Tips for cleaning oil staining from machinery paint?
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  1. #1
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    Default Tips for cleaning oil staining from machinery paint?

    I've got a new to me Colchester 13 I'm starting to clean up. The paint really isn't that bad (and I'm feeling lazy...) so I plan on just getting it cleaned up and using it. A lot of the paint on the machine is oil stained. A degreaser or mineral spirits do nothing, and brake klean and acetone remove the oil staining but take the paint with it, which I'm obviously trying to avoid.

    Does anyone have any secret tricks or anything for cleaning the oil staining while leaving the paint intact?

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    Don't laugh, hand sanitizers. These contain isopropyl or ethyl alcohol, which are the best things I've found for removing old oil in general, and won't damage the paint. The glycerin in the hand sanitizer helps it stick on the surface versus bare isopropyl (which will work fine too). Isopropyl is also the best thing I've found for removing hard polymerized oil--better than mineral spirits, pb-blaster and acetone (all of which do not seem to do much at all with polymerized oil). Just slather on, wait minute or two, use cloth and toothbrushes on paint, and brass-brushes on bare metal. You can sometimes find 99% isopropyl at hardware stores also.

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    A bucket of super hot water and industrial soap like Simple Green. I've been told Dawn dish soap works good too. I wear thick rubber gloves. The hot water trick has always worked for me...wipe on with rags and dry with rags. have to oil the shinny parts afterwards. The hand sanitizer idea sound good too. I'll give that a try next time.

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    For stains on paint, if the paint is reasonably hard, get some "magic erasers" from the cleaning section of the grocery store.

    They are a cleaning sponge with a very fine abrasive, more of a fine polishing powder, in them. Any surface stains are just worn off, and the surface polished.

    It obviously will not work well for stains that penetrate deep into the paint, but then not much else will either.

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    Just an update: the hand sanitizer trick appears to be working great!

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    If the paint is smooth and was originally glossy, another thing that sometimes works is automobile rubbing compound. This removes the stains along with a very small amount of the paint underneath, but doesn't damage the paint bond the way that solvents might.

    In my experience some paints are resistant to alcohol (isopropanol, ethyl, methanol) but other paints get softened or hazed by it. Test with a white paper towel dipped in the alcohol, and see if it shows traces of the paint color. Any solvent that softens or hazes the paint can damage the paint bond to the substrate.
    Last edited by ballen; 07-26-2021 at 02:46 AM.

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    I've generally had little luck dissolving oils with alcohol, but if it works, it works.

    Second the comment on softening and hazing.

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    Figured this is worth another update! So I ended up going with WD40 and either 0000 steel wool or some fine scotchbrite (it was gray). The hand sanitizer did remove some paint. The WD40/Steel wool method I think was removing a very thin layer of paint which was enough to get rid of most of the staining.

    I think i'm going to repaint the lathe while I have it in the middle of my garage and it's accessible. Probably some epoxy enamel or something, I did a South Bend lathe a few years back and it's held up very well with the exception of areas that were prepared lackluster! Very easy to clean. Thinking I can lightly sand and wipe any surfaces i'm painting with acetone which should give me a good bond. Also, the primer coat is showing in a lot of spots and it's a horrifying mint color, so gotta hide that

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    Note that the paint offers no benefit to the machine apart from limited protection from condensation. generally, paintwork is the very last step one should do in a rebuild

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