Painting Over Rust

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Painting Over Rust?

I bought a used metal school desk and some metal file cabinets from a flea market. I want to repaint them. Can anyone tell me what is the best way to get rid of the rust and how to do a nice paint job?

Try Ospho

A great way to kill the rust is a solution called Ospho you can find at your hardware store. Just paint it on and let it sit for 24 hours. It'll turn the rusted areas black. Brush off the flakes with a small wire brush or sandpaper to prepare to paint. Wipe down with a soft cloth. Use a rust resistant paint to prevent future rust problems.

Painting tips, tricks and resources

Use Appliance Paint

I don't know if this will work as well for her rusty desk as it did for my $40 rusty upright freezer I bought at an auction, but this is what I did. The door of the freezer was pretty badly rusted across the entire surface. I lightly sanded the door to get the worst of the rust off, then bought a couple of cans of appliance spray paint (I think they were about $4 or $5 a can) and evenly sprayed the entire surface of the door. You can't even see where the rust was anymore and my freezer has worked (and looked) great for almost four years now.

I would definately recommend the appliance spray paint over regular spray paint as it is formulated a bit differently to hold up better under tougher conditions. On the desk and file cabinets, you may experience some trouble with regular spray paint chipping or scraping off every time a drawer is opened. And, with the appliance paint, as I said, it completely covered the existing rust, and I have not noticed any new rust forming. I am very happy with my $50 total investment!
Amy W.

Naval Jelly

Naval Jelly will take rust off. Just follow the directions on the container it comes in, then sand the surface a bit to get the paint to hold better. I use spray paint for objects like that to get a better finish.

You might also like: Paint Color Problems


My personal favorite for rust removal, when the surfaces are irregular and hard to sand with sandpaper, etc., is simple sandblasting. Simple I say, because the total investment if you already have access to an air compressor is minimal. The smaller sandblasters, from Sears tool catalog, etc., work amazingly well for such little home productions. The silica sand is readily available in various grits, and if you use a reasonably good respirator and goggles you have minimized any risk of silicosis (the lung disease). I use a corrugated box to shoot the stuff at the intended target, and sift the used stuff for reuse again and again.
Jan B.

Web Resource

Take a look at It includes tips for removing and priming rusty surfaces as well as tips for actually repainting.

Old-Fashioned Methods

Old-fashioned wire brushing and sanding is probably best way to remove rust. Also, there is an aerosol product called "Extend" that can be sprayed onto surface after major rust is removed. Follow can directions, and avoid breathing it. It converts rust for a longer lasting paint-over. Rust-oleum or Krylon spray paint may be best way to give good cover for paint job over top of "rusty metal" primer.
Donald W.

Rustoleum Worked

I once repainted an old rusty, bathroom cabinet. I removed what rust I could with steel wool. Then used a tack cloth to remove the residue. I chose Rustoleum paint. It's been 7 years and no rust has returnd. It was my first time using Rustoleum. It couldn't have looked better if I paid a pro!!
Suze G.

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