How to Remove Rust from Metal Before Painting

How to Remove Rust from Metal Before Painting

Do you want to perform a little DIY painting project but cut up with rust? It is not ideal for painting on the rusty material, hence removing the rust from the metal before painting is essential.

However, properly prepping the rusty metal before painting lies the difference between a perfect job and a shabby one.

This article contains everything you need to know on how to remove rust from metal before painting (including a video walkthrough).

I’ll basically show you how to remove rust from metals in 5 easy-to-follow steps, how to prepare metals for painting, and then I’ll go ahead and show you some easy rust conversion products that are super effective at getting rid of rusts from metals.

Once you’re done reading this guide, you’ll never have issues removing rust from metals again.

That said, let’s quickly get started:

How to Remove Rust from Metal Before Painting

How to Remove Rust from Metal Before Painting

Below is the step by step process of getting rid of rust from metal before applying the paint:

1. Using Vinegar to remove rust

Vinegar is one of the best things you can use to remove rust on metals. To use vinegar, immerse your rusty metal in a bowl of vinegar and leave it overnight.

Once it’s been properly soaked, bring out the metal and scrub the rust off with a wire brush or steel wool.

Keep doing this until all the rust is gone, and then clean the metal with water and soap and dry thoroughly before painting.

2. Removing Rust with Baking Soda

Baking soda works best on metals with light rust. Mix baking soda and water into a thick paste and spread the mixture on the metal (make sure that rusty parts are well covered).

Leave the paste on the metal for about an hour, then use a wire brush or steel wool to scrub the metal to remove the rust.

Before you apply paint, you want to use water and rinse the paste off, and then dry thoroughly.

3. Potato and Dish Soap Rust Removal Method

Interestingly, you can also use potato and a little dish soap to get rid of rust on metal objects. Simply cut a potato in half, and place the cut end in a shallow dish of Puracy Natural Dish Soap[/easyazon_link]. Allow it to soak in the soap for some minutes.

Then with the soapy potato, rub the rusted area on the metal. The soap will help to eliminate general grime, while the oxalic acid content of the potato helps remove the rust. Once all the rusts are removed, rinse and dry the metal properly before painting.

4. Use Salt and Lemon Method to Remove Rust

This technique combines the abrasiveness of the salt and the acidity of the lemon to remove small rust spots on metals. To start, cover the rusted spots with salt and then squeeze the lemon juice over the salt layer.

Leave the salt and lemon mixture for two hours or so, and then use the lemon rind to scrub the metal, or if the spots are persistent, use a wire brush or steel wool.

Finally, rinse off the salt, lemon, and rust residue, and dry the metal before applying the paint.

5. Using Citric Acid to remove rust

Citric acid, which you can find in the baking aisle of some supermarkets or in health food stores, works like magic when it comes to removing rust from metals before painting.

However, citric acid equally works for removing paint and other coatings, so it’s probably not the ideal method for all pieces.

Preparing a Metal Before Painting

preparing a metal before painting
roofer builder worker with pulverizer spraying paint on metal sheet roof

When you have to paint metal, it is crucial to perform adequate surface preparation to ensure the quality and durability of the metal coating.

If you do not perform proper preparation for the metal, it does not matter the kind of advanced metal coating technologies applied; it will still fail.

Irrespective of the method you employ, preparation is the key to success here. About 75% of all painting failures you will experience are because of improper surface preparation.

1. Clean the metal surface

To remove rust from metal before painting, you must prepare the surface properly by using mineral spirits. After this, you can apply a rust inhibitive primer to get your painting started.

However, if the surface is already painted, you can use a clean, dry cloth to remove dust. Furthermore, de-gloss the surface of the metal using light sanding and wipe using mineral spirits to certify excellent adhesion.

At times, you may find the metal with persistent dirt, in this situation; you can use a mild detergent solution or a recommended commercial product.

2. Get rid of loose and cracking paint

If the metal has old paint on it, you can use a brush to remove it. Although this method is labor-intensive and doesn’t produce the required outcome, most professionals rather depend on professional cleaning tools to remove the paint.

Nevertheless, the issue with cleaning tools is that they can polish the metal surface, which can cause paint-adhesion challenges.

3. Remove Rust

When you want to remove rust from metal before undergoing your painting project, sandblasting is the easiest method to start with because it quickly removes every old paint.

During this, compressed air at high pressure is used to remove any abrasive material via a hardened spray nozzle while quickly blasting any material on the surface of the metal. Sandblasting is perfect if the material is metal, carved wood, or hard areas to reach.

4. Repair small dents and holes

To deal with dents and holes; sand the area pending when the bare metal spot is reached. Then wipe the area using a degreaser in combination with a mineral spirit.

If both dents and holes are small, you can inject epoxy-based composite to the holes. For larger spots, you can fill the area.

5. Priming the surface of the metal

Before painting, priming the surface is crucial, especially when exposed to moisture. To get the right primer, you have to coat it with the same type of metal, putting its performance, appearance, and environmental conditions into consideration.

Do not use latex primers on metal surfaces because moisture can pass through it and make the paint to wash off within weeks. Most professionals will recommend using two different metal primers – a rust converter and a galvanized metal primer.

You won’t want to remove the rust again after painting; hence, a rust converter might be perfect if you don’ want a reoccurrence of the rust.

Notwithstanding, for most metal, a galvanized primer is excellent because it prevents paint from sticking to the surface.

Easy Rust Conversion Products

Today, we have certain organic rust converter products you can use to remove rust before painting.

Some of the best rust converters that are super effective at removing rusts from metals are:

>>Click on any of them to see the price on Amazon.

These products transform rust to harmless chemical compounds while depositing them on the surface against further rusting. This process is easy, as it does not require sandblasting and brushing.

These rust converters require only a rusty surface to do the job. Interestingly, they are water-based, with ease of applying to the surface and are non-flammable. These products are ideal for areas where it may be challenging to perform sandblasting and brushing.

Understandably, you won’t think twice to purchase them because of the flexibility that comes from using them.

However, the downside of using these rust converters is that they are thicker when compared to conventional coatings. It doesn’t matter the finishing you want for metal material; preparation is compulsory

Finally, watch the short video below to learn one of the easiest ways of removing rust from metals (which I also mentioned above).

Now, you have it all. If you follow any of the rust removal tactics I shared above, you won’t have challenges getting rid of those annoying rusts when next you want to paint metal.

What is the best way to remove rust before painting metal?

All it takes is a pass with a soft cloth dampened with a homemade degreasing solution—four teaspoons liquid dish soap mixed in one gallon of warm water—followed by a “rinse” using a water-dampened rag. Let the metal air-dry completely before breaking out the primer.

What is the fastest way to remove rust from metal?

Simply soak the rusty metal object in white vinegar for a couple of hours and then just wipe to remove the rust. If the object is too large, simply pour white vinegar evenly over the surface of the object and give it some time to settle.

Can you paint directly over rusted metal?

Yes, you can spray paint over rust. Before you paint, take the time to prepare your surface properly. Spray paint surface preparation preparation is extremely important and is the best predictor of how long your new paint finish will last.

what is the best primer for rusty metal?

Should You Paint Over Rust? While you can paint over rust with any paint and a paintbrush, that doesn’t mean you should. In some cases, painting over rust might not be worth it. Sure, painting over rust can stop it, but it may be a lost cause if the rust has spread far across the metal.

How do you remove rust from metal without damaging paint?

WD-40 is designed to loosen the bonds between rust and the metal surface it has adhered to by penetrating the porous layer of rust and using its lubricating properties to loosen it. To remove surface rust, simply spray it on the rusted surface, leave it for around ten minutes and let it get to work on the surface rust.

What is the best primer for rusty metal?

Top 5 Best Paint Primers For Rusted Metal

  • Rust Converter Ultra.
  • Rust-Oleum Rusty Metal Primer.
  • Corroseal Water-Based Rust Converter Metal Primer.
  • Krylon Rust Protector.
  • TotalBoat Rust Primer Converter.

How do you remove rust from paint on metal?

The only nontoxic rust-removing chemical I’m aware of is white vinegar. It’s an amazing rust remover for very light rust on metal. I saturate a paper towel with the vinegar and press it onto the rusty metal. Within a few hours, the rust is almost always gone, and I don’t even have to rub the metal!

How do you remove rust without scrubbing?


  • Soak your tool in a vinegar bath. Place your tool in a jar or other container, then pour in just enough vinegar to submerge all the rusted parts.
  • Scour the rust off.
  • Dry and lubricate the tool.

What is the best chemical to remove rust?

The most commonly used rust removing chemical is phosphoric acid. The solution creates a chemical reaction when applied to rust converting it to a water-soluble compound that can be scrubbed away quickly and easily.

Can you use vinegar to clean metal before painting?

Metal: Before painting a metal item, wipe the surface with a solution of 1 part vinegar to 5 parts water. This cleans the surface and makes peeling less likely. The acidic qualities of the vinegar will clean and degrease the surface and help the paint adhere.

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