How to Paint Over Rust

Knowing how to paint over rust is an essential skill if you want to extend the life of metal objects. Rust (technically iron oxide) occurs when steel is exposed to oxygen and water. Brittle, flaking rust is unsightly and ruins the structural integrity of metal.

Paint Over Rust Infected Surfaces

Rust should be treated like an infection, lest it spread. Keeping rust under control involves cutting off its access to air and moisture. A coating of paint is the perfect solution, but before you start, consider these tips:

  • Remove as much as possible. Before you begin any painting, you should try to remove as much rust as you can. Existing rust limits the ability of your paint application to penetrate to the clean surface of the metal. To remove rust, loosen it by spraying it with WD-40 or a solution of water and white vinegar. Next, remove as much as you can with a wire scraper. Finally, smooth and clean the surface with sandpaper.
  • The big guns. For heavily rusted objects, consider using a rust removing solution. Available at most auto repair and home centers, rust removing solutions area a liquid that is painted over rusty areas and allowed to sit for a few hours. The solution penetrates and loosens the rust, making removal easier.
  • Setting a prime example. If you've gone to the trouble of removing rust from your metal objects, it only makes sense to apply paint in the most effective way possible. That means using a metal primer before painting. Primer helps seal the surface and makes the paint you apply stick better and last longer.
  • Better than a free toaster. Once you've removed the lion's share of rust, you'll be ready to paint your metal surface. For a simple, one-step application of paint, consider appliance spray paint. Appliance spray paint is formulated to create a thicker, more durable coat than traditional paints.
  • A POR-fect solution. If you really have your heart set on painting directly over rust, consider a Paint-Over-Rust (POR) solution. POR products are used directly over rusty surfaces. The POR material penetrates and encapsulates the rust, leaving behind a primer-like surface that is ready to paint. Although POR products will not improve the smoothness of the surface, they are perfect for hard to reach areas or areas where rust removal is impractical.
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