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How to Clean and Maintain a Powder Coated Steel Door

Thursday December 2nd, 2021
Powder coated steel doors are one of the best innovations in the construction industry. Though powder coating technology has been around since the 1960s, innovation continues to improve and expand applications for this revolutionary method of painting and coating steel and metal surfaces. Since powder coating is the method Rustica uses on all of our steel doors, we want you to understand how to maintain your door. To keep it clean and well maintained, you’ll need to:

How to Maintain a Powder Coated Steel Door

  1. Take Note of Environmental Conditions
  2. Create a Cleaning Schedule
  3. Avoid Harsh Chemicals at All Costs
  4. Use Mild Soap and Water
  5. Scrub with Soft Brush or Towel
  6. Consider Pressure Washing Outdoor Doors
  7. Finish with a Wax
Powder coating is a far superior and more effective method for painting and protecting a metal door. However, as with anything that is exposed to outside elements, such as rain, wind, and sun, steps are needed to maintain it. By properly maintaining your powder coated steel door, you can significantly extend its expected lifespan, even when the door is exposed to especially harsh weather elements such as high humidity, storms, and sea spray.

Why Are Steel Doors Powder Coated?

When a steel door is installed, it needs to have a protective coating to shield it against the elements and protect its structural integrity. If water, rain, and snow get through to the unprotected steel, rust can become a problem. Once a metal door starts to rust, significant measures are needed to stop the rusting and restore the metal.

If you painted a steel front door or steel door frames with standard liquid paint, the risk for defects is high due to paint not drying correctly, not being applied correctly, or being of substandard quality. If there are defects in the paint quality, then corrosion and (eventually) rust will become an issue. To solve this problem, the process of powder coating steel exterior doors and interior doors was created.

Powder coating a steel entry door can be thought of as a dry painting process. Rather than liquid or aerosol paint products, dry powder paint is sprayed at high velocity onto a metal surface. The powder sticks to the prepared steel entry door and eventually binds to the surface. Heat cures the powder paint, and it forms into a durable and protective coating.

There are several benefits to applying powder coating to a steel exterior door, and the benefits are both environmental and practical. Because the process uses dry powder, there are no harmful solvents involved. This one factor alone creates a much more environmentally friendly product than standard liquid paint.

When it comes to practicality, the benefits are numerous. Powder coating front doors, back doors, interior, and entry doors, in addition to the steel door frame, provides superior protection for all edges. While the protection for stell edges is limited with liquid paint, powder coating covers all areas, evenly and forms a surface that is highly protective.

Ultimately, powder coating provides a better seal and a better look, resulting in doors that look new for much longer than regular liquid paint can provide. The powder coating also forms a far superior protection against the elements, resulting in a dramatically increased lifespan of your steel door as opposed to a door coated with liquid paint. The more corrosion-resistant the coating, the better for your door.

How to Clean and Maintain a Powder Coated Steel Door

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of powder coating a steel door, let’s talk about the maintenance required to keep the door looking its best for years to come:  

1. Take Note of Environmental Conditions

The degree of maintenance required of your powder coated steel door depends, in part, on the types of environmental conditions the door is exposed to. Before determining your schedule, it’s a good idea to sit down and determine what conditions your door needs to withstand.

Numerous environmental factors impact the life of the powder coating on a door. For example, interior doors will require less maintenance than exterior doors. Beyond this, however, what environmental factors should be considered when creating a cleaning schedule?

Are you in a mild, dry climate with light use? Or is your door exterior facing a tropical climate with high humidity and monsoon-type weather? Perhaps the door is on the outside of a beach house and will be continually exposed to salt air and sea spray. An appropriate cleaning schedule will largely depend on the answer to these questions.

In general, the more exposure to the elements, the more frequent your maintenance schedule will need to be. While an exterior entryway door will require more frequent maintenance, doors that are on the interior of a building in a low-traffic area can go longer between cleanings.

2. Create a Cleaning Schedule

Creating a cleaning schedule is one of the best things you can do to ensure proper and regular maintenance. If you leave a cleaning schedule unplanned, you might be surprised to find that months to a year has passed and you haven’t even glanced at your door, let alone given it the proper attention and care it needs.

Just as you want to check the paint on your house and window shutters, taking proper care of your steel door is a must in order to promote the best lifespan possible.
If you have exterior French doors that will get heavy use in a humid area with a high amount of weather activity, you should plan on performing maintenance on your door every three months or more, if needed.

If your steel door is an exterior door in an area with fairly dry weather conditions, you can plan on cleaning your door every six months or so.
Interior doors in dry conditions with light to medium use can be serviced every six months to a year. Interior doors in humid conditions (such as a pool house) or heavy use should be serviced every six months

3. Avoid Harsh Chemicals at All Costs

Like any coating applied to metal or wood, time and exposure to the elements will cause a breakdown of the powder coating. Because of this, it’s important to regularly clean the door of debris, dirt, and salt from sea spray.

When cleaning steel doors with a powder coating, you can’t just grab any cleaner lying around your garage. This is because harsh chemicals will lead to significantly faster degradation of the powder coating. This is true whether you’re cleaning an exterior door, steel window, entry door, metal jamb, or interior door.

4. Use Mild Soap and Water

So, what can you clean your door with? Surprising as it may seem, a simple combination of mild soap and water. This is true whether you’re cleaning a commercial steel door, garage doors, or interior metal doors used inside your home.

Doors naturally collect a build-up of dirt, residue, and debris that needs to be cleaned off regularly to prevent degradation of the powder coating. Even if your door is an inside door with light traffic, the oils from your hands and dust from the environment build up. Doors in high traffic areas or those that face the exterior of a building will naturally collect more buildup, requiring more frequent cleanings.

To create an appropriate cleaning solution that can be used on everything from custom steel doors to a rolling steel door installed in the garage, you’ll want to use mild soap and warm water. Choose a soap that contains emulsifiers that can break down common stains, and pour it into a bucket with warm water. Mix the solution thoroughly so that the soap is fully distributed.

5. Scrub with Soft Brush or Towel

Once you’ve got your soap and water solution ready, it’s time to tackle the door. For the actual washing and cleaning process, a clean, soft brush or towel is essential. Never use an abrasive or rough towel to clean the surface of your door. Even small micro-scratches can compromise the surface. These scratches add up over time, and compromises the powder coating’s ability to protect the door from moisture. Once moisture gets into the metal, corrosion and rust aren’t far behind.

You should also stay away from using towels that have been used for other projects. If you have a towel lying around in your garage, but you’re not certain if it’s been washed and cleaned, steer clear. Towels that have remnants of solvent or paint thinner can damage the powder coating of the door.

If you’d rather use a brush, be sure to use one with soft bristles that is labeled as non-abrasive. A wire brush should never be used because the bristles can damage the finish. Wire brushes are prone to digging into the finish of your door and leaving scratches behind.

Performing regular cleaning and maintenance is essential to prevent the breakdown of the coating that prevents rust and corrosion. The tools you use to clean the surface are critical to ensure the coating is maintained, not worn down. This is true whether you’re cleaning the surface of steel entry doors or any of the door hardware that has been treated with powder coating.

When cleaning, you should scrub gently, wiping away any dust, dirt, and buildup from the surface of the door. If gentle wiping or scrubbing doesn’t remove dirt the first time, then go back for another pass. If you regularly maintain your door, you shouldn’t experience any major buildup that requires excessive force to remove. If the stubborn spots persists, you might need to consider pressure washing the door instead of hand washing.

6. Consider Pressure Washing Outdoor Doors

For doors that only require infrequent cleaning, using mild soap and water with a soft, clean towel is more than enough to do the trick. However, this may not be the most efficient cleaning method for especially large doors, like garage doors, or those that face the exterior, like front doors.

For the most efficient cleaning method in these cases, you might want to consider pressure washing the doors. Though most homeowners don’t have a pressure washer on hand, if you need to pressure wash powder coated doors regularly, a power washer could be a good investment.

When pressure washing the door, there are several things you should keep in mind. Pressure washing incorrectly could cause a faster degradation of the powder coating, and eventually lead to rust if the issue isn’t fixed.

To pressure wash the door, you should set the pressure washer to the “low” setting. This ensures enough pressure to wash off the surface, but not so much that it can damage the exterior coating. You’ll also want to use filtered water. Unfiltered groundwater can cause staining on your door due to the fluoride, chlorine, sulfur, and iron oxide commonly found in it.

If you don’t want to invest in a pressure washer, there are plenty of companies that offer this service to homeowners. Pressure washing entire structures is particularly popular in humid regions like the south. Even in drier areas, however, pressure washing is seen as an efficient method for cleaning large surfaces quickly. Chances are, you’ll have no problem finding a pressure washing company near you. Just remember to ask about their procedures for washing powder coated surfaces to ensure they’re following proper care protocols.  

7. Finish with Wax

If you’ve ever applied a wax finish to your car after washing and detailing it, then you’re already familiar with this process. The concept is the same, as a wax coating will provide a further layer of protection to the powder coating and, ultimately, the metal underneath. The more you can do to protect the door’s metal, the longer the door will last.

For this process, you’ll want to use a clean, non-abrasive cloth, similar to what you used when washing the door. Use a high-grade, non-abrasive wax, like those used for a car, with UV blockers or inhibitors. Stay away from compound waxes because compounds often contain abrasives that can harm the powder coating.

After applying a light coat of wax to the entire door, take a clean cloth and give it one more rub down. Remove any leftover wax from the surface. This prevents wax globules from baking onto the door when exposed to sunlight. Though it may not harm the door, it could cause staining and diminish its look.

Can You Paint a Powder Coated Steel Door?

So, what happens if the door gets scratched up and you notice corrosion starting? Or, what if there is a substantial rust patch on the door? While the durability of powder coating is second to none, regular maintenance is critical to keep these scenarios from occurring. This is especially important because there is a major difference between a regular wood door that you can simply refinish and a powder coated steel door.

When you need to refinish a wood door, you can strip the surface, prime it, and add fresh paint or varnish to restore the door’s condition. Unfortunately, powder coated steel doors cannot be treated this way.

What would happen if you tried to place regular paint on top of powder coated steel surfaces? Typically, the paint will slide right off. The paint isn’t able to bind to the powder coating, and no matter how much you apply or how much time you give it to dry, it won’t stick.

If you notice substantial damage to the finish on your door, the door might need to be professionally refinished. When professionally refinished, fresh powder coating is applied to the surface to stop any further damage and seal the door, restoring it to its like-new condition.

Fixing damage on your powder coated door doesn’t have a simple DIY solution. This is why it’s vital to regularly clean and maintain it. By performing regular maintenance, you can almost always avoid the type of extensive corrosion and damage that would eventually result in the need to refinish the entire door with a new powder coating.

Maintaining a Powder Coated Door the Right Way

A powder coated steel door adds tremendous curb appeal to the front of your home or commercial building. The finish also provides significantly improved durability when exposed to harsh elements such as wind, rain, snow, and sun. Whether you have an exterior door for your home or a commercial door for your business, powder coating is an excellent option for protecting it.

To promote the longest life for your steel door possible, maintaining the powder coating finish is vital. Thankfully, the process is rather simple. As long as you create a cleaning schedule that correlates to the amount of buildup or exposure your door receives, and you use the right cleaning materials, your door should look as good as the day you installed it, even after years of wear and exposure.
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