How to Paint Over Rusty Metal

Hide and treat rust with paint.
Hide and treat rust with paint. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Most people know how destructive rust is to metal, so discovering a rusted area on your metal patio furniture, decorations or other items can be distressing. While you can't erase the damaged already caused, you can use special paint products to stop the rust dead in its tracks and prevent further damage. Plan on painting as soon as possible after you notice the rust to nip the problem in the bud and give your rusted metal items a much-needed face-lift.

Things You'll Need

  • Wire brush
  • Soapy water
  • Clean water
  • Towel
  • Rust-inhibiting primer
  • Oil-based paint

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Scrub the rusty metal with a wire brush and soapy water to remove any of the loose or flaking rust. Dish soap and warm water work fine for this project.

Rinse away the soap suds with clean water and dry the metal thoroughly with a clean towel. You must dry the metal as soon as possible after cleaning or more rust could form.

Paint the metal with a rust-inhibiting primer such as a zinc chromate primer. You can purchase such a primer in spray cans or regular paint cans and apply them with a brush.

Paint the metal surface with an oil- or alkyd-based paint when the primer is dry. Just like the primer, you can choose from a can of paint or a can of spray paint.

Tips & Warnings

  • Try to paint the rusty metal within 24 hours of applying the primer. This will help the paint bond securely to the primer and prevent chipping or flaking.


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