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How to Paint Children's Play Equipment

Peeling and cracked lead paint is a safety hazard for children and should be removed.
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Things You'll Need:

  • Wire brush
  • Zinc-rich paint
  • Water
  • Detergent
  • Terry cloth
  • 280- to 320-grit sandpaper
  • Etch primer
  • Lead-free paint

Paint children's playground equipment with lead-free paint to prevent lead poisoning. Children's metal playground sets are typically constructed of galvanized steel to prevent rusting. Before painting playground equipment, carefully inspect the equipment and make needed repairs. Because welding melts the zinc coating of the galvanized steel, properly prepare any newly welded areas before painting. Check wooden playground sets for splinters and make the proper repairs before painting. Select paint for use on playground equipment carefully. Ask your paint dealer for advice. Follow manufacturer's instructions carefully.

Painting Metal Playground Equipment

Restore zinc coating to any welds made to repair play equipment. Sandblast or wire brush the weld to remove slag, then coat the welded area with a zinc-rich paint. Zinc-rich paint is available in spray cans or containers for brush painting.

Clean the play equipment with warm, soapy water. Use a terry cloth rag to wash all surfaces. Make certain to remove all dirt and grease. Rinse thoroughly with clear water.

Allow the metal play equipment to dry thoroughly. Joints between metal pipes and bars take longer to dry. Make certain all surfaces are completely dry before proceeding.

Sand all surfaces using 280- to 320-grit sandpaper. Wipe surfaces with a clean cloth to remove paint dust.

Apply etch primer to ensure a good paint bond. Follow manufacturer's instructions to brush or spray etch primer onto play equipment surfaces.

Paint with exterior-grade, lead-free paint. Follow manufacturer's instructions.

Painting Wooden Playground Equipment

Redwood and cedar make long-lasting playground equipment that needs little maintenance.
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Inspect wooden playground equipment for splinters. Remove splinters and sand the wood smooth. Sand all sharp corners to prevent injury.

Use a toxin-free wood preservative to protect wooden playground equipment from weather. To be toxin-free, wood preservative should not contain heavy metals or arsenic. Wood preservative is either clear or tinted. Apply liberally with a brush, allowing the preservative to soak into the wood. Follow manufacturer's instructions for application details.

Paint wooden playground equipment with lead-free exterior paint, if desired. Follow manufacturer's instructions.


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 50,000 children require emergency medical attention each year due to accidents sustained while playing on playground equipment. Make certain your children's playground equipment is properly installed and maintained.


  • Children should always wash their hands when they come inside from the playground to avoid any contamination from products used on the playground equipment, as well as to avoid spreading germs and bacteria.
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