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Rust Removal from Metal

By Jim Dugan
Professional Contractor & DIY Expert

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When metal is exposed to oxygen and moisture, rust occurs. If left untreated, oxidation will ultimately destroy anything made of steel, wrought iron and aluminum. Rust removal from metal is critical to prolonging the life of the object; however, it's not enough. To prevent recurrence, you must seal the metallic surface using the proper protective coating.

Removing Rust from Metal

There's generally no short cut to removing rust from metal. To thoroughly eliminate the oxidation, vigorously scrape it using a metallic putty knife and a wire brush. Once you’ve taken down the big, jagged bits, smooth the remaining rust, using steel wool and low-grit sandpaper.

Protecting Metal from Rust

Once you've removed the oxidation, you need to protect the metal from future outbreaks. There are a variety of rust sealers on the market. The best ones have an acidic base that allows them to etch metallic surfaces; so they stick better without peeling and flaking. Whatever you choose, don't opt for ordinary primer and paint. These finishes won't adhere to metallic surfaces and typically can't prevent rust.

Tips and Warnings

Be sure to wear gloves, goggles and a dust mask during the removal process, or shards of rust may become embedded in your skin, eyes or lungs.

If you want to protect wrought iron fencing from rust, apply an iron oxide primer first; then paint the metal with an enduring, exterior oil-based paint.