Prep rusty metal for a new coat of paint
Photo 1: Light rust
Scrub partially rusted metal areas with a wire brush to remove flakes and powdery surface rust, then prime with a rust-inhibitive primer.
Photo 2: Heavy rust
Grind down heavily rusted spots faster with a wire wheel and a drill or angle grinder.
Photo 3: Problem spots
Coat deeply rusted areas with a special primer that chemically converts rust to a paintable surface.
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).
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
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