Restore Metal Before Painting

Get rid of the rust before you paint.

Got rust? We can show you how to get rid of it. The key is to properly prep the rusty steel before you paint. A little work up front will yield long lasting results.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Prep rusty metal for a new coat of paint

That old wrought iron fence or steel gutter may look terrible, but with the right preparation and primer, most rusty metal surfaces can be restored to almost new.

The first step is to clean off loose rust and flaking paint and then apply a rust-inhibitive primer. You don't need to get down to bare, shiny metal—just clean off the flakes and powdery surface rust that prevent paint from adhering. However, badly rusted areas need more prep work and possibly a special primer.

Start with a wire brush (Photo 1). If the area is heavily rusted and pitted and wire brushing by hand is ineffective, use a drill with a wire wheel (Photo 2) and a primer that adheres to rusted surfaces, such as Krylon Rust Tough or Rust-Oleum.

For spots that are very badly rusted or too delicate or detailed to clean thoroughly, use a product like Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer, which soaks into the rust and changes it into a non-rusting, paintable surface (Photo 3).

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Angle grinder
  • Corded drill
  • Wire brush

You will also need a Wire wheel.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Rust-inhibitive primer

Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer may be needed for badly rusted areas that can't be abraded.