How to Remove Paint From Metal Without Chemicals

Paint removed from dresser knobs next to cloth and paint scraper

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5

Many owners of older homes are disappointed to find out that someone painted over beautiful metal components at one time, either inadvertently or out of laziness. Figuring out how to remove paint from metal doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, an incredibly effective paint remover for metal is boiling water.


If you're trying to remove paint from larger metal pieces that won't fit inside a pot, try to use the most gentle paint stripper first. In most cases, you won't need a heavy-duty stripper to get the job done. 

This technique is best for removing old paint from items like hardware, hinges, knobs, etc, and is likely the fastest, easiest, and cheapest option if done correctly. Find out how this process works and how to complete it without scratching or damaging the metal in question.

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What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Slow cooker or saucepan (optional)
  • Kettle or teapot
  • Metal scraper or putty knife
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Soft-bristle brush


  • Disposable aluminum tray or pie pan
  • Baking soda (optional)


Materials and tools to remove paint from metal

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  1. Choose a Container

    Decide what you will use as the container for soaking the metal. A disposable aluminum tray or pie pan works well for small items. Alternatively, you may want to treat your metal items in hot water for a longer period of time, using a saucepan or pot or a slow cooker.

    Disposable aluminum tray next to painted metal knobs on wood surface

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo


    Whatever container or vessel you use, be sure to dedicate it to this kind of work and do not use it to cook any food after this project. 

  2. Pour Boiling Water Over the Metal

    Place the metal item into your container on a heat-resistant surface. Heat water in a kettle or teapot until it reaches a rolling boil. Then, carefully and slowly pour the boiling water over the hardware, submerging the item.

    Boiling water from tea kettle poured into disposable aluminum tray with metal knobs

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  3. Let the Hardware Soak

    Let the hardware sit in the tray filled with boiling water until the paint starts to bubble. Often, this will take about five minutes. If you notice that the paint isn't bubbling, drain the pan and then repeat the process with more boiling water to reheat the metal.

    If you opt to use a slow cooker or sauce pan, heat the water on high until it simmers, and let the hardware soak for five to 10 minutes. Most painted items won't need to sit for longer unless there are a lot of layers of paint or there are crevices where the paint is more stubborn. 

    Metal knobs soaking in aluminum tray with boiling water

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  4. Scrape Off the Paint

    Once you notice the paint starting to peel away, carefully scrape off the loosened paint while the hardware remains in the try or pie pan. Make sure to wear gloves and be careful not to burn yourself. 

    If you're using a slow cooker or pan, you can remove the hardware from the water before scraping.

    When most of the paint is gone, remove the hardware from the water and continue scraping with the scraper or a soft-bristle brush. Avoid using items like steel wool or metal bristles because these can scratch the surface of the metal. 

    Paint being scraped off metal knobs in water with paint scraper and gloves

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  5. Buff With a Lint-Free Cloth

    In most cases, the metal is going to be tarnished underneath all that paint. Use a lint-free cloth to buff off as much dirt, gunk, and tarnish as possible. If you still have paint stuck in hard-to-reach spots, repeat the entire stripping process as needed. 

    Buffing metal knobs with lint-free cloth

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

    Before adding the hardware back to boiling water for a second time, consider adding baking soda into the mixture. The baking soda will help to dislodge stuck paint and remove tarnish.  

  6. Remove Tarnish as Desired

    After all the paint has been removed, it's up to you to decide how much you want to clean the metal. You might want to leave the old metal tarnished and darkened with age, or you might prefer to carefully remove all tarnish so the piece looks new.

    Another option is to remove some but not all of the tarnish. This way, the items will still look old but will have some shine. You can leave tarnish in recessed areas by polishing only the raised sections. 

    Metal knobs removed from tarnish next to lint-free cloth

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo