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topic 30522

Clear coating to seal a rust patina finish on metal

john dupree table
courtesy of John Dupree

olivier deGea artwork
courtesy of Olivier de Géa

Willemine van Laarhoven sculpture
courtesy of
Willemine van Laarhoven

A discussion started in 2001 & continuing through 2017


Q. We are a small custom metal shop that has a rust finish on some of our items. The problem is that we are having a difficult time sealing the rust finish, typically on the towel bars and towel rings where they are exposed to moisture. Is there an affordable product that can stop the rusting and seal it? Or, is there a paint finish other than powder coating that is available? Have tried everything from poly to Tung Oil [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] and cannot contain the rust. Please help!

Please help!

Mark D. Lyon
Wish Craft - Rock Springs, Wyoming


A. Dear Mark,

A good polyurethane should do the trick. I would usually recommend an acrylic base coat followed by a urethane. This makes the urethane much easier to strip, when it comes time to repair/maintain the patina and substrate.

Contact me if you would like more information.


Jake Koch
G. J. Nikolas & Co., Inc.
supporting advertiser
Bellwood, Illinois
nikolas banner ad


Q. I am a PM and have project with a situation and was looking for any information I could find on clear coat. I have a 20 gauge cold rolled steel that has been cleaned (w/soap & water) and then we applied a solution of water/acid to speed up the rusting process. We then applied a semi-gloss lacquer (3 coats / interior application) using a "Deft" product. Now that the metal is in place some of the finish is coming off and taking the rust with it (rusted look was the desire) Is there a product that we can put over the lacquer that will stand up to abuse (prefer clear coat) or do we have to take off the lacquer before we can put anything else on it.

Thank you for any assistance you can offer.

Ed Smith
sheet metal subcontractor - Blue Springs, Missouri

similarly (2004)

Q. I have the same interest as Ed in clear coating over a rusted surface. In my case it is for steel sculpture, as I do fairly large pieces for indoor and outdoor use. Many times I want to keep the rusty look. Any suggestions?


Ken MacDonald
- N. Kingstown, Rhode Island


Q. Like Ken and Ed I am interested in an exterior clear coat that will work on rusted metal. We are expanding our signage to include etched and distressed metals and need a durable clear for exterior use.


Steve Halmhofer, shop manager
- REDDING, California


A. I think that you can use proprietary polyurethane paint or spray. Some of them contains rust inhibitors (Krylon spray). Good luck!

Goran Budija
- Zagreb , Croatia


A. I have been using the same approach to accelerate rust and have been experiencing the rust peel you describe. It is my belief that the acid causes the rust to happen too fast. I suggest you experiment a little with vinegar. That seems to work fairly well and quickly. Also be aware that the texture is different than with the acid.

Allan Polinsky
- Lodi, California


Q. If any one knows of a clear surface film finish that could be used over rusted metal I'd really like some feed back on this. I know that you could use Linseed Oil [linked by editor to product info at Rockler] and maintain it every year. the project that I'm working on is Rusted Iron Gates and handrails and its all exposed outside to the weather. Thanks,

Jim Popp
custom painting - Post Falls, Idaho


Q. I am trying to find a way to clear coat artificial patina without creating bubbles in the clear coat. I am guessing that the chemicals are gassing beneath the surface. Is there a way to neutralize the acids and prevent the gassing?

Olivier M. Odom
metal work - Asheville, North Carolina


A. In Response to neutralizing.... baking soda [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] will neutralize acid. Wipe the surface with water/baking soda mix and drying it fully, quickly. it will stop the patina process.

Kristina Kozak
- Brooklyn, New York


Q. Furnishing a very rustic cabin. I have 1/4" thick steel plate I am using as a countertop and an old steel plow disc I am using as a wash basin. Both are rusted to perfection. How can I seal the rust and maintain it's current appearance and water proof?

Ray skinner
Hobbyist - koosheram, utah, usa


Q. I've been through all the threads, and I didn't manage to find any definitive answers on a clearcoat finish on rusted steel.

I have an old steel welding bench from the 60's, it's rusted to a perfectly natural (almost uniform) rust pattern, and I am using it as a counter in my kitchen. I want to protect the rusted finish with a clearcoat that can withstand plates and dishes and such abrasive surfaces & wet/oily substances.

Is there a product out there that I can use to simply seal the surface the way it is now thus clearcoating it?

Thanks for your help, and for all the info in the threads - very useful indeed


Richard Belliveau
- Fernie, BC, Canada


A. Hi, Richard. I suspect the reason you couldn't find a great answer is that there may not be one :-(
It's said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Here we have a link of steel (your welding bench); then a link of loose, powdery, non-adherent rust. Then a link of clear coat. And people report that as stress is put on the clear coat, the clear coat pulls off, "taking rust with it".

But I suspect that if the rust is quite thin, such that the clearcoat can "wet" it all the way through to where the clear coat can actually grab some sound steel, you may get acceptable adhesion. Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. I have the same problem as the other people. Have a rebar viewing fence with stucco wall at the bottom. It's supposed to be rusty. But the clear coating the fence people used is washing off allowing it to further rust on the stucco, my flagstone patio and the front sidewalk. Need something to seal it with. Hope you can help. Deborah

Deborah Dillon
- Gold Canyon , Arizona

February 27, 2009

A. Automotive clearcoat. Seals the rust without inhibiting the appearance, and the thicker you lay it on, the more protected you are. If it gets severely scratched, just buff with a little clear coat polish and a buffing cloth.

Rob Lawson
- St. Louis, Missouri

May 13, 2009

Q. Wow, this is great. I have a set of 1950's metal garden chairs and had them sand blasted and let them rust to a wonderful color. You just can't sit on them without getting orange stripes on your clothes. Will try the automotive clear coat.

Question? Multiple thin coats, or one heavy coat? Should I wipe them down first and if so, use what product?

Thanks for the great information.

Rose Middleton
interior designer - Kansas City, Missouri

May 15, 2009

A. Hi, Rose. A couple of thin coats is probably best, but you must brush any loose rust off first. A chain is as strong as it's weakest link. If the rust doesn't adhere to the substrate, it does no good to have the clearcoat adhere to the rust -- it just comes off as a package deal. Clearcoat is not shrink wrap; it has to adhere to the base steel or to rust that itself has some adhesion :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 15, 2009

A. For my restaurant in Portland, we formed sheet steel panels to fit our back bar, laid them in the parking lot and sprayed them with Muriatic Acid [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] (diluted a lot) and salt water and let the rain finish the job. When finished it looked like marble and burled wood--nobody guessed it was rusted steel.

We burnished it with fine steel wool [linked by editor to product info at Rockler] to remove any powdered rust, leaving a smooth and intact finish and polyurethaned everything. We put a few coats on, as I recall.

It was inside and not exposed, but in the 8 years I had the restaurant (before I sold it) it showed no signs of additional corrosion or breakdown of the poly finish.

Looking at clear powder coated finish for my next project.


Michael Teahan
- Glendale, California

October 8, 2009

Q. Regarding using automotive clearcoat to protect a rusted surface and keep the rusty look: I just installed a steel railing around my deck and it is awesome and starting to rust. I want to protect the rust from coming off, especially onto my guests. Can I apply automotive clearcoat with a brush? Or do I have to take the panels off and spray them somewhere? And what brand is economical and works well?

Marion Johnson
- laketown, Utah

May 2014

A. Hi Marion. Let me first clarify what automotive clearcoat is, in case any readers are confused. It's a "2-component" or "two-part" or "2K" coating material. It is usually polyurethane but it hardens the way epoxy hardens -- in other words it doesn't "dry", it "cures" as the two components react with each other. You have to mix the two components in the right ratio, and must complete the project before it hardens.

There is no reason you can't brush it if you can work quick enough, or do it in several batches. Use cheap disposable brushes as there is no way to clean them. We don't like to recommend one brand over another, but I'm sure a local automotive store will have it -- just don't talk yourself into a single component clearcoat if you want "automotive clearcoat". Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 17, 2010

Q. I have just completed a coffee table out of mild steel. The top is a sheet of found steel with great textured rust and corrosion. I want to keep this color and texture intact yet be able to have a smooth wipe-able surface. Is there anything I can treat the steel with to achieve this functionality without losing its appearance?


Zoe Dadian
artist - Asheville, North Carolina

May 6, 2010

Q. I am an artist who is beginning to work with rusted iron plates. The rust has beautiful shades of orange and yellow that I'd like to keep giving them a finish. I've tried some products, but they darken the original color of rust. Can you help me find anything that protects the plate of my artwork but that does not interfere in the colors of rust?

Evenilde Picardi Faria
Plastic artist - Nova Lima, Minas Gerais, Brazil

May 2014

Diffraction grating

A. Hi Evenilde. Some colors are pigments, and a clearcoat won't effect them; but some "colors" (like the rainbow sheen of a drop of oil on a puddle, or from a CD/DVD, or the colors of titanium jewelry, or the changing colors of some oncoming headlights) are just diffraction effects. These effects happen because the oil, or plastic, or metal coating is transparent and so thin (partial wavelength) that light waves bouncing off the inside of the clearcoat and the outside "interfere" and cancel out some of the colors of white light, leaving only the remaining.

The bad news is that any clearcoating will always destroys these diffraction colors because the clearcoating is too thick for partial wavelength effects. I can't say for sure, but I believe this is what is happening to your "yellows" and "oranges", leaving only a brown rust color. Sorry it's not good news, but at least if you know what you're fighting you may be able to figure out what you want to do.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

July 11, 2010

A. A great clearcoat I have found for sealing this rusted effect is Motostorms Glamour clear. Its a polyurethane so more flexible than urethane clears, which has been a life saver on some of the thinner metal projects I've done. It adheres amazingly well to rust. Of course, as pointed out, the large rust flakes can be a problem. Your best bet if you want to preserve the large rust flakes, is to either, scrape them off, put a light coat of clear on, then sprinkle them back on..., or hammer the part with LOTS of clear over the course of a few days. This will form a 'bridge' of strength over the looser flakes.
The small powdery rust can be a problem. But if you can lay your project flat, using the Glamour clear or a good quality automotive clear, add some retarder to it and hammer on one or two hard coats to the project and leave it be for 24 hrs. This will saturate the rust and the slow retarder is just added insurance for more saturation. A good quality clear must be used though. So many out there are loaded with cheap flash solvents.

Yes, you can apply automotive clear with a brush. Mix small amounts at a time. Brush on one light coat, clean your brush while you wait 30 min for first coat to tack up, then repeat until you have the build you want.
You CANNOT use those foam brushes. Automotive clear will melt them. A natural hair brush should work. I'm not sure about others. Also, don't put the brush all the way into your mixed clearcoat. The clear solvents may eat any glue that is holding your bristles in. Then you will have hairs in your project. :(

Try to avoid using Baking Soda. If you MUST use baking soda to neutralize your project, neutralize the project with vinegar after the baking soda. Baking soda will keep your clear coat (or even primer) from adhering to the project at all. Later down the road, especially when exposed to the elements, your clear coat can start to turn cloudy. This is air pockets forming behind the clear as it is trying to delaminate.

What I have done for my rusted effects is hang part vertically, spray with muriatic acid. Wire brush in downward strokes. Blow dry with 100 psi air. Spray part with plain water (deionized water if your water is not neutral). Blow dry again with lots of air pressure. Then I spray it with a good quality solvent based wax and grease remover. Then blow dry again. At this point I like to let it sit in the hot sun for about 30 min while I mix up my clear. I then bring it in, let it get down close to room temp, and hammer with Glamour Clear with a few drops of retarder added. I let sit over night. Then I sand it with 320p Grit paper, and then apply a few more coats of clear until I get the smooth finish I want.

Adam Bond
- Indiana

Ed. note: Please see letter 17478 for a beautiful rust-finished table & an incredible pencil sketch on rusted steel, and letter 16945 for a hot woman made of cold steel.

September 9, 2010 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. We are building a building that we sand blasted all I-beams, channels and square tube. We then sprayed it with Peroxide and some acid to get it to rust. What kind of clear coat can I put on this to protect it. (It is exterior steel)

Robert Mcinnes
employee - Durango, Colorado

KBS Rust Seal

December 18, 2010

A. KBS RustSeal clear, neutralizes as well =>

david thibert
tech - hayward California

Ed. note: We're not sure if David is precisely right because we've found that product in lots of colors, but not "Clear". We have, however, found "KBS DiamondClear" and are not sure if it's really the same stuff as "KBS RustSeal"

January 16, 2011

Q. Hello all, I have been reading about rusting metal and clearcoats, but I am having one problem and wondering if there is a step in between that I should be doing? I make"rustic" metal art, I want a light coat of rust, not cancerous, then clearcoated so it doesn't rub off. I have tried various sealers, clear coats like Krylon, water seal, others....but what I am noticing is that if the metal doesn't stay at room temp, then it looks like it continues to "perspire" or rust under all of the clear coatings. I am a member of another forum, and they say you can't stop the rust....I am not sure of that, I have a friend that is doing what I want to do, hers does not "perspire" once coated, but I have no idea what she coats it with, won't tell me, but I would think once the O2 supply is cut off, there would be no more rusting due to oxidation, so where is the "perspiration" coming from and how do I stop it? Is there something I should be doing after I get the piece rusted and BEFORE I apply the clearcoat? Right now, I rust my piece, get it warm and let it cool off, then clear coat it. But, then sure enough, after a day or two, it starts to "perspire"...any suggestions or HELP? appreciated! There has to be something small I am doing wrong!

I have one more question on automotive clear coats. I went to the store to get some, and they told me that it won't do any good to clear coat something unless I follow it with hardener. I know they do not know the context of what I am doing (trying to keep rust from continuing, and sealing w/ natural look), but do I really have to use a hardener after clearcoat? Or just use the clear coat?

Charlene Stovin
- Independence, Oregon

January 24, 2011

A. Hi, Charlene

It's risky to guess what a 3rd party meant without hearing their actual words, but I'll guess. Some clear coats are single component, but some, like epoxies and automotive clear coats, are two component. You can't use just one part of the two part system: epoxy for example will never dry, but will just remain a sticky syrup unless mixed with the required catalyst or "hardener". I guessing that you went to buy a clear coat system and tried to buy just one component of the two-component system. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


January 24, 2011

Q. Thank you but then what I am trying to find out, in the previous posts people are suggesting using automotive clear I am trying to figure out what it is I need to buy. I went to Nappa, and of course they are used to dealing with people painting cars, not what I am trying to do - I know there are a few "clear coats" suggested like Sharkhide at the start of this post...but I guess what I am trying to find out is what I should be looking for. I don't know what to ask for other than "automotive clearcoat" when they start asking other questions, I am lost. I just need to know what kind of automotive clear coat I should be after for the rusting projects. Does that make any more sense? We have Sharkhide for our aluminum boat, but that is very expensive....I just don't know enough about the product to know what I should be asking for. Thank you

Charlene Stovin
- Independence Oregon

January 25, 2011

A. Hello again Charlene

Okay, I'm finally catching on. The "automotive clear coats" that people are talking about are not coatings like Krylon where a solvent evaporates and allows them to dry. Rather they are two-component coatings like epoxy where mixing two components causes a chemical reaction that makes the mixture harden, as opposed to drying. You don't sell the two components in a single can because it would quickly be just a solid hard mass rather than a liquid. The way it is done is the automotive painter takes a can of component A and a can of component B, mixes them together, then rather quickly pours the mixture into his spray equipment such that they are sprayed on within a very limited time after mixing them.

Adding to the confusion, people sometimes call component A "clear coat" and component B "hardener", although component A by itself is not really a useable clear coat, just a sticky syrup. So buy the can labelled "clear coat" (component A) as you were doing, but also buy the hardener (component B).

If you don't have professional spraying equipment, you can't spray two-component automotive clear coat*.

However, you may be able to successfully brush it on after mixing the two components. Although I have no experience in that, Adam B. describes it above. This may be what your friend is doing. Use a very cheap brush and a cheap mixing cup because once the mixture starts hardening, they become garbage -- there is no washing them. And practice on a piece of your scrapped art; don't go directly to an important piece.


2K Clearcoat

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

*: I was half wrong because you can now buy "2-part clearcoat" spray in a single can =>
The two parts are apparently kept separated until use, then sprayed together. I don't know how well it works myself , but many reviewers on Amazon seemed happy with it =>

February 1, 2011

A. I've been force rusting steel projects for many years and have found a successful process. I wash the steel object with water and dish soap and then spray it with a vinegar and salt solution. This step accelerates the oxidation process.

Once the piece has rusted to the correct patina I wash it in a warm water and baking soda solution. This step stops the accelerated oxidation. Note, it only stops the accelerated oxidation.

Next I burnish the piece by rubbing it with an old leather welding glove that smooths the rusted surface and adds yet another interest dimension to the patina.

Lastly I coat the piece with clear coat. My best results have come from a matte finish polyurethane, but have also used an automotive clear coating system as well. I usually use several thin coats. This final step seals the surface and essentially stops the oxidation process. The oxygen can no longer cause any problems.

I haven't had problems with my pieces chipping clear coat or peeling rust. I think the key is a light coating of rust, neutralizing the forced oxidation, and completely sealing the surface.

Tom DeBoer
- Crookston, Minnesota

March 17, 2011

Q. Dear finishers and creators:
I have a project similar to those discussed. It is a large gate with two 4' x 8' panels of 1/4" steel with leaf and decorative cutouts by a noted designer sculptor in California, since deceased. The gate is located less than a block from the Pacific ocean in Mexico. The rate of corrosion in the area is high. The gate has been in place for two years. I have noted the preparation recommendations wire brush scale and powder down to a thin rust coloration with the object of allowing coating wetting contact with underlying sound steel substrate.

Neutralization with baking soda followed by thorough water wash cleaning sounds good . ?

The products available locally are a recommended 2-part epoxy coating often used over cement flooring. (smelly no VOC regulation formulations there). This coating is somewhat shiny which I'd like to avoid. There are polyurethanes available also.

Have to leave tuesday 3-22-2011 to work on this. Any thoughts/suggestions would be greatly appreciated ( working for ticket, food and board wish I was could be working 30-40 hrs/wk here again.)

Peter Whittlesey
exterior architectural consultant/ construction jack of all trades - Sausalito, California US

March 17, 2011

A. Hi, Peter. If you have the ability to mix and spray, I think a 2-component automotive clearcoat might be best. They are relatively thin and durable, and they are probably pretty readily available around the world. But it sounds like Tom D of Minnesota has good advice born of actual experience.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 10, 2011

Q. Hello;

I see many samples of rusted steel art. The colors vary from bright orange to reddish brown and darker. Why the difference? Would it change over time? Air quality? I am planning several installations for an interpretive exhibit and want to know what to expect/control.


Chris Au
Exhibit developer - Vancouver, BC, Canada

April 24, 2012 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Dear Sir,

I have a challenge.Can we clear coat a sheet metal with little rust on it without remove the rusts? We want to clear coat the parts while keeping the rust on the metal to make it look old. Is it possible? What is the best way to achieve this?


David Wei
- Fj, China

Ed. note: We appended your inquiry to a thread where we think it's already answered, David. See the entry from Tom D. of Crookston, Minnesota. Good luck.

April 26, 2012

Q. I need to rust 50 ft. of steel chain 1/4 inch thick links for use in hanging chandeliers in my renovated barn. Can I soak the chain in a large bucket with vinegar? Should I add salt to it? Soak in muriatic acid? I need to have it done within the week because my electrician is hanging my chandeliers. Then spray polyurethane on it? I just need to do this for the patina.

Donna Genova
- Quakertown, Pennsylvania, USA

April 27, 2012

A. Hi Donna.

Vinegar and other mild acids dissolve steel but they dissolve rust even faster. So immersion in vinegar usually doesn't cause rusting. Either immerse the chain in bleach, or spritz it with vinegar and salt (repeatedly wet it and allow it to dry). Never mix bleach with anything, especially acids like vinegar.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 3, 2012

Q. Hi, I just purchased a 1954 Chevy Truck, it has that Patina/rusty look that I want to keep, but I want to seal it especially the bed because I'm a photographer and I don't want the rust to get on peoples clothes. I've been reading all the Q & A's here and if I'm understanding correctly, I should first put vinegar on it, right? do you mix it with anything, or just spray it on and let it dry then put a clear coat. Or does it have to be washed off first? OR do any of you have any suggestions on what to use to seal the rust (not get rid of it) on an old truck? I'm also understanding that if you don't use the vinegar, the rust will continue causing the clear coat to peel and break. Is that correct?
Thanks for any help!



Jodi Beauchamp
- Greenwell Springs, Louisiana, USA

May 14, 2012

A. Baking Soda is a great neutralizer for blackening agents to prevent rust. Clear Powder Coats turn white in spots and flake over rust. Clear Acrylic or lacquer over rust is fine for indoors but darkens the rust finish severely. Anything subject to UV rays is going to break down quickly and look like peeling skin.
A combination of diluted muriatic acid as a stripper or acid bath starts the rust process nicely and strips scale, followed by several coatings of any brand of patina designed to rust steel. Work quickly and coat with a pump or spray bottle. When it dries, immediately rinse with water, dry and re-apply until you get the desired finish. Don't use paint on finishes they are a joke.
Rust never sleeps.

Scott Behr
- Brooklyn, New York

Por-15 Glisten Clearcoat

June 30, 2012

Hello, KBS (here in Australia) and POR15 make clear coatings that supposedly goes over bare steel and the KBS site actually shows the paint being applied over rusty metal; but like anything, you can't make something stick if something in between doesn't allow it to stick so I think there is some pre-treatment always required with any 'paint over rust' scenario (ha - hope that makes sense). I've had no personal experience with either, but I'm sure both do as their makers claim.

William John
- Melbourne, Australia

March 20, 2013 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hello, I recently rusted some steel sheet metal with muriatic acid and fertilizer. It made some awesome colors and I'm trying to figure a way to lock the rust and the colors in. I put one coat of finishing wax on them but the rust still flakes off. I've also tried spraying them with clear gloss but think there's probably a better way -- any suggestions would help. Thank you.

Danielle Langston
- Wichita, kansas, USA

April 22, 2013

Q. I am painting on a antique milk can for a client. The Can has some rust and I want to keep that in the background. I will need to clean the can but I am thinking I should clear coat the can before I paint. I will use acrylic paints and then clear coat again after I'm finished. The paining will accent the can and not cover it completely. A good example of what I want to do is the Picture that Oliver de Gea has posted in this thread. Can you recommend what I should have the can sealed with to hold the look of the rust while allowing me to paint over and then seal again.

Thank you for your help!

Elleh Art
- Chicago, Illinois

Minwax Polycrylic

September 3, 2014

A. I just used Modern Masters Metal Effects iron paint & rust patina solution. It came out gorgeous! I tried Valspar matte spray can sealer, Mod Podge matte sealer, Briwax furniture wax, shellac, and the winner was (on my test board) Minwax Polycrylic, clear satin =>
It was the ONLY one that didn't alter the colors at all. I wish it came in a matte finish but from what I'm reading here it looks like I'm lucky to have found anything at all!

Jessica Wooten
- McKinney, Texas

September 13, 2014

A. Try Permalaq which also has a UV inhibitor in addition to sealing. We won't need to refinish every year! I haven't tried it myself but have ordered some because it came highly recommended by a metal artist.

Teresa Sanders
- Richmond, Texas

September 22, 2014

Q. I would like advise please to spray lacquer on painted metal decorations hanging outside. One will be exposed to rain, the rest undercover. Live near the Gulf. The metals are aluminum, tin, plastic. The snail has lights that I'll tape up?
What should I use to protect these finishes, please?
I also have an powder-coated wrought aluminum patio set that went through Katrina. (The water stopped before the table top so that's in pretty good condition.) The finish flakes off in certain areas. Any suggestions, please?

J Therrell
- Bay St. Louis, Mississippi USA

September 2014

A. Hi J. That's quite a host of questions! 4 different materials of construction ... two or three different exposure conditions ... both new work and rework ...

But the principle is simply that things need to be clean and free of flaking because paint is not shrinkwrap that holds things together, rather it is like a chain with a weakest link: if there is dirt or flaking paint, it does no good for the new paint to adhere to them because the new paint will simply come off with the dirt or flaking paint. So wash it all with a stiff scrub brush and detergent water, rinse it, and dry it. If it's rusting steel you will need rust converter before the spray lacquer. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 16, 2015

Q. I find this thread very useful. Thank you for all the insight regarding rusted finishes and clear coats; however, I have not found an answer that I can use. I have several old rusted original tin tiles which I plan to use as a backsplash in my kitchen. that said I definitely want to keep the rusted finish it currently has. I know I need to put a clear coat over it especially being in the kitchen. I want to make sure I can wipe it clean with soap and water, nothing else... but I also do not want it to be exposed to kitchen elements such as grease splatter and things of that nature. I have included a picture of these tins and hope someone is able to give me step by step instructions on how to do this myself. I am on a budget but I also want this done right.

tin ceiling backsplash-2a tin ceiling backsplash-2b tin ceiling backsplash-2c tin ceiling backsplash-2d

On a side note if you can tell me the best possible way to attach the tin to the wall and what I need to do between the seams to keep it safe from little fingers getting cut.

Thank you so much. I appreciate any insight you can offer.

Paula ursino
- Richland hills Texas usa

February 3, 2015

Everbrite makes a great clear coat for rusted metal. Yes, you will have to neutralize any acids before coating. You can use a baking soda water mixture, then RINSE thoroughly. You will want to wait a day for it to thoroughly dry before wiping the surface with a solvent and coating. More info here:

Jessie Soto
- Sacramento, California, USA

Ed. note: Thanks Jesse. We try to minimize testimonials to specific proprietary products in this forum, and it can start a race to the bottom, with vendors posing as satisfied customers (which has happened a number of times here). But Everbrite is a supporting advertiser of this site and helps make the forum possible; so we've printed your suggestion and labeled it as an ad. Thanks again.

March 1, 2015

Q. Hi was wondering if you can help.
I am interested in making a wind chime out of horse shoes. I want to paint them and decorate them, and place them outside. I have been looking for a waterproof gloss varnish, for exterior use on metal and can't seem to find one. Would you know of any or have any suggestions for me.
Most kind regards Hannah

Hannah Mackay
- Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

February 2015

A. Hi Hannah. There are dozens of different potential products for that, and a number of them have been mentioned on this page already. I think your use of the word "varnish" might be limiting your search. I think if you use the more general term "clearcoat", things like polyurethanes, epoxies, single component clearcoats, 2-component automotive clearcoats, and UV hardenable coatings will present themselves as solutions. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Ospho Rust Converter

March 21, 2015

A. I worked on the fishing / crab boats in Alaska for over 25 years. Rust is always a huge problem because of the salt water.
Up North they use a product called OSPHO =>
It is expensive, $55 a gallon. It has some chemical reaction with rust that hardens it back to hard steel. We knock off the loose rust and brush it on. It is very thin like water so a little goes a long way.A pint would most likely do a car. When it dries you wash off the white powder, which I guess is residual Ospho, and paint over it. The rust is locked in for years if done right.
We never tried to show the rust color that we painted over, but I bet a urethane or clearcoat will do the trick.
I'm trying to show rust on an old light fixture and am willing to spend the money, I'm that sure.
Ebay has it in quarts for $35

dan pryse
- cresco Pennsylvania usa

April 1, 2015

A. To keep that ratrod look, your clear coat doesn't need to be a high solids clear, but it can be used. The key to keeping the clear from shrinking and pulling tightly to the rusted surface inherently breaking loose the rust substrate: Add the most amount of flexible additive the recommended clear will allow. You want this 2-part clear coat to expand and contract with all that rusty movement,

Brandon Keele
Automotive paint Tech - waverly Tennessee, USA

April 10, 2015

Q. I have a painting on tin that I would like to put outdoors in my patio area. I live in a dry climate. The place where I would want to put it would not have full sun. Was wondering what i can put over the painting to seal it and preserve it from the outside elements. It does have a little rust on it, but i cant really do anything to remove that since the painting could get messed up. Is it possible to seal the rust as well? Also, if i coat the tin art, how often do i have to reseal it?

- Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

April 14, 2015

Q. I am working on a storage coffee table with a rusted steel base. It's a mesh base, that has completely rusted.


I need to coat it so that rust doesn't wipe off and get on Blankets or other items. But I want to keep the patina. Do I need to wipe it down before applying the polyurethane coat? If so what do I use ? Also Is it possible to paint over the clear coat after if I wanted some of it to be a different color?
Lastly are there non toxic products?

Thank you

C elias
- Denver, colorado

August 31, 2015

Q. Hi. We are designing and developing large outdoor sculptures in Mild steel and would like to have a sculpture that stands the test of time. We would like to have a patina finish on top of it and have a clear anti-rust coating which does not have gloss and is absolutely clear. Please help.

nimesh pilla
- new delhi, india

September 2015

A. Hi Nimesh. 2K automotive clearcoats are probably available in satin rather than gloss, and are clear. The harder part is trying to keep a corrosion-prone material like steel corrosion-free outdoors with no protection but a clearcoat. Automobile paints "stand the test of time", but cars use steel which is first galvanized, then it's phosphatized, then it's e-coated, then it gets a couple of coats of baked paint, then the clear coat. You want to leave out the first four of those five corrosion-fighting steps, and still get good corrosion resistance, and that's a tall order :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


September 16, 2015

A. I've had good luck sealing interior and exterior rust by first cleaning the metal with TSP and water, letting it dry, and coating it with Penetrol. Penetrol is normally used to condition oil based paints, but works well at sealing up, but allowing rust patina to show through. I did a short video of a recent tool restoration:

Brad McQuarrie
- Spokane, Washington, USA

Exterior Railings

November 15, 2015

Q. I have over 100 linear feet of exterior railing (and many more in architectural details, trellis and roof supports, etc.). It is currently being fabricated out of mild steel. The look I want is a combination of the blue/grey colour the steel came from the supplier, as well as rust.

The handrail, posts and panel frames will be blue, the mesh panel -- both the floor of the juliette balconies as well as the panels of the railing -- I would like rust. I am hoping that by doing this I won't stain my newly tiled deck and poured concrete.

Originally I wanted all rust, for that industrial look. Now I decided I like the 2-tone as it is an exact match to the rock work in the yard (and has a lesser chance of staining).

30522-4a 30522-4b 30522-4c

I have read every post and more above. If money were no object, and I was informed it was the only solution, I would consider powder coating. However I like the slight variations on the existing material.

I do not want maintenance every year. I also don't want to take the time to do a hand finish, only to find I have to strip it all off later. I will be doing this with a brush. I do have some flexibility as the guard rail is made in components that we will bolt together.

So here are my questions:
- Is powder coating the only process with longevity?
- What should I use on the non-rusted (bluish) steel. I want a flat finish (no high gloss)
- How do I get the shiny welded/ground, joints back to the original colour of bluish?
- Out of all the products mentioned above, is there a definitive answer on which is best for the rusted mesh panels?

Can anyone recommend a TIME proven product.

My intent is to not make more work for myself in the future. I have in the past used a wax mentioned above in a humid setting (Hawaii) for plate steel, and it has held up well, with once a year maintenance. But it is in a non traffic area in an interior. I plan on using this technique on the facade of a fireplace. Unfortunately these railings are too many to maintain yearly and I don't think the wax will hold. I am in a fairly dry climate East Coast (west) Mountains.

Thanks so much everyone for weighing in, and being patient with the "book" I wrote above.

Julie Mai
hobbyist - Naramata

December 18, 2015

A. Been following this thread....found this which looks like the answer to those wanting to maintain but seal rust
I have a steel frame in my garden that I use for shade, has a nice patina and I'm.going to get this's flexible so should move with the rust rather than peel off..

Sally Hirst
- Norwich, Norfolk, UK

Ed. note: Everbrite is a supporting advertiser, and helps make possible.

February 17, 2016

Q. Hi all, I seem to be a bit late to this chat, but I'll ask anyway ... I'm trying to seal a steel ladies bike frame; I've hand finished it back to bare metal (steel)a patination fluid (just to stop rust). I want to keep it raw but don't want it to snap in half due to rust. Can anyone recommend a way of sealing with a clear primer/clearcoat while preserving the raw steel look? Not looking for a super even finish just something interesting like this =>

Thanks phil ... from the uk.

phillip crane
- exmouth, devon, united kingdom

February 17, 2016

A. Recently I have done something similar for a friend, he had already purchased a 2k clear coat spray can(yes now a few companies are selling 2 part clear coat in convenient spray can) so I had to work with that.

The piece was cleaned as to remove any loose rust and only the nice adherent patina was left, on a well ventilated area I sprayed the piece first with a mist coat, then after 5 minutes a heavy second coat, left the piece to cure for 24 hours, since the clear coat was meat to give matte surfaces a glossy appearance it did not provided us with a natural patina look, so with a 600 (or 800) grit and soapy water I lightly sanded the clear to kill the gloss and gave it a natural look.

Marvin Sevilla
- Managua, Nicaragua.

June 25, 2016

Q. Hello, I have a friend that I am trying to help. He bought a bull shaped smoker and the gentleman he bought it from said to put a coat of exterior polyurethane on it once a year to prevent rusting. We have been trying to purchase an exterior polyurethane for metal but have been coming up empty handed...any suggestions? Thank you for your time.

Jay Czernics
personal possession for household use - Pittsburgh Pennsylvania usa

June 2016

Hi Jay. I would bet that the typical clear coats in a spray can like Krylon are "exterior polyurethane for metal". Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

August 3, 2016

Q. I'm a mosaic artist and have these very thin rusted metal panels about 12"X 15". I want to adhere ceramic tiles I make to the panels to create wall hangings. The rust is not new, but some will come off if you rub it. Because the panels are so thin, my plan is to attach the panel to a piece of cement backer board or wood with some type of adhesive. This is to prevent the metal panels from flexing.

I read Tom from Minnesota's Feb 1, 2011 post about rinsing the rusted metal with a water and baking soda solution, burnishing the metal with an old leather glove to smooth the surface and then sealing with a matte polyurethane. The panels are for interior not exterior.

My question is about adhering tiles to the metal. Does anyone have any experience in this? Should I seal the metal first and then attach the tiles or attach the tiles and then seal any exposed metal? Since these are for interior, do I need to be concerned about sealing the metal? Thank you.

Yvonne Allen
- Scottsdale Arizona, USA

Any one have experience with Penetrol

September 17, 2016

Q. I am making a coffee table out of an engine block and it is a beautiful rusted color and I want to keep it this color but the rust is rubbing off so I need to seal it. I've read the posts on this site but no one has mentioned using Penetrol and then sealing with Polyurethane. I read that recommendation on another site. Does anyone have any experience with using Penetrol? If so, does it work? There's lots of holes in an engine block -- I'm not sure about the automotive sealer that everyone is recommending. Please help.

Bert Peake
hobbyist - Broken Arrow, Oklahoma USA

September 2016

A. Hi Bert. It's a long thread, so it's easy to miss stuff, but Brad M does talk about Penetrol.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

October 5, 2016

A. Hi Bert, I have used Penetrol to seal rusted metal and has worked real well. I used it to seal iron ball finials on fence posts which have been exposed to the weather for many years. The Penetrol has sealed in the rust to preserve the natural patina with no additional rusting. I just used the Penetrol alone with no polyurethane.

Don Edworthy
Landscape Contractor - East Bend, NC

February 13, 2017

A. Penetrol will be the easiest, cheapest and most practical product to use to protect rusty metal surfaces and ancient oxidized paint. You just saturate their surfaces with it then wait 12-24 hours for it to dry. Items exposed to the weather will need wiping down with a rag wet with Penetrol once or twice a year to renew the finish. It won't blister and flake off like a coating. It'll consolidate oxidized paint and give it a sheen. It'll rejuvenate old faded fiberglass, too. Just scub it down with fine steel wool soaked in Penetrol, let it sit a spell then wipe off the excess and allow to dry.

Ospho is a phosphoric acid treatment that converts rust into inert iron phosphate, which is black in color. Ospho will dissolve light surface rust and leave a bare metal surface with a layer of iron phosphate a few microns deep. You can apply an automotive clear coat over that or a film of Penetrol. Most paint stores and big boxes carry quarts of Ospho for $15 or so. It also will consolidate old oxidized paint and give it a sheen to boot. It'll be the product to use on old funky vehicles since the rough rusted surfaces will retain a rust colored glazed made with tinted Penetrol and the smooth clean metal will lose the glaze faster for a natural weathering effect due to rain and abrasion by the user. The Ospho sheen will die down from natural weathering though should continue to protect the substrate for a few years before requiring another application.
I've been a painting contractor for over 30 years and use both products to eliminate and prevent rust before applying primers and top coats. Used the above methods on my own older equipment and decorative junk some customers drug home when shabby chic was in. Boiled linseed oil is great for old weathered wood but not ferrous metals. The old school treatment for that is a mix of boiled lard and rosin that's rubbed on then allowed to dry. It needs renewing once a month if left outdoors and twice a year if indoors.

Bill Wilson
- Longview, Texas USA

How to stop metal sequins from turning copper or black?

June 12, 2017

Q. Hi we are in the business of producing and exporting garments that we embroider with metal sequins.
Before we use the metal sequin we put them through a process of mixing the silver colored sequins in sand and heating them in a steel drum over flame. This turns the silver to a light shaded gold that look like natural tarnish.
My problem is that after the clothes are embroidered these sequins tarnish further and become more copper or black over time.
Is there any process where I can seal the desired tarnish by dipping the lot of sequins into a fixing solution?

Joe Joseph
Fashion - Delhi, New Delhi, India

July 5, 2017

Q. Hi
I have rusted some steel poles using acid then Hydrogen peroxide. I have sealed them with 2 coats of acrylic spray gloss then 1 coat of matte for the finish; they will be used outside. I notice that some rust is bleeding through the coating. Is there anything I can use to stop the rust coming through without stripping the finish already applied. Thanks

Alan Knight
- Portsmouth Great Britain

August 20, 2017

Q. I just purchased a very old wrought iron scrolled console table with a removable marble top. I'm told it came from Israel. The iron is very oxidized/textured with rust. This piece will become a sofa table in my living room so it will no longer be outdoors. I just want to clean the dusty dirt off (use a shop vac and soft bristle brush?) and preserve its current condition. I'd like to seal it all in with a Matte finish to keep it looking old and protect the rust from coming off onto my carpet. I will protect the bottom of the bottom rail that actually sits on the carpet using protective pads.

What should I use? Will it still continue to rust if I'm keeping it indoors?

Thanks for your help.
Kristine D

Kristine Dent
Interior designer - Danville, California USA

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