Articles about DIY


Engaging or interesting fact:
Rust forms on all exposed, untreated metals.
For rust to form, oxygen, water and metal must be present.
Rust eventually disintegrates metal.

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How to Remove Rust

By Damien Andrews

How to remove rust using only common products and tools

Knowing how to remove rust from metal is a handy bit of information to possess. Since rust only requires oxygen, water and metal to form, almost everyone’s possessions are subject to its relentless destructiveness. Since rust is the progressive oxidation of metal, every homeowner and DIYer should be intimately familiar with how to remove it. If you have rust, and you don’t remove it, it will get worse.

Removing rust is most often not that difficult, and usually does not require the purchase of costly or potentially dangerous specialty products designed to aid in rust removal. There is no magical rust remover available on the market. Nothing available for purchase allows you to simply spray or brush on, and then wipe off the rust.

We’ll be removing rust with some very common tools and products. For effective rust removal you should have: 80-grit emery cloth • 200 grit emery cloth • WD-40 • a steel wire brush • a 1” wide heavy scraper • 4/0 steel wool • 8/0 steel wool.

If the rust you need to remove is thick, crusty and flaky, start by using the scraper to get the top layers off. Scrape at different angles to chip and scrape off as many of the layers as possible. Many of these will pop off in large flakes. Eye protection is advised as some of the flakes jump off with force.

Once you’ve scraped, use the steel brush for removing the next layer. Use firm pressure with a back and forth stroke, and again, work at different angles to remove the most rust. If the metal is pitted, be sure the bristles get down into the small depressions. This process will be dusty, so wear a face mask along with your goggles. Rust dust is really tough on eyes and lungs.

At this point you’ll have to look at your subject metal and decide if using emery cloth is required. Rust removal does not always require the emery cloth. Use 80-grit emery cloth if the rust is still thick and deep. Use 200-grit if it’s not. Emery cloth is great for rust removal inside bends and on elbows and curved metals. Don’t use too much pressure. You want to focus on removing rust, not metal.

NOTE: The next process in rust removal is where you’d start removing the rust, if the rusted metal was only slightly rusty to begin with.

Grab your steel wool: 4/0 for tougher metals and deeper rust • 8/0 for finer metals, chrome and lighter rust. Spray a small amount of WD-40 onto the rust and start to “polish” the area. Use a consistent stroke and don’t press too hard. If you start with the 4/0 steel wool, once the rust is lighter, switch to the 8/0 for a finer finish on the job. Keep the area wet with WD-40, and wipe off the dirty red silicone as necessary. You want to be able to see your progress.

When you can no longer see the rust, you’re done with rust removal and ready for finishing the metal. This is done with a clean piece of 8/0 steel wool and a very light spray of WD-40. Use light, brisk strokes until the metal shines. Wipe off the remaining WD-40 with a rag. This is an amazingly effective technique on lightly rusted chrome. It leaves it shiny and rust free.

If you leave a little WD-40 on the area, it will protect the bare metal for a short time. If you paint it lightly with a thicker oil, old used engine oil works fine, then it will be protected longer. If you intend to paint the bare metal with an anti-rust paint, don’t put engine oil on as it must be completely removed prior to painting.

If you find yourself constantly removing rust from the same item, think about using a coating to stop it from rusting in the future. There are numerous quality rust preventing coatings available. I use Rust-Oleum. I clean the bare metal with denatured alcohol, apply a light coat of primer and then finish with the color I desire. I usually brush it on, but the spray cans are great for many jobs. It comes in an endless array of colors and I’ve yet to have it fail me.

Pro Tip: Keep a small can of gloss black Rust-Oleum on hand, along with a package of very small, cheap art brushes. It’s great for hitting spots on lawn mowers, hand tools, trunk hinges, engine parts and more. Just toss the brush when you’re done with the job.


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