How to Remove Stubborn Rust and Paint

One of the most attractive features of ornamental iron is that it takes to paint very well. Paint can create a long-lasting protective finish, and generally speaking, hand-wrought iron pieces are coated to protect against rust and oxidation. However, as the material ages, the paint starts to chip, and the protective coating wears down. What is a homeowner to do to remove these when they are stubbornly clinging to the metal? Learn the techniques to remove rust and paint when nothing else seems to work, and how a little elbow grease can save the day.

Remove Rust and Paint on the Surface

Few people want to hear this, but the first step to remove rust and paint is a lot of hard work. However, while there is no magic fix, the work will be worth it in the end. You can sometimes count on a sander or grinder to help get the surface paint off, but you will want to be very careful that you do not damage the underlying metal.

In general, you are going to use a wire brush, heavy sandpaper or the like to get as much of those surface materials clear as possible. Pay close attention to joints, inside corners and those tricky inside areas where paint and rust cling.

Bust Out the Chemicals

Chemicals are your best friend when it comes to clearing rust and paint from ornamental iron. In this green day and age, few people want to hear that, but there are environmentally safe mixtures out there. Vinegar, salt and baking soda, for example, can go a very long way, but will certainly require more work than a commercial product.

Most commercial strippers use hydrochloric or phosphoric acid, so if you go that route make sure to protect your hands and wear eye protection! Make sure that you are in a well-ventilated area and give your iron fixture a good soaking with the chemical, then let it sit for awhile. Come back and hit it with steel wool and use a putty knife to scrape the remaining contaminants away. Be sure not to let the stripper dry, though, or you will be back to square one! You may need to repeat this process several times to get all of the paint and rust off.

Protecting for the Future

If you are removing paint with scraping, sanding, grinding and chemicals you are likely going to take off the remainder of the protective coating on the iron. This means it will need to be replaced. Mineral spirits are a good first start to get rid of any small particles you may have missed. Then, use a strong, clear coat and primer to provide future protection before re-painting. This will help ensure that your ironwork lives a long and happy life!

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