Benefits of 5-Stage vs. 3-Stage Washing for Powder Coating


The powder coating process benefits from a pretreatment that takes place via a 3-stage or 5-stage wash. The pretreatment process delivers a smoother, cleaner surface for the powder coating to adhere to the surface. There are several extra advantages to choosing the 5-stage wash process over the 3-stage wash process.

Here is an overview of each type of powder coat pretreatment, including the 5-stage pretreatment process we use at Madsen Steel Wire.

The Importance of Pre-Treating Parts for Powder Coating

Wire mesh going through a 5-stage washing process

Proper adhesion and coating quality depend on a clean part surface. Powder coating pretreatment consists of cleaning the part with a special solution and adding a coating or sealer to prepare the metal part surface for powder coating. Only a surface free of dirt, oil, rust, and other contaminants can prevent issues like uneven adhesion after powder coating.

The Typical 3-Stage Washing Process

The 3-stage washing process combines important processes that should be separate, as they are in 5-stage washing. The 3-stage wash treatment process is less effective, as it has fewer rinse stages, resulting in less effective removal of excess cleaning detergents. The combined phosphating and cleaning stage can lead to less protection for the final powder-coated part, leaving it more vulnerable to damage from oxidation, corrosion, and scratching. 

Madsen Steel Wire’s Enhanced 5-Stage Wash Process

At Madsen Steel Wire, we implement a 5-stage wash process for every powder coating operation. Here are the steps of this pretreatment:

  1. Part Cleaning: We clean aluminum, steel, and zinc-plated parts with a 120 °F to 140 °F alkaline cleaner. The process prepares the surface for coating, removing soil, rust, and contaminants. Galvanized parts do not go through this process.
  2. Rinse: The part is rinsed with ambient temperature fresh city water. The rinse water flows continuously at 2 gallons per minute. 
  3. Protective Chemical Treatment: A phosphate wash before powder coating parts protects the surface from damage. We use a zirconium-based acid at ambient temperature to lock in the pH at the specified levels and prevent corrosion and oxidation of the metal part surface.
  4. Second Rinse: An additional rinse with ambient temperature city water washes away excess chemicals.
  5. Sealing: We seal the part with a rinse to neutralize salts with ambient temperature water and apply an acid adhesive-promoting seal to prepare the surface for powder coating.

Elevating Powder Coating Prep: The Benefits of 5-Stage Wash Treatment System

The 5-stage washing process delivers several main benefits, including:

  • Enhanced Surface Preparation: The 5-stage washing process provides increased surface cleanliness, improving the adhesion of the coating and durability of the final product.
  • Thorough Part Cleaning: Splitting cleaning and phosphating into two stages creates cleaner parts, allowing the powder coat to adhere thoroughly and provide more longevity. Parts cleaned with a 5-stage wash process have improved protection and are less likely to rust or scratch.

Contact Our Experts for Premium Powder Coating Solutions: Highest Quality, Fastest Delivery

Pretreatment is an essential component of the powder coating process, delivering a clean and smooth surface that optimizes the results of the powder coat. The 5-stage treatment process is a better long-term solution, improving the quality and longevity of the powder coating finish. At Madsen Steel Wire, we use a 5-stage wash process to deliver premium powder coating solutions.

Madsen Steel Wire produces all parts 100% in the U.S. for higher quality and quick turnaround times, including our powder coating services. Learn more about our powder coating services to see how we can serve your application. Contact us to get started with a powder coating solution for your project.

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