Can You Clear-Coat Over Rust? – Sealing Rusted Metal

Rust has become an object of interest for many people, who wish to seal and preserve some of the stunning designs created by natural weathering of metal. Yet for those working with old steel/iron surfaces, it is a problem that needs to be eliminated to prevent stains. Can clear coats help address both these requirements?

You can clear-coat over rust to seal and protect the patina from further deterioration. However, it would take some practice and experimenting to achieve perfect results. Clear coats over flaky or dusty surfaces won’t work. Make sure you prepare the surface for a clean finish.

Read on to know more about rust, clear coats, and how best you can preserve/restore vintage metal items using clear coats.

Can you clear-coat over rust.

Rust, Patina and Clear Coats

Rust is nothing but an outer coat of oxidized iron that forms when steel or cast iron is exposed to moisture and air. Patina is a similar coat that forms on other metals such as copper or bronze, but the term is also used to refer to rust.

Clear coats are clear chemical formulations that, when applied on surfaces, form a transparent, protective layer over the base coat or raw metal without marring the visual appeal of the underlying surface.

How to Paint Clear Coat Over Rust

Clear-coating over rust is a simple process. Follow these steps:

  • Clear dust and rust flakes from the surface using water, cloth and wire brush. A paint thinner or baking soda/water combination will also work.
  • Allow the object/surface to dry thoroughly before sealing the rust, to prevent further corrosion.
  • Apply as much clear coat needed to seal the rust. The amount could vary based on how rusty the metal is.
  • Reinforce the clear coat with two mat polyurethane layers to ensure the end product is durable and stands the test of time.

Why You Should Clear-Coat Rust

Clear coats seal the rusted metal, inhibit rust formation, and offer protection against UV rays as well. They can come in handy in the following scenarios:

  • Extend the lifespan of metallic outdoor or indoor structures such as gates, railings, bathroom fixtures
  • Retain the weathered look of metallic surfaces
  • Preserve vintage pieces
  • Spruce up old metallic structures with a fresh coat of paint
  • Prevent rust stains around ornate old metal fixtures 

For the best results, choose a clear coat that fits your purpose.

Clear Coat Types

There are different types of clear coats to seal rust, including paints, sprays, lacquers, epoxies, polyurethanes, single or dual component coats, etc. Both oil-based and water-based products are available. All these different clear coat products offer an additional layer of protection against natural elements.

Some of them add an extra sheen to the surface, enhancing the appearance of metallic structures. Besides choosing the right clear coat product for the job, preparing the metallic surface or structure is equally important to achieve the intended results.

This video on restoring vintage tools will give you a fair idea of how clear coats work:

There are several clear coat products such as Flood’s Penetrol or POR-15 45101 Clear Rust Preventive Coating that suit the most common requirements to seal rust. Clear coats in flat and satin finishes are also available from Everbrite and other manufacturers.

Using Clear Coat – Some Tips and Tricks

As noted earlier, you may have to work through the entire process — cleaning, clear-coating, and finishing — a few times over before you could settle for the right set of products for each stage. These again may vary based on the project and base material (cast iron, tin, brushed steel, etc.) you are working with.

Here are a few tips on using clear coats:

  • If you’ve chosen an oil-based clear coat, use oil-based polyurethane over it as water-based polyurethanes are likely to set firmly and eventually flake.
  • Sprays are easier to handle when it comes to small projects that involve indoor metal structures and vintage pieces. You will, however, need to ensure the place is well-ventilated when using sprays.
  • Working with heavy pieces and automobile parts will require powerful tools to clean and treat the surfaces suitably. Opt for industrial-grade polyurethane when working with outdoor metallic structures exposed to natural elements.
  • Clear-coat products for indoor metal fittings, furniture, and décor may not be suitable for treating outdoor pieces.


Clear coats are an integral part of automobile finishes and restorations. They are also gaining popularity with architects interested in preserving old metallic structures and ornamentations. These coats are also becoming popular among commoners who like to hold on to their old chandeliers or vintage metal memorabilia.


1 thought on “Can You Clear-Coat Over Rust? – Sealing Rusted Metal”

  1. I’ve been experimenting for years as I love the rusted look on almost everything. Now I have a more clear understanding on what and how to preserve its beauty. Thank you so much!


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