Featured Image

How to Rust Metal

Updated on:

Time to Read: 2 m 6s

How to Rust Metal

Understandably, most people want to prevent their cars and power tools from rusting, but some steel objects gain character from a beautifully detailed rusty patina. With a few household chemicals, it’s easy to expedite the oxidation process. The discussion below details some of the basic steps to give your outdoor decorations a charming, weathered look. 

Check out our Safety Products available for your Project!

Finding the Best Rust Accelerator Materials

To give your steel the rusty finish you’re looking for, you’ll need table salt, white vinegar, and degreaser, along with measuring cups/spoons and a spray bottle. We also recommend you buy a new bottle of hydrogen peroxide instead of using an old one in your medicine cabinet. For safety purposes, you should be wearing goggles and chemical-resistant gloves at all times. Remember, you’re going to be combining harmful chemicals, so be careful!

Degrease the Steel for Proper Rust Acceleration Preparation

After stripping your steel of any coating or paint, the metal will be ready for degreasing. Read the degreaser bottle’s instructions as you apply it to the metal, and take care not to touch it with your bare hands. You want the degreaser to work its magic, but you don’t want to add more oil and dirt in the process.

Steel Pickling for Enhanced Rust Patination

Yes, the next step is just like pickling cucumbers, only here you’re pickling steel. Steel pickling helps create a uniform coat of rust instead of specific areas being rustier than others. Pour some white vinegar into the spray bottle and then spray every inch of the metal object. Let it dry in the sun, and then repeat several more times. Now, your steel will be ready for the metal rusting process.
In certain scenarios, it may be easier to completely submerge the metal in white vinegar. The submersion process will guarantee that every inch of metal is covered with the vinegar solution.

chemicals of rustingThe Metal Oxidation Rusting Process

So, you’ve prepped the metal object for rusting, but how does the oxidation process happen? First, you’ll need to create a rusting solution by combining 16oz hydrogen peroxide, 2oz white vinegar, and ½ tablespoon of salt. If possible, mix this solution in the spray bottle with some leftover white vinegar. Shake it up so that everything mixes well, and then start spraying down your object. If the rusting doesn’t start happening immediately, you may need to put your object in direct sunlight for a while. Adding heat can help expedite the drying process.
Second, After the metal has been sprayed, let it dry and repeat for about seven cycles. Following the application cycles, your steel should look like it’s aged years. Ensure you don’t touch the rust until it has thoroughly dried to prevent smearing. The longer the piece stays in the sun, the better.

Protecting the Rusted Patina Post Application

Several metal finishes can be applied to your project’s induced rust patina to provide the protection you need for years of enjoyment. Metal finishes are applied following the final cycle of the rusting process after the piece has completely dried. Some of the metal finishes that are used to protect rust oxidation finishes include:
  • Two-part solvent urethane resin Urethane resin is a non-yellowing low VOC two-part clear, durable, air-drying polyurethane. It can be used on copper, brass, bronze, steel, wood, terracotta, ceramics, and concrete. It's engineered to provide superior resistance to UV light and harsh outdoor conditions.
  • ColorLoc - ColorLoc is a crystal-clear, air-drying lacquer that locks in the color of torch-heated metals. It has excellent adhesion to brass, bronze, copper, and other metals, as well as to patinas and rusted metal.

Additional Rust Patina Application Options

You can also achieve a rusted patina look for your project by imitating a patina with oxidizing paint. A specialized oxidizing paint or surfacer is required to properly replicate the rusted patina effect. The rusted patina finishing chemical will react with the surface of your piece to create a rusted patinated look that is designed to last.
Red iron oxide colored paints can also be used to imitate a rusted oxidation look. This premium oxidation primer takes far less preparation and application time to achieve when compared to traditional rust acceleration processes.

Your Local Metal Supplier Serving Southern CA, Arizona & Northern Mexico

Industrial Metal Supply is the Southlands largest supplier of all types of metal and metalworking accessories. Contact us to learn more about our high-quality metal options for your next project.

Our website uses cookies. For more information on our cookie use, see our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use this website you agree to our use of these cookies. Accept