How to win the war on rust

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)

Rust. It’s every metal’s worst nightmare. And with summer gone, now’s the perfect time to think about protecting your metal against whatever Mother Nature throws at it. Luckily, we know a thing or two about metal, so here are some of our top tips.

Know what you’re dealing with

A metal beam covered in bad rust

Firstly, it’s good to know what you’re up against.

Rust is nasty stuff. It’s the result of the reaction between iron, oxygen, water or air moisture. And when you throw salt into the mix, rusting can happen at an even faster rate. You’ve only got to look at the state of properties near the coast – where the spray of salty seawater can play a part – to see this in action.

If metal is exposed to the elements, and left untreated, rust can take hold. And it’s a slippery slope from there, with the metal flaking and disintegrating.

Start with prevention

Like anything in life, it’s easier to prevent rust than deal with it once it’s a problem. The best prevention is to either buy metal that’s already been treated, or to treat it yourself. But even with the best preparation, rusting can still sometimes happen, so regularly inspect any metal objects that are found outside to check for signs.

What to do with rust

A mechanic cleaning rust from a car wheel

If rust has already taken hold, the good news is there are lots of ways to remove it with a little patience and plenty of elbow grease.

Let’s start with the obvious choice. You can pick up specialist rust removal products at all good hardware stores. Typically, you spray this on the rust or put it on a cloth and rub the rust off. These products can be really effective, but because they typically contain phosphoric or oxalic acid, make sure you’re careful using them.

Now, for the fun ideas – and you’ll be amazed what you can use from around the house to remove rust.

Some people swear by white vinegar, which they leave the rusted item soaking in for 24 hours before rinsing. Others prefer salt and lime. This works by sprinkling salt all over the rusted area and then pouring lime (or lemon) juice over the top. After 2-3 hours, scrub the mixture off and see the rust vanish with it.

And if it’s strange you’re after, how about a potato? Cut a potato in half and place the cut end in some washing up liquid or baking powder. Then put the potato on the rusted metal and leave it to soak in. After a few hours the rust should scrub away.

There are even people who recommend using Coca Cola to treat rust. Crazy, but it seems to work.

If you’ve got any tips that we haven’t covered here, let us know on Facebook or Twitter.