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What is the best way to strip and restore retro metal lawn furniture. I have a bench made of aluminum and sheet metal. The chairs are sheet metal...and a bit rusty!
I would not strip the paint off where it is still good. It is doing its job protecting the underlying metal. When you break this bond, you will usually end up with contaminating the metal underneath and it will begin to rust too.
For the steel, brush and or sand off the rust. The prime with a Zinc Chromate primer. Then follow with a good rust inhibiting paint like Rustoleum.
For Aluminum, the best thing is a conversion coating like Alodine. You may need to have this done by a professional as it is difficult to learn how to do this properly. Then paint.
One more thing, never brush aluminum with a steel brush. A steel brush will leave microscopic bits of steel in the Aluminum. Since aluminum is more "active" than steel, it will corrode around these microscopic bits. Use a Nylon brush or pad like Scotchbrite.
There are also rust conversion primers such as Rustoleum "Rust Reformer". This product will convert the rust to an inert state which can then be painted over. They actually don't want you to totally remove the rust, but just the flaky excess.