10 Most Efficient Ways to Remove Rust From Metal Furniture

Possibly the worst thing you can discover on your metal furniture is rust. Rust forms on metal when it is exposed to oxygen in air and moisture. While this pesky element can easily degrade the appearance of your furniture, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should toss and replace it. Getting rid of rust from your metal furniture might be easier than you think.

So, how do you remove rust from your metal furniture? Here are ten easy ways to bring your metal furniture back to life.

  • Use white vinegar
  • Apply lemon/lime and salt
  • Use baking soda paste
  • Rub potato and dish soap
  • Use oxalic acid
  • Use citric acid
  • Use chemical rust removers
  • Convert the rust
  • Use abrasive or coarse materials
  • Remove the rust with electrolysis

Some of these methods are very easy to apply while a few others may require some patience and a little elbow grease. This article will go further to provide a step by step guide on each method. If you’d also like to learn how to prevent rust and keep your metal furniture in good shape, read on.

Clean Rust with White Vinegar

Vinegar is one of the best options to remove rust. This is due to its acidic and antimicrobial properties. It works by reacting with the rust and dissolving it off the metal furniture. To create a more powerful solution, add a pinch of salt to it.

Using white vinegar to remove rust usually requires you to soak the rusted material in vinegar and let it sit for a few hours. Although metal furniture is too big to be submerged, there’s a way you can effectively use it. Here’s how to clean rust on metal furniture with vinegar.

  1. Liberally spray or pour the vinegar over the affected area. The amount of vinegar you’ll need will depend on the amount of rust you’re dealing with.
  2. Allow the metal furniture at least 30 minutes to absorb the material. If the rusted area is large, you may need to allow up to 1 hour for the vinegar to set.
  3. Dip steel wool, wire brush, or aluminum foil in the vinegar and use it to scrub off the rust. You may need some patience and elbow grease for the rust to effectively come off.
  4. Thoroughly rinse off the vinegar and allow the surface to dry. If you’re using regular vinegar, you may need to leave it for up to 24 hours before rinsing.
  5. Repeat the process if there is still some rust left.

Apply Lemon/Lime and Salt

This method uses the abrasive properties of salt and the acidity of lemon to remove rust. Lemon has similar cleaning properties to vinegar and is an effective and cheap way to get rid of rust on metal furniture. You may also use a lime instead of a lemon.

  1. Generously apply salt over the rusted areas of your furniture. Use as much salt as you can if the amount of rust is much.
  2. Cut the fruit in half and squeeze the juice over the salted surfaces. You may also create a lemon and salt mixture in a container and apply it over the rusted surfaces.
  3. Let the mixture sit for 2 to 4 hours to soften the rust and make it easy to remove.
  4. Use a toothbrush or the rind of the fruit to scrub off the mixture and the rust. For stubborn rust surfaces, use a wire brush or steel wool.
  5. Repeat the process if you still see any rust. You may also need to let the mixture sit for longer.
  6. When you’re satisfied with the result, rinse your metal furniture and allow it to dry before using it again.

Use Baking Soda Paste

If you don’t have lime or lemon, baking soda also works well for removing rust. However, it is mostly used for light rusts on metal furniture. If you’re using it for severe rusts, it might require some extra effort to completely get rid of the rusts.

For the baking soda to work effectively, it must be made into a thick paste by mixing it with water. Make sure that the paste is thick enough that it adheres to the surface.

  1. Apply the paste evenly on the rusted areas of your metal furniture.
  2. Allow the paste to sit for 1 to 2 hours. If the rust is severe, you may leave the paste for an additional 1 hour.
  3. Use a toothbrush, wire brush or steel wool to scrub off the paste and the rust.
  4. Repeat the process until all the rust has been removed.
  5. Wash off the paste and allow your furniture to dry.

Rub Potato and Dish Soap

As crazy as this method may sound, it works. Potato contains oxalic acid which is effective in removing rust. To use this method, all you need is a potato and regular dish soap. It can be a bit messy but it is easy and relatively fast.

  1. Cut the potato in half, lengthwise or crosswise.
  2. Rub dish soap over the cut end. If you’re without dish soap, you can use salt instead.
  3. Use the potato as a scouring pad and rub it all over the rusted area. This creates a reaction with the rust and dissolves it. For stubborn rust, use a wire brush or steel wool.
  4. If there are corners you cannot reach, pour a mixture of potato juice and dish soap on the corners, and scrape off the rust with a hand brush or scrubber.
  5. If you’re not satisfied with the result, repeat the process. In this case, you’ll need to slice off the end of the potato and create a new end that you can dip in salt or dish soap.
  6. Rinse your metal furniture with water and allow it to dry.

Use Oxalic Acid

An effective but potent option of removing rust is oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is a strong chemical agent and is usually available in powdered form. Because of the risky nature of this method, you must also take protective precautions like wearing protective clothing such as long sleeves and pants, rubber gloves, goggles, and a nose clip.

If you don’t have any of the above-mentioned protective equipment, it’s best to use a homemade method instead. Also, there’s a possibility that the acid can damage your furniture.

  1. Clean the rusted area with washing-up liquid and allow it to dry.
  2. Mix about 25 ml (5 teaspoons) of oxalic acid with 250 ml or 1 cup (2.5 inches) of warm water. Avoid inhaling the fumes of the acid as they are toxic.
  3. Pour the mixture over the rusted area in small amounts and scrub off the rust with steel wool.
  4. Wash off the acid thoroughly and allow your metal furniture to dry.

Use Citric Acid

Using citric acid is easier and safer than oxalic acid. However, it can remove the paint on your metal furniture along with the rust, so you may need to repaint it afterward. You can purchase citric acid from most supermarkets and health food stores.

  1. Clean the rusted parts of your furniture with a product like WD-40.
  2. Mix about 10 to 15 ml (2 to 3 teaspoons) of citric acid to a few inches or ml of hot water. The hot water helps to dissolve the acid quickly.
  3. Pour the mixture on your metal furniture and scrub off the rust with a wire brush, steel wool, or plastic-bristle brush.
  4. Rinse your furniture thoroughly and allow it to dry.
  5. For heavily rusted metal furniture, you may need to repeat the process.

Use Chemical Rust Removers

A chemical remover can be very effective If you’re dealing with heavy rust or thick metal furniture. Typically, these products come in gel or liquid form and are made from highly toxic and harsh chemicals such as phosphoric, sulfuric, or oxalic acid. Only a few are organic and non-toxic.

When you apply a chemical remover, the rust is converted to a water-soluble iron compound that can be easily wiped away or rinsed off with water. If the rust is very thick, you may need to apply several layers of the chemical to completely get the rust off.

To use a chemical remover on your metal furniture, you need to follow the directions and instructions of the manufacturer as application methods vary. It is recommended to only resort to using chemicals if none of the aforementioned methods work.

You can find these products in hardware and home improvement stores. If you’re using a chemical remover, you need to protect yourself. Wear protective clothing, eye protection, rubber gloves, and a respirator. Also, apply the chemical remover in a well-ventilated area.

Convert the Rust

This method doesn’t remove rust, instead, it kills it and stops its spread. A rust converter works by reacting with the rust and converting it into a black coating. This black coating can then be painted over and any signs of rust are concealed.

As a general rule, only use a rust converter on a piece of metal furniture you would consider painting. It may also leave a rough finish on the furniture after you paint it. You can purchase a rust converter at a home center or auto parts store. To apply a rust converter,

  1. Use a wire brush or bristle brush to scrape off any loose or flaking rust off your metal furniture. This ensures that the rust converter works more effectively.
  2. Apply the rust converter on your furniture with a brush or roller and apply directly if you’re using a spray rust converter. It will take about 20 minutes for the application to dry.
  3. For large rust surfaces, you may need to apply multiple coats to ensure complete rust conversion. If you’re applying a second coat, wait up to 24 hours to allow it to cure. In the case of an oil-based topcoat, wait at least 48 hours.

Also, it is not recommended to use a rust converter in direct sunlight. Apply rust converter only when the temperature is between 50°F and 100°F (10°C and 38°C). For your safety, use safety glasses or goggles and wear chemical resistant gloves if available. After applying a rust converter on your furniture, paint it with oil-based or epoxy paints.

Use Abrasive or Coarse Tools

This method requires a little bit of time and hard work, but it is an effective way to remove rust. For mild to thick rusts, you’ll need materials and tools like steel wool, screwdriver, or sandpaper. If the rust is very heavy, you may need to go for an electric sander or grinder.

If you’re using sandpaper, start with coarse-grit paper and as it eats through the rust, switch to finer grit paper to smooth out the surface and remove pockmarks. Sometimes, all you need to effectively remove rust is just a wire brush. Wire brushes are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. If necessary, you may attach a wire brush to a power tool.

If you’re using a power tool, use a light touch so you don’t scrape away the underlying metal. Also, bubbled up paint on your metal furniture may indicate that there is rust underneath. Use a wire brush or steel wool to scrape off the paint and remove the rust.

Aluminum foil can also be used to clean rust. You may need to dip it in Coca-Cola or a mixture of salt and water for it to be effective. When you’re finished, wipe the surface clean with a dry cloth. (For best rust remover tools check this article).

Remove Rust with Electrolysis

If for some reason, the other rust removal methods listed above did not work, you may have to use the magic of physics. You’ll need a tank or container large enough to accommodate your piece of metal furniture up to the rusted parts. If you can’t get one or your piece of furniture is too large, this method may not be suitable.

Other materials you’ll need include washing soda, a car battery charger, and another piece of metal. The additional piece of metal is called the sacrificial anode and will rust away during electrolysis.

  1. Put the sacrificial metal on an interior side of the tank and place your furniture in the middle of the tank. Ensure that both metals don’t touch.
  2. Add enough washing soda to the water and stir until it is fully dissolved.
  3. Connect the positive terminal of the car charger to the sacrificial metal and the negative terminal to your furniture. Ensure that the power clip of the sacrificial metal is not submerged in the water.
  4. Plug in the car charger and turn on the switch. Bubbles should appear on both the surficial metal and your furniture. If you don’t see any bubbles, you didn’t set up your connections right.
  5. Leave the set up for some time and allow the rust to come off your furniture.
  6. Turn off the charger and check if all the rust has been removed. If not, turn on the switch again and leave it a little longer.

While this method is very effective, it is highly technical and you need to be careful. Use eye protection and rubber gloves and ensure there are no spills during the process. Also, avoid touching the set up when the power is on and remove any flames, torches, or cigarettes from the area.

How to Prevent Rust

Prevention is the best way to deal with rust. If you’re using your metal furniture outdoors such as the garden or patio, it is important to protect it from the elements.

The major culprit of rust on metal furniture is moisture. To prevent rust and keep your furniture in good shape, you need to keep it dry by regularly cleaning and wiping away any type of moisture it comes in contact with.

Protect your metal furniture from the elements by providing shelter for them such as a gazebo or covered deck. This is especially important if you live in a cold or rainy region. During the winter when they are not likely to be used much, simply stash them in the garage or storage.

If you don’t have indoor storage or can’t move your furniture indoors during the rainy season, you can also use protective waterproof coverings to protect them. You can also use a protective coating such as paste wax or grease oil to protect your metal furniture. A coat of paint with a rust-resistant finish can also add an extra layer of protection.

Conclusion

Rust on any metal surface is never a good sight to behold. Thankfully, there are several methods you can use to remove rust from your metal furniture. Home-made methods such as white vinegar and baking soda paste are effective, inexpensive, and don’t contain toxic chemicals. When using rust removers, remember to wear protective equipment.

No matter which rust removal method you end up using, you need to prevent rust from forming on your furniture again. You can protect your metal furniture by keeping it away from moisture, providing shelter or covering for it, or applying protective clothing such as grease oil or paste wax.

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