Metal patio furniture is an excellent investment. It makes the patio more comfortable and our backyard even more gorgeous. Unfortunately, beautiful as it may be, it is prone to rust. And when rust rears its ugly head, it should be dealt with immediately. So how to remove rust from metal furniture and avoid astronomical expenses? Is the process the same as with plastic furniture?
Keeping your metal furniture rust-free is essential, not just because it would make a house look like a hobo den. Rust is dangerous; it weakens the integrity of the furniture, and it may be the reason you end up in the middle of your patio on your behind. What’s more, if you cut yourself on rusty metal, things could get ugly really quickly.
Most of us are guilty of leaving our metal furniture exposed to the elements. I know I am. When faced with that predicament, many simply go with the saying, “out with the old, in with the new.” But why waste money when you can remove rust?
Use Power Tools
Rust is a resilient beast. It’s hard to remove, and it almost always pops up. But hard doesn’t mean impossible.
If you have wood- and metal-working power tools, you can use them to grind, scour, or sand the rust off. Keep in mind that the power tools will also remove all paint layers underneath the rust as well.
I’d recommend using oscillating drills, sanders, or grinders if there’s a lot of rust on your furniture that’s easy to access. If you fit a flap disc, stripping disc, or a grinding wheel to your grinder, you can go to town on all that rust on your furniture and physically remove it.
When I say “go to town,” I don’t mean be heavy-handed. You have to keep the tool moving to avoid penetrating the metal completely. You want to remove rust, not rip the furniture apart.
Grinders are ideal for large areas, while sanders and oscillating drills might be a better fit for smaller ones. Sanding pads and carbide rasps fit nicely to these tools, and they will help you get into crevices and hard-to-reach parts of your furniture.
When you remove the rust, make sure to smooth the metal out with a more delicate tool. I recommend sanding after grinding — a 400-grit wet/dry paper will smooth everything over nicely and prepare the furniture for priming and painting.
Use Chemicals (Very Carefully)
If you’re not big on power tools, you can always turn to chemistry to help you out. After all, it’s chemistry’s fault that rust’s there in the first place! So why not let it solve your problem since it created it, right?
Phosphoric or Hydrochloric Acid
These potent chemicals are another go-to when it comes to rust removal. You can get them at any bigger DIY or department store. However, when you go to get them, make sure also to purchase some safety equipment.
If you don’t already have these, get goggles, gloves (heavy duty ones), and a respirator. Safety should always come first! Acid is a powerful chemical that can damage your skin, tissue, and respiratory tract (the fumes are the silent killer here!). So make sure to protect yourself and, ideally, work outside.
The acid works in a pretty straightforward way. You apply it to the rusted areas with a brush, wait for a certain amount of time (that’s specified on the packaging), and watch the rust liquify. Once it does, scrape it off!
You might need to do this three or four times, depending on the amount of rust.
Not a Fan of Acid?
I hear you; I’m not a fan either. It’s dangerous to use and store, and I always worry about it. That’s why I recommend non-toxic solutions such as Evapo-rust. The upside of this (and similar) product is that it’s acid-free. The downside is that you have to dilute it in water and then dip the rusted furniture in. That might be a bit tricky if you have massive furniture.
A Two-Birds-One-Stone Solution
Another excellent product for rust removal is a converter. If you don’t know what that is, fasten your seatbelts — you’re in for a wild ride.
Rust converters are multifaceted synthetic polymer formulas. They not only remove rust (or, better said, convert it into a black paintable surface) but also prevent the rust from spreading. What’s more, converters are also a primer!
Converters aren’t as dangerous for your health as acids are, but you’ll still need the safety equipment like gloves and goggles. So don’t forget to put those on. Next, you’ll have to scrape flaky rust or paint off of your furniture with a wire brush and wipe everything down before you can apply the converter.
You can use a brush or a sponge to apply the converter. Or, if you’re lazy like I sometimes am, you can get a sprayable converter. Either way, converters usually have quite dramatic effects, no matter how rusty your furniture is.
Use Whatever Is Handy
Sometimes, we simply don’t have any of the tools and products I already mentioned. And yet, the desire to have rust-free furniture burns within us. Alright, that might be a tad overdramatic, but if you really don’t have any of the things I already mentioned, you can use household items to remove rust from your metal furniture.
What’s one to do when they don’t have a grinder? Use baking soda, of course! There are several ways to use this product to remove rust.
Get some baking soda and pour in a bit of water. Then use a sponge or a brush to apply the solution onto the rusty areas. You don’t have to go overboard — a thin layer will do just fine. Wait until you see bubbling and then scrub the mixture (and the rust) away.
Alternatively, you can mix baking soda with hydrogen peroxide. Make a paste-like mixture and apply it to the rusted areas. Let it sit for half an hour and then scrub it off. Use an abrasive for scrubbing, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t remove everything on your first try. Just repeat the process until the furniture is entirely rust-free.
Salt and Lemon
Lemon and salt are a handy mixture not only for rust but also for rust stains on clothing. Salt is an abrasive, and when mixed with citric acid, it serves as a pretty sturdy solution when it comes to rust removal.
However, since the acid isn’t as strong as phosphoric or hydrochloric acid, you’ll have to give it more time. Let the salt and lemon mixture sit for several hours before you scrub it off.
If your furniture is very rusted or if you think the solution won’t be efficient enough on its own, you can always throw in a bit of extra effort. When you go to scrub the solution off, do so with a bit of aluminum foil. Aluminum will react with the rust and get it off.
If the rust has only just begun to creep up on your furniture, you might be able to get rid of it with simple cleaning solutions. After all, the easiest way to solve a problem is not to let it escalate.
So when you notice signs of wear and tear or little spots of rust, you should use cleaning agents to scrub and clean the affected areas.
However, don’t forget to dry everything thoroughly after cleaning. You don’t want your efforts to be wasted!
It’s quite disturbing that a beverage many of us indulge in regularly can clean off rust, isn’t it? Because it’s so carbonated, Coca-Cola can dissolve catalysts such as metal oxide. Now, I don’t recommend cleaning a particularly rusted furniture set with Coca-Cola as that’s neither cost- nor time-efficient.
Still, you can use this neat solution when you see those first flecks of rust on your furniture and don’t have anything else at hand. Because you have to pour the liquid over the affected area and let it sit for a while before you scrub it off, this solution won’t be the best one for vertical surfaces (like chair and table legs).
On the other hand, it’s a perfect, simple, and quick solution should you notice rust on your table during a picnic, right?
Another acidic solution, white vinegar is excellent both for cleaning and rust removal. Since it’s an acid, it will dissolve the rust. What’s more, due to its antimicrobial properties, it will also clean the furniture thoroughly.
The process is simple — rinse the affected area with vinegar. If you want the vinegar to be more potent, throw some salt into it since that will enhance the potency of the acid. This product is excellent for particularly stubborn or thick patches of rust.
After you let the solution sit for a while, scrub it off with a rag or a scrubber.
A Few Parting Words
No matter which of my recommendations you end up trying out, always remember that, after removing the rust, your work is only half done. Your next step should be to prevent rust from appearing again by applying a primer and painting the furniture with high-quality paint. To finish the entire process off, use a tip-notch topcoat as well.
With so many layers, rust will have a pretty hard time penetrating and eating away at the metal. Still, if it does, now you know nine ways to get rid of it!