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Removing paint from an old brass fire extinguisher

I have recently been given an old brass fire extinguisher which although dirty is in good condition. However there is an area about 6" by 2" which has paint on it - looks like a paint brush has slipped and touched it.

How can I remove the paint but not the writing underneath which I guess is enamel.

John James
Hobbyist - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

John, you are asking what solvent will remove some paint of unknown type without risk of removing another paint of unknown type -- unfortunately that question is unanswerable. All you can do is rub it with a solvent like turpentine [on eBay or Amazon] and hope for the best, acknowledging that you may have to repaint the engraved area. Best of luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey


Hi Ted

Thanks for your advice - it was just the push I needed. I have spent the last hour gently rubbing the affected area with a soft cloth and some turpentine [on eBay or Amazon] and all the paint has come off the fire extinguisher without affecting the bottom layer at all. A few minutes with a toothbrush and all the old paint is out of the engraved lettering, etc. All I need to do now is to polish the very tarnished brass but a little go with some Brasso [on eBay or Amazon] shows it can be done. Off to the shop tomorrow to buy a large bottle of vinegar [in bulk on eBay or Amazon].

Once again thanks for your advice and for a wonderful site.


John James
- Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Mr. James, I have a paint on brass problem too. I have acquired two Pyrene Soda Acid brass fire extinguishers. One is original brass, and has and can be shined, however the other one has been painted in some fashion with a brass colored non gloss paint. The lettering have been done in blue. I have tried brasso with a buffing wheel, then paint remover which had no effect at all. Any suggestions

Marc Stuckman
hobbyist - Cascade, Colorado
August 6, 2009

Mineral Spirits
on eBay or


(affil links)

August 15, 2009

Hi, Marc. There are paint removers that are based on relatively mild solvents like mineral spirits [on eBay or Amazon] or turpentine, and then there are very aggressive and very noxious paint removers like methylene chloride, called Aircraft Stripper. I can't guarantee this will remove the paint, but it will remove a lot of paints that things like turpentine won't touch. Be careful with it, and do it outside with very good ventilation, wearing rubber gloves [on eBay or Amazon] and goggles [on eBay or Amazon].

Good luck!


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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