rusty old steel filing cabinet with peeling paint
Photo: [COPYRIGHT] Alamy Premium/Alamy
Q: As with most paint jobs, it's all in the prep work

A: Q: How do you recommend safely stripping oil and latex paint off an old steel cabinet and then refinishing the steel surface?

– Herbert, Hilo, Hawaii

Tom Silva replies: You can try a stripper to remove persistent paint, but it will most likely come down to sanding. You also have to make sure that the paint doesn't contain lead, which it may well considering its age. But you can also paint over oil-based paint, if you do the right prep work. You don't need a primer, because you only need a primer where there's raw wood. Clean the surface well, removing any mildew, then sand it lightly. A light sanding should also help break that top coat of paint. Then use a latex paint over it.
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