Powder Coating Care and Maintenance

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Powder coating has been used since the late 1960s. It was hailed as an alternative to other methods of surface coating that would bond the finish directly to metal.

Today, the industry continues to grow and is expected to continue its upward trend until at least the year 2018, according to a market study released by Transparency Market Research (TMR). The increased interest in powder coatings is being attributed to the growing demand for consumer goods from BRIC countries.

The economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) are growing at some of the fastest rates in the world. Demand for consumer products ranging from automobiles to appliances is very strong. The populations of China and India account for more than one-third of the world’s population, which also contributes to the popularity of the market.

The report went on to state that the powder coatings market had a value of US$6.5 billion (2011). It has been growing at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 7.2 percent.

By application, the global powder coatings market is taken up by:

  • Automotive2-cooking-industry
  • Appliances
  • General Industry
  • Furniture
  • Architecture
  • Others

Cooking and household appliances account for 20 percent of the powder coatings industry.

 

All the BRIC countries have a strong consumer demand for automobiles that will contribute significantly to the industry. This demand will, in turn, have a positive effect on the powder coated surfaces market. Global consumption of powder coatings is expected to grow to 2667.6 kilotons by 2018, according to the report.

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Advantages of Powder Coatings

Along with its attractiveness, powder coating offers several advantages over its competitors, including:

  • Durability
  • High-quality finish
  • Resistance to corrosion

It quickly became a preferred choice for finishing for manufacturers and consumers alike.

Powder Coating Is a ‘Green’ Choice

Powder coatings also have the advantage of not producing hazardous by-products that other options do. They don’t result in any overspray waste or wastewater sludge when used.

No VOCs. Powder coatings also don’t emit any VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). These are by-products of a number of compounds, including paints and other surface coating techniques, and are emitted as gases into the indoor and outdoor environment.

 Both liquids and solids have the potential to emit VOCs, which include a number of chemicals. Some of them have the potential to cause short- and long-term health problems in humans. Concentrations are up to ten times higher indoors than outdoors, but this doesn’t mean humans are not exposed to the effects of VOCs outdoors.

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Organic Chemicals Common in Modern Life. Organic chemicals are on the list of substances that make up a number of products used in household products. Varnishes, paints and wax all contain these ingredients. Cleaners, disinfectants, degreasers and hobby products also contain organic chemicals, as do fuels.

 All of these products release varying levels of organic compounds into the environment during use. To some degree, they also release organic compounds when they are stored.

Health Effects of VOCs. Exposure to VOCs can lead to a number of negative effects on one’s health, including the following:

  • Eye irritation
  • Nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Loss of coordination
  • Liver and kidney damage

Some people also report allergic skin reactions from exposure to VOCs.

Powder Coating Used in Several Industries. Manufacturers and distributors are more conscious of the benefits of using “gree5-industriesn” alternatives, not only to comply with environmental regulations, but also to make their products more attractive to buyers. Powder coating is almost universally used by industry, such as appliances, automotive, medical devices and furniture.

 

Proper Care of Powdered Surfaces Is Essential

Powder coatings that are applied to metal products 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.

  • Sun
  • Rain
  • Wind
  • Pollution
  • Cold weather
  • Salt water
  • Electrical current
  • Dissimilar metals

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 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 Maintain Powder Coated Surfaces

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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.

The service life of an organic finish cannot accurately be predicted due to the number of variables that can affect its ability to beautify and protect the surface where they have been applied. A professional finishing company would never even attempt to give a firm answer about any of the following:

  • How long a particular finish will last
  • The rate at which the coating will start to lose either its protective or decorative value
  • The rate at which values are lost

These are impossible to predict with any degree of certainty. Anyone who tells you they can give you a definitive answer is likely overreaching.

Proper Cleaning and Maintenance to Extend Effective Service Life. While it may not be possible to map out the exact length of service life you can expect to get from fabricated 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.

For applications that will have a high visibility factor, such as ones being used in buildings, a prudent approach involves maintaining detailed maintenance records that include the dates of all cleanings, including the products and materials used. These records will be important in tracking the type of cleaners used to keep the surface of the material looking its best.

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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 surfaces. If the pressure is strong enough to cause the metal surface to shift its position, it may also the 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 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 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.

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Protect the Exposed Surfaces With Wax. Finished surfaces that will be handled or may come into contact with other objects will benefit from being treated with wax. Examples of these types of surfaces include the following:

  • Fences
  • Guardrails
  • Handrails
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Outdoor lighting fixtures
  • Stairways

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.

Tips for Caring for Powder Coated Fences and Gates

Powder coating is a very durable finish, but you can’t get away with treating it as though it doesn’t need any maintenance at all. Certain weather conditions can have a negative effect on the coating over time, for example.

When dirt and grime builds up in the joints and crevices of fences and gates, it can create a place where bacteria gather and insects find a home. Both circumstances only serve to speed up the breakdown of the coating.

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In coastal areas, salt water can damage fences and gates situated close to the ocean. If they are not thoroughly cleaned at least once a year to remove the buildup, salt will remain attached to the coating and dull its appearance, leaving it looking chalky. To extend the life of your fence and gate, you’ll need to make sure you clean it properly.

  1. Start by wiping the surface gently with a wet sponge to remove any loose dirt and debris. You can also use a soft brush for this purpose. A wire brush would be too harsh, since it would also remove the finish. Your goal is to remove most of the surface dirt and dust at this point.
  2. To remove salt and any other deposits from the surface of the fence and gate, use a soft brush and a mild household detergent.
  3. Choose a detergent that is free from both solvents and petroleum-based chemicals when cleaning your powder-coated fence. One way to tell whether the detergent you are considering is safe for a powder-coated surface is whether the product is safe for your hands. If you need to protect your skin by wearing gloves when using the product, it’s probably not safe for the surface of the gate, either.
  4. Rinse the detergent off the fence or the gate using lukewarm water. At this point, you can allow it to either dry naturally or use a clean, dry cloth to dry it off if you would like to get a cleaner look.

 

Pressure Washing a Fence or Gate. You can use a pressure washer to clean a fence or a gate. This method is less time-consuming than cleaning by hand — however, it does tend to leave more residue behind. If you are trying to clean a fence or a gate in a coastal area, it may be challenging to remove all the salt using a pressure washer.

Hard water can present the same problem, due to the minerals it contains. They build up and harden on the surface of the fence or gate and are difficult to remove, even with the pressure of the water. Detergent softens the water to make cleaning a much easier process.

How to Care for Powder Coated Surfaces: Bollards

Bollards are obstructions used to create barriers around buildings or a particular area. Natural materials, such as wood or stone, may be used for this purpose, but in most instances, short metal posts are used for bollards. They can be made from aluminum, iron, steel, stainless steel or cement.

These barriers can range in height from approximately 36”-52”, depending on where they are placed. Bollards may be used indoors or outdoors to control pedestrian and vehicle traffic. They may also be positioned in front of a store or business as a security measure to discourage “smash and grab” thieves. Bollards can also be found in parking garages, near marinas and ports and at airports to protect vehicles from straying into certain areas or colliding with specific objects.

High-Impact Resistance and Low-Impact Resistance. Bollards are designed to either provide high-impact resistance (to resist being struck by a vehicle) or low-impact resistance. High-impact bollards are chosen for applications where security is the main function required, while low-impact bollards are used when their purpose is mainly for decorative value.

Bollards may be placed in locations such as public parks for aesthetic purposes, such as decorating walkways. They may also be used as hitching posts for bicycle racks at any public building. A high-impact style may not be needed in these instances.

How Powder Coating Is Added to a Bollard. A powder coating is a popular finish choice for bollards, since it provides a high level of protection from nicks and scratches, which may be caused by vehicles and pedestrians alike. The powder coating also protects the bollard from damage from the elements, as well as the effects of diluted road de-icing salts.

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Powder coating can be applied to aluminum, iron, steel and stainless steel bollards. It’s a highly durable finish with the appearance of paint.

Inspection and Cleaning. Powder coated bollards should be inspected about every six months. Tighten or replace any loose or missing parts immediately. If the bollard is placed in a high-traffic area or close to salt water, the inspection should be performed more often.

Use a soft brush to remove any surface dirt. Next, wash with a detergent or mild soap and rinse with clean water. Do not let the detergent or soap dry on the surface of the bollard. Dry with a clean cloth. Do not use any type of abrasive cleaner or steel wool, as this can damage the finish.

Repair Minor Damage. Scratches and scrapes in the enamel topcoat can be dealt with using the following steps:

  1. Use a medium grade of sandpaper to gently rough up the damaged surface as well as the area immediately surrounding it. To minimize scuffing to undamaged areas, place the sandpaper on a narrow surface, such as the end of a pencil. This will help to control where you are sanding on the surface of the finish. Make sure all traces of rust are removed.
  2. Apply an exterior metal primer to the area. Make sure all exposed metal areas are primed and sealed.
  3. Once the metal primer has thoroughly dried and set, paint the primed area with an exterior enamel paint to match the rest of the topcoat.

What to Do About Heavy Damage. If, when inspecting bollards, you notice that they have become heavily damaged (cracked, dented, broken, large areas of rust, etc.), they should be removed from service until they can either be repaired or replaced. High-impact bollards will not be effective at deflecting the force of a vehicle unless they are fully intact.

Remove any significant areas of rust right away to minimize any further damage. Contact us to discuss any broken or replacement parts you may require.

How to Take Care of Powder Coated Surfaces Defaced by Graffiti

Graffiti can be removed from stainless steel using a biodegradable spray specially made for removing graffiti. Some companies carry specially treated wipes, which may be more convenient to use than sprays, depending on the amount of paint that needs to be removed. Do not use hard scraping tools to try to remove the graffiti, as this may damage the powder coating.

If you have any questions about how to care for powder coated surfaces, or questions about the process in general, please contact us — we’d be happy to walk you through our methods.