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How to Refinish a Metal Enamel Tray

Larry Simmons

There's no need to replace a metal enamel tray whose surface coating has become damaged due to age or use when you can refinish the still structurally sound tray for continued service. Because the actual tray remains undamaged, you can remove the present enamel coating, replacing it with a new coating of paint and finish. The new coat offers the same level of protection as the original, at a fraction of the cost of replacing the tray entirely.

With a new coat of enamel paint you can restore your old metal enamel trays.
  1. Remove any accumulated dirt and oil from the tray by washing it using a degreasing cleanser. Use a sponge for light dirt coverage and a nylon scrub brush for heavier dirt coverage. Rinse the cleanser from the tray with clean water, then pat dry with a clean cloth.

  2. Sand away rust deposits or paint on the tray using the rotary tool with a sanding bit attached. Go over the rust with a light touch to ensure that you remove only the rust from the tray and not any of the intact metal beneath. Remove the paint from the tray in rows with the sanding bit, taking care not to gouge lines into the metal tray. Strip all traces of the paint away until you are left with only the bare metal. Remove the sanding dust with a damp cloth.

  3. Place masking tape over any portion of the tray that you wish to polish rather than paint. Cover your work area with newspaper to prevent damage from overspray.

  4. Cover the metal with a layer of metal spray primer. Hold the spray can about 10 inches from the tray with the nozzle pointed directly at the tray surface. Apply the spray with even strokes using two light layers of the primer to create an even coating. Allow the primer about 15 minutes drying time between coats, then wait for the primer to dry completely before continuing.

  5. Paint the tray using an enamel spray paint of your chosen color. Apply the paint using the same process as that used with the primer, building up a coat of paint with multiple light layers of spray. Allow each layer time to dry according to manufacturer recommended drying times before applying the next layer.

  6. Remove the masking tape from the tray. Place a quarter-sized pool of metal polish on a clean cloth and then spread the polish over the unmasked sections of metal. Add more polish to the cloth as needed. Wait for the polish to form a haze and then buff the haze away, polishing the tray's sections to a shine.

  7. Cover the entire surface of the tray with a coating of polyurethane to protect the new paint. The finish creates a wear layer over the paint that absorbs dings and scratches from normal use. Use a foam applicator to apply the finish in rows that overlap by about 20 percent on the tray. Set the tray aside and allow the polyurethane to dry completely before use.