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Does Acetone Damage Metal? (Quick Answers)

Metallic objects are all around us – used in various tools, equipment and appliances that we use on a day to day basis. Metals are known for their durability and strength, however they can too be damaged due to their chemical reactive properties.

When metals come in contact with certain chemicals, they may result in corrosion or weakening of the metal – in this abstract below, you will learn about the reactivity of metals and acetone.

Does acetone damage metal?

Although metal is chemically reactive with many fluids, acetone does not damage most metals. It does not have any corrosive effects on metals but may cause blemishes on copper if left in contact with acetone for too long. The slight acidity of acetone does not react with most metals except copper.

Acetone is naturally occurring as well as industrially manufactured solvent which is popularly known for its reactive properties that dissolve paint, grease or varnish.

It is a clear colorless solvent that is commonly found in paint removers as well as nail polish removers.

They are naturally present around us in trees and plants but due to their unique properties – they are commercially manufactured to be used in many products.

Their unique properties of breaking and dissolving paint and similar material might give the impression that acetone damages metals – but they don’t harm metal or ruin metal, instead they are commonly used in industries to clean metal surfaces before welding.

They are effective for cleaning dirt, grease and other forms of stain from the metal surface and do not leave any residue or bluing on the surfaces. However they may cause blemishes on copper if used extensively.

Since Acetone can remove contaminants from metal surfaces due to its mild acidic properties however, they don’t pose any threats to the metal object.

Therefore, it is completely fine to clean the metal surface with acetone before applying paint or other forms of coating. Besides being used as a cleaner, it can also help remove rust from metal surfaces.

When a metallic object is exposed to air and moisture, they oxidize the metal to create a layer of rust which could lead to major deterioration of metal – and to remove that layer of rust, acetone can be used.

Although they are non-corrosive to metal they definitely remove metal oxides that form on top of the metal surfaces.

What is acetone made of?

Acetone is a naturally occurring compound that is found in trees and plants as well as many locations. Its chemical name is propanone and it is composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

Due to its widespread use and popularity, acetone has been commercialized to be manufactured industrially through a complex series of chemical reactions.

Industrially manufactured acetone uses benzene and propylene its raw materials – which undergoes a series of chemical reactions to give the final product: Acetone.

What does nail polish remover or acetone do to metal?

Acetone, which is a chemical commonly found in nail polish removers, is initially thought to be damaging to metals, but it does more good than bad to metals.

First off, acetone is industrially used as a solvent to clean the residue or any contaminants from the surface of the metal before welding.

The slight acidity of the acetone makes it a perfect solvent to remove dirt from the metal without causing any harm to it.

Apart from industrial use, acetone has seen tremendous use in household chores as well due to its ability to break and dissolve paint from a metal surface.

So if you have any metal with old paint or damaged paint that you wish to remove – treating it with acetone would easily dissolve the old layer and clean the metal for other purposes.

Another common use of acetone is for removing rust off metal surfaces. Rusting causes irreparable damage to a metal object if not dealt with immediately and for that, rusty surfaces are often treated with acetones to rub off the rust and expose the clean metal surface underneath.

Does acetone damage these metals?

Acetone typically does not react with most metals but it is crucial that you verify whether it is suitable to use acetone on the certain metal that you are applying it on.

The list below describes the effect acetone has on different metals – thus stating which metals are suitable for application:

Stainless steel:

The effect of Acetone on Stainless Steel is negligible and causes no damage to the surface, however, you might notice some streaks on the surface but those will go away upon longer use.

Sterling silver:

Sterling silver is an alloy made up of silver and copper. Although silver does not react with acetone or get damaged – copper does show some reaction upon extended exposure to acetone.

The copper not only reacts with moisture but the reaction gets accelerated by acetone which causes sterling silver to form blemishes and get tarnished.

Galvanized steel:

 Acetone does not cause any harm to galvanized steel and instead acetone is used quite aggressively on galvanized steel to remove any paint, grease or any contaminant from the surface of the steel.


 Aluminum would also not react with acetone and can be used to clean its surface. But if the aluminum has any coating on top of it, the acetone may damage and remove the aluminum.

Can I use acetone to remove rust and clean metal?

The mild acidic property of acetone makes it an excellent solvent to clean coats and other elements off the surface of a metal to clean them as well as to remove rust from them.

Rubbing the surface of the target surface with a piece of cotton clothing soaked in acetone can help get rid of the residue or old paint from the surface.

In case of removing rust however, you need to act fast or else, the rust would’ve caused irreparable damage to the metal. If the rust hasn’t formed for a long time, you can place the acetone-soaked cloth on top of the surface and then rub the rust off gently.

How to use acetone to remove rust from metal?

Removing rust from metal is easy using acetone if you follow the steps below:

Separate the rusted item into an open area:

Before applying acetone into the item surface, you need to keep it in a well-ventilated and open space, preferably outside, because acetone produces fumes that you may not be able to tolerate.

Cleaning it outside also makes it easier to dispose of the rust scrubbings and prevent fume buildup from the acetone.

Make preparations:

In order to ensure your safety, make sure you are wearing rubber gloves, mask and safety goggles.

And for the acetone, take a small plastic cup and pour the acetone into it – make sure the cup is big enough to dip sponge, cloth or pad you may use for scrubbing.

Rub off the rust from the surface:

Take an item you wish to scrub the rust with – preferably sponge but cotton cloth or scouring pad would do as well. Once the sponge is soaked with acetone, rub the rust off the surface until all the rust is gone.

Wipe off the residue:

If you still notice some residue on the metal surface, you may use a lint-free cloth with cool water to wipe the residue off the surface. Make sure you clean the water off the surface with a dry clean towel afterwards.

How can you use acetone to clean before painting?

Acetone can be used to clean a metal surface before painting, the process is simple as follows:

Gather the materials needed:

To clean the metal surface before painting, you would need acetone, sponge or scouring pad and the paint of your choice. Make sure you have taken the proper safety measures as well.

Scrub the surface off with acetone:

Pour the acetone in a cup and then use the sponge or pad to absorb the acetone and make them soaked. Scrub the surface off to clean all the surfaces, since acetone dries off quickly – take note of which surfaces have been cleaned.

Do not touch the item with bare hands or put them in a dirty spot since it would contaminate it again.

Apply the paint:

Once you’re done with the cleaning process, use a primer of your choice and apply the paint on the surface. Do not attempt to use the acetone alongside the paint since acetone dissolves paint.

Final thoughts

Despite the fact that metal reacts chemically with a variety of fluids, most metals are unaffected by acetone. It has no corrosive effects on metals but may leave blemishes on copper if exposed to acetone for a long time. Acetone’s mild acidity does not react with most metals except copper.