How to Refinish Rusted Metal

Alexis Lawrence

When certain metals, such as iron or steel, are exposed to natural elements, like rain or humidity, the metal may begin to rust. While most objects made with metals that can rust, such as vehicles, have protective coatings to prevent rust, if these coatings are broken open, rust can form in the gaps.

The rusting of metal not only changes the color and appearance of an object, but weakens the structure of the object as well, so if you have rusted metal on an object, you should take steps to refinish the metal.

Painted Metal

  1. Lay plastic sheeting on the ground or floor beneath the metal that you want to refinish. Remove all large, loose pieces of rust and paint from the metal surface with a paint scraper, allowing the pieces to fall onto the plastic sheeting for each disposal.

  2. Go over the surface of the rusted metal with a wire brush to remove the remainder of loose rust and paint and roughen the surface. Dust the metal with a dry cloth to remove as much clinging metal dust from the surface as possible.

  3. Apply primer to the rusted metal surface and allow the primer to fully dry. Once dry, apply a second coat of primer to the metal.

  4. Paint the rusted metal the same color as the rest of the rusted object. Allow the paint to dry and apply additional coats as necessary until the paint color matches the rest of the object.

  5. Cover the paint job with a waterproof sealant to prevent future rusting. Brush the waterproof sealant onto the metal surface just like any standard paint.

Non-Painted Metal Objects

  1. Bring water to a boil in a pan or tea kettle. Turn the stove off once the water boils and add four teabags to the water. Let the tea bags steep in the water for five to 10 minutes and remove the teabags.

  2. Place rusted metal objects into the tea once it cools and allow the objects to soak. According to online resource Avian Web, in an article on refinishing rusted birdcages, it can take up to eight hours for the rust to disappear from the surface of the metal.

  3. Pull the metal objects from the water and wipe them down with a dry cloth. The rust wipes away.

  4. Spray un-painted rusted metal that are not small enough to soak with hairspray and let the spray sit on the metal for 30 seconds to one minute. Wipe the metal off with a dry rag to wipe away the metal. If the rust is not fully removed, Avian Web recommends repeating the process until the rust is gone.

  5. Apply waterproof sealant to the metal objects to help prevent future rust. Read the label on the waterproof sealant for safety instructions though, as some sealants may be dangerous for animals and shouldn’t be used on cages or animal toys.