Can You Paint Over Rusted Metal?

Last Updated on June 19, 2022 by Bright Calister

Rusted metal is often seen as a dead one, and most times, homeowners, when they notice their metal is rusting in no time, right it off and start preparing to get another one.

However, a rusted metal can be saved, preserved, and returned to life. Notice your metal is rusting; you can stop the spread of rust on your metal and bring it back to life by painting.  

Can You paint Over Rusted Metal?

Yes, you can paint over your rusted metal. However, you need to remove the rust with proper scraping and sanding before you apply paint to it.

Painting over rusted metal will restore your metal to almost a new condition. The effect of painting on rusted metal cannot be over-emphasized. Good reasons why you should paint over your rusted materials include

Prevents the development of new rust: A good reason and advantage of painting over rust are that it prevents the development of new rust. Painting prevents this in the sense that it serves as a shield to the metal because air and water will no longer be able to penetrate through the metal because of the presence of painting.

Stops Rust: Painting over rusted metal stops rust. In the process of painting rusted metal, you have to lose the existing rust away from the surface, either with a scraper, putty knife, sandpaper or with sand attachment and in this process, every particle of rust to be disassociated from the metal, causing the metal to be rust-free and then apply paint to give it a new look.

Restores and Beautifies it: Painting over rusted metal helps restore the metal to almost its original and beautify it.

A rusted metal obviously won’t look too good, but re-painting is a good way to revive the beauty of the metal.

Will Painting Stop Rust?

Yes, painting will stop rusting. Paint serves as a barrier between existing rust and the metal. Exposure to water and air is the major cause of rust on metal, and metal items and surfaces are damaged by rust which develops over time.

However, painting metal will prevent air and water from entering the metal, thereby causing it to stop. Paint prevents the development of new rust as it protects metal against the causes of rust.

Painting rust will shield the metal, thereby preventing and fighting against substances that cause rust on metal.

Painting over rust is a good maintenance measure that strengthens the metal’s lifespan and adds nutrients to it. In the process of painting, you can use a rust converter or neutralizer.

Rust converters are the chemical solution applied to rusty steel to create a stable coating over the metal; however, when using a rust converter, ensure you read the instructions for proper usage. 

Painting will stop rust; however, over time, you need to retouch your paint at intervals to limit the chances of rust developing because if you leave your painted metal for many years without re-painting, it will pass the test of time rust might start to develop.

Still, metal maintenance and retouching the paint at intervals is the ultimate key to stopping rust on metal completely.

How to Paint Over Rusted Metal

Here is the guideline to paint over rusted metal and bring it back to its original condition, and endeavour to read the guidelines on the paint you are using as this is often overlooked.

In painting over rusted metal, you need a few materials to get ready

Materials needed:

  • Sandpaper
  • Scraper or a putty knife
  • hammer
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses and nose cover for protection
  • Rust converter 
  • Paint

1 Remove Loose Rust

The first thing to do is remove loose rust, and in doing this, make use of a scraper or a putty knife to scrape out the rust.

Start gently and apply little pressure at regular intervals to scrape large sections of the rust. After scraping the rust, there will be no rust, not even little particles.

If you did a good scraping on it, you slightly hit the metal with a hammer to check whether it is strong enough to be painted. At this point, a metal which is not strong enough will usually collapse.

However, hit it slightly so as not to cause unwanted dents on your metal and collapse your metal all by yourself as a result of too much force on it.

2. Sand the Rust:

Sand the metal to smoothen the metal surface, and where there is little rust, sanding is to remove such particles and have a smooth surface.

3. Clean the Metal Surface

The next thing is to clean the surface of the metal. You can use water and a damp cloth or spray water to the surface with force, washing down the rust particles scraped off the surface.

In case of grease or oil on the surface, you should use a degreaser or denatured alcohol to clean off the surface. After the surface is dried then, your metal is ready for painting

4. Apply Rust Converter

After the surface is cleaned, applying a rust converter is next. Rust converters are the chemical solution applied to rusty steel to create a stable coating over the metal. It serves as a preparatory coating for painting. However, when using a rust converter, ensure you read the instructions and the guidelines on it for proper usage. 

5. Apply Primer

When painting over rusted metal, you should use a primer. It is not advisable to paint over rusted metal without primer.

Primer is the underlying coat before painting, enabling the paint to stick to the surface. Primer sticks to the surface, and paint sticks to the primer; that’s it.

Primer fills up, little porous or dents on the surface, which will not be noticed after painting. Apply primer gently to the surface using a brush. 

6. Apply Paint

After the primer dries up, the next thing to do is apply paint. Paint your metal gently with a brush. You can start with the edges down to other parts of the surface.

However, some rust converters might only be compatible with oil-based paint, so you should check the instructions on the rust converter before using it.

You may have to apply 2 to 3 coats of paint before you get your desired result.

How to Prevent Rust After Painting

Painting on rusted metal prevents the development of new rust; however, you don’t have to leverage on that.

You have to keep putting some measures in place to strengthen the paint its prevention work on the metal against rust, and these measures include:

Waxing: After painting, at intervals, try to wax your metal. Wax keeps paint supple and prevents it from cracking. Waxing to prevent rust and strengthen the appearance of the paint.

Maintenance: Regular maintenance prevents rust. Ensure you do the regular maintenance of your metal after painting. Don’t just ignore your metal after painting.

At intervals, do some cleaning on your metal. You can use water and a damp cloth or with cleaning solvent because too many specks of dirt on metal can cause rust.

So maintenance goes a long way in preventing rust after painting.

Quick Address to problems: The moment you notice rust on the part of your metal, you should address it immediately.

Rust doesn’t take a longer time to get out of hand once it starts, so the earlier you battle it, always the better.

It will keep expanding, and boom, it’s all over your metal if you ignore that little particle of rust for few times.


How long Should I let the paint dry after painting over rust?

Depending on the type of paint used on your metal, wait about 10 to 15 hours to ensure the complete dryness of the paint. Oil-based paint takes a longer time to dry compared to latex paint.

Oil-based paint takes about 6 to 8 hours before it dries up. In comparison, latex paint takes about 2 to 3 hours before it dries up.

So if you make use of latex paint, you should wait for six hours to ensure complete dryness; however, I always advise giving it enough time so there won’t be an iota of doubt, and you will be satisfied that you gave it enough time to wait about 10 to 15 hours.

Can you paint on rusty metal without sanding?

Yes, you can paint on rusty metal without sanding the surface of the metal. However, I advise you to follow every due process and not leave one out when battling with rust so that you will have no reason to bother and be sure of getting your desired result at the end of the day.

What is the best rust-resistant paint?

There are several options to choose from to paint rusty metal. However, out of multiple options, rust-oleum paint is a good one. They have their rust converter, mostly used on metals.

Conclusion – Can I Paint Over Rusted Metal?

In battling against rust, you must be attentive to instructions and follow proper guidelines to win over rust.

Yes, you can paint over rust metal as it will stop rust and prevents the development of further rust; however, after painting, ensure you do the regular maintenance of your painting which has been discussed above. 

Painting over rust can be a stressful process, but by the time you read the guidelines discussed above, you will do a good job and be able to teach others how to paint over rusted metal.

Ensure to follow the guidelines and the steps to paint over rusted metal, and please do not skip a process to get your desired result.

Good luck on the journey of bringing your rusted metal back to life.

Important Reads:

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How Long Does It Take For Paint Smell To Go Away

How to Remove Acrylic Paint from Glass, Wood, Plastic and all other Surfaces

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