How to Remove Surface Rust


When metals react with oxygen, it forms a chemical compound that contains both that compound and oxygen. If the metal is iron, oxygen combines with the iron to form iron oxide. This molecule is larger than the original metal, so this causes the iron oxide to puff up and flake off. This exposes more metal to oxygen and continues the process. Water speeds up this process and causes iron to rust faster. If you remove surface rust before it can penetrate deeply, you can stop the rusting process. The key is to get the surface rust off and protect the metal.

Things You'll Need

  • Sand or bead blaster
  • Acid wash solution
  • Metal primer
  • Metal paint
  • Paint spray gun
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves


  • Sand blast all rusted areas of metal to remove rust and expose bare metal. Use glass bead blasting for more delicate parts.

  • Take an acid wash like Phosphoric acid and wash the exposed metal. This will etch the metal and leave a fine coating of iron phosphate behind. The iron phosphate will prevent future rusting. Acid washing will also remove oils, waxes, and slight amounts of rust that were missed during the sand blasting procedure. The coating is not thick or durable enough for long lasting protection, so other methods will need be used as a follow up.

  • Prime your new, exposed metal with a quality metal priming paint. Coat all surfaces evenly and allow to dry.

  • Apply your desired color of pain to the metal. Allow to dry and apply a second coat. Your metal should be now protected from future rusting.

Tips & Warnings

  • Hydrochloric and oxalic acid will etch your metal very quickly. They may be used as an alternative. You will, however, lose a significant amount of metal if left in these acids too long.
  • When working with acids, care must be taken to keep acids from splashing on your skin or clothing. They can cause significant burns to flesh.

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