How to Remove Rust from Metal


Authored by Donna Johnson in Cleaning
Published on 09-14-2009

Any material that is exposed to the elements can suffer some type of damage as a result. For metal items such as patio furniture, swing sets, and light fixtures, one of the most common problems is rust. Removing rust may seem like a difficult task, but it really can be accomplished quite simply with the proper tools and a little elbow grease.

To remove rust from metal, you will first need to determine how extensive the rust is. If there’s not much rust to remove, you may choose to use a natural removal method such as vinegar, baking soda, or simple elbow grease. If using vinegar, you should allow the rusty part of the metal to soak in it until the rust is visibly dissolving. If you choose to use baking soda, make a thick paste with water and leave it on the rust until it dissolves. With either method, you should be able to remove rust from metal with very little scrubbing. Multiple applications may be needed, though. If the rusty area is very small, you may try just scrubbing it off with plain steel wool or a stiff wire brush. These methods are also good if you like to use natural products rather than harsh chemicals whenever possible.

If you find that the rust is more extensive, or if the natural remedies don’t work, you’ll need something stronger. Commercial rust removing products are available for this purpose. Many of them contain oxalic acid or phosphoric acid and are very strong. Because of this, you should take precautions to protect yourself while using them. Thick rubber gloves are a must, and you should also wear goggles to protect your eyes from drips or splashes. You may also choose to wear a breathing mask when using commercial rust removers, as the fumes may be irritating or harmful. Scrubbing may also be required to remove all the rust, which can create small airborne rust particles that you could inhale without a breathing mask.

Once you have applied the rust remover to your items as directed by the manufacturer and scrubbed off the rust, your metal items should look as good as new. Now is the time to fight future rust problems so that you don’t have to go through rust removal again. Coat the item with a rust preventing primer made especially for outdoor use and for that particular type of metal. After the primer dries you should paint the item, again using a paint specifically made for outdoor use and rust inhibition for your type of metal. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions for storage of any leftover rust removing products and disposal of used product and tools coated with rust remover.

The process of removing rust from metal may seem daunting, especially if you need to use harsh chemicals. But if you just take protective precautions and the time to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions properly, it’s really very easy. Your metal items will be rust free and looking as good as new in practically no time at all.


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