create dust out of potential lead paint, so it was best to use stripper and do it outside. Thanks for the tips, it looks wonderful!
    – Jim
    Jun 30, 2012 at 3:03

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