Powder Coat Care & Maintenance
Importance of Proper Care
Powder coat that is applied to metal surfaces exposed to the weather will inevitably degrade over time. A number of conditions, including those found in nature, will contribute to shortening the life of this type of protective finish.
Given that there are so many elements that can affect the coating, it’s not surprising that it will break down over time.
The right type of care and maintenance is essential to combat the detrimental effects of the elements when finished parts are exposed to the sun, wind, rain, etc. No protective powder coating is entirely maintenance-free — over time, it will lose some (or all) of its decorative and protective properties due to the effects of weather and other influences.
Consider what would happen if someone went out into the sun without applying a sunblock product to their skin. During the part of the day when the ultraviolet rays are at their most intense, it’s possible to see the effects of sun exposure on unprotected skin in an hour or less.
If you own a vehicle and you don’t take steps to protect your car or truck’s paint, you will notice the effects of the elements on it, too. Over time, the finish will show effects such as corrosion, chalking and erosion.
Proper care and maintenance is crucial if you want to extend the service life of any metal surface. The more value you attach to it, the more important it is to invest in regular maintenance efforts.
How to Clean and Maintain Powder Coated Surfaces
With the right type of maintenance, you can increase the service life of the finish of powder coated surfaces. The care and maintenance tips listed below can help to keep the repair and maintenance costs down for some items, as well.
Avoid Harsh Chemical Cleaners. Powder coatings can be damaged by harsh solvents. A number of commercial cleaning products can cause damage to these types of finishes. Once the finish has become damaged, it is much more vulnerable to fading, staining and failure of the finish itself. When harsh chemical cleaners are used on powder coated surfaces, the life expectancy of the finish can reasonably be halved.
While it may not be possible to map out the exact length of service life you can expect to get from powder coated products, you can extend their effective service life with the right cleaning and maintenance. It could double or even triple the coating’s effective service life.
Pressure Cleaning. Pressure washing is likely the most efficient method of cleaning coated surfaces to remove dirt and grime. It can be used to clean bus shelters, commercial patio furniture and other outdoor surfaces. The pressure washer should be used on a low-pressure setting with filtered water. Don’t use unfiltered tap water or groundwater.
If you use unfiltered groundwater for cleaning, it can leave stains on the metal surface. If the water contains fluoride, sulfur, iron oxide or chlorine, they can stain outdoor products. One way to tell before starting to clean powder coated surfaces is to examine the areas where the wind blows water from sprinkler systems. Stains and discoloration on other objects are a sign you will likely have to deal with the same on the powder coated surfaces if you use the same water. Use filtered water only for this purpose.
Low pressure should be used for pressure-cleaning powder coated metal surfaces. If the pressure is strong enough to cause the metal surface to shift its position, it may also be strong enough to damage the finish.
Use a Mild Soap and Water. All powder coated products should be cleaned with either a soft cloth or a brush, using a solution of mild soap such as Dawn (yes, Dawn!) and warm water. The best type of soap to use for this purpose is one that has emulsifiers that can break down the most common types of stains.
Exposed surfaces of powder coated products (such as wheels) that are deemed the most critical should be cleaned regularly (on either a weekly or a bi-weekly schedule). These can be wiped down and rinsed with filtered water.
A Word About Commercial Cleaning Solutions. Commercial cleaning solutions have their place. Solvents and petroleum-based cleaning products are very effective at removing dirt and grease from surfaces. They are not the right choice for powder coated surfaces, however. These types of cleaners will remove dirt, but they also remove layers of the finish from the surface of the object they are cleaning. Over time, the finish can become compromised.
The coating can become stiff and hard with repeated applications of these types of cleaners, and it will no longer be as effective at protecting the underlying surface. In some instances, the coating may begin to crack and fade. While it’s inevitable that coated surfaces that are exposed to the weather will undergo physical aging, exposure to harsh chemical products will only accelerate this process.
Protect the Exposed Surfaces With Wax or Professional Ceramic Coating. Finished surfaces that will be handled or may come into contact with other objects will benefit from being treated with wax or a professional ceramic coating.
Apply a light coating of high-grade non-abrasive car wax. Use a brand that contains a UV blocker or UV inhibitors. Do not use compound-type waxes for this purpose. This type of wax contains abrasives that can harm the powder coating.
Be sure to wipe off any globs of wax that remain on the surface. If any wax remains on the coated surface, it could bake into place when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet light. This can cause permanent staining.
Alternatively you can take your wheels or other exposed powder coated parts to a professional detailer that offers ceramic coating.