Place the sanded object in the center of a plastic bin that’s rested on either hard ground or a flat work surface in the garage. As it dries, the acid of the vinegar will begin to corrode the surface of the metal and you will start to see rust appear.
Pour two cups of hydrogen peroxide, four tablespoons of white vinegar, and one-and-a-half teaspoons of table salt into a plastic spray bottle. Once the salt has dissolved, spray the solution over the object to coat it partially or completely, depending on the desired effect.
Finally, spray a thin coating of clear acrylic sealer to the dry rusted object. It will set the rust and preserve the aged appearance for years to come while providing an acrylic barrier that keeps it from inadvertently staining any other metal or wood with which it comes into contact in the future.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase we may earn a commission. I don’t know about you but my heart skips a beat when I come across reclaimed wood, rusty metal, and forged iron.
There’s something to be said about pieces that speak their history through their old age and rusty patina, and it’s one of the reasons I’m so drawn to mountain homes and log cabins. There’s a project we’ve had in mind for our RV, all we needed was some antique horseshoes.
Fast-forward several months and now that we’re ready for the project I can’t find old horseshoes anywhere! I have to tell ya, making metal rust in fast-forward was even more fun than I anticipated.
Update: If you watch the video at the top of the post you can see how using a small spray bottle or one with a misting option makes this method even easier! After I placed my horseshoe in the container I poured some white distilled vinegar on top.
I didn’t measure but I poured just enough so that it covered the horseshoe and then I sorta swished it around on top. At this point, you’ll want to add peroxide on top of your metal objects.
I then sprinkled …err dumped… a bunch of salt on my horseshoe and the rusty color started to come out even more. Then I called Eric over because I was all excited to show him, but I wanted more bubbles and fizz, so I poured a bit more hydrogen peroxide on top.
After a few minutes, I swished the horseshoe around in the solution to sort of rinse off the salt and then patted it dry with a paper towel. You’ll see that it’s a bit rusty but don’t worry if it doesn’t look exactly the way you want, it actually rusts more than it dries.
It was getting dark outside, so I just let it sit overnight and the next day this is what my horseshoe looked like, next to metal that’s been rusting for years: I made a few more horseshoes prior to this one and let some of them sit for about an hour because I wasn’t noticing the color change right away.
If you don’t like how your metal looks after 10 minutes and air drying, you can always repeat the process and keep them in the solution for a longer period of time You’ll want to add a clear sealer to prevent the rusty patina from flaking off and staining anything they touch.
After receiving a lot of comments and emails about this not working on certain objects I wanted to add that not all metals will rust. I believe it has to have iron in it in order to rust, and if it’s galvanized, stainless steel or some other type of metal that doesn’t corrode then this process won’t work.
I learned this the hard way by trying to rust some galvanized buckets I had on hand and read up about it here. If you watch the video at the top of this post you’ll see the difference in the spray vs. dunk method.
Basically, the spray method will allow more of the contrast of the original metal to show through and it is easier to work in layers and add more rust if you want. Although you’ll notice a few of my “dunked” horseshoes still have a decent amount of contrast.
It’s understandable that most people want to prevent their cars and power tools from rusting, but some steel objects actually gain character from having a nice rusty patina. Below, we’ve shared the basic steps to give your outdoor decorations a charming, weathered look.
To give your steel that rusty finish, you’ll need table salt, white vinegar, and degreased, along with measuring cups/spoons and a spray bottle. Read the degreased bottle’s instructions as you apply it to the metal, and take care not to touch it with your bare hands.
So you’ve prepped the metal object for rusting, but how does the oxidation process actually happen? First, you’ll need to create a rusting solution by combining 16oz hydrogen peroxide, 2oz white vinegar, and ½ tablespoon of salt.
If the rusting doesn’t start happening immediately, you may need to put your object in direct sunlight for a while. Heat helps the process. After you spray the metal, let it dry, and then repeat for about 7 cycles, your steel should look like it’s aged years.
A sterile-looking metal chest or a rustic wood cabinet with shiny new hinges and knobs, for instance, transform into items you could swear have character and history you can feel with a little rust. But rust forms naturally when metal is left exposed to moisture, heat and air.
Carry the item outside or set up your work area in the garage instead. Open windows and the garage door to ensure plenty of ventilation.
Fill a spray bottle with regular-strength hydrogen peroxide, such as you buy in the drugstore. Experiment with the salt, scattering it randomly or coating the metal, for instance, to achieve different rust effects.
Finish with a cold water rinse to smooth the surface. Place the metal in a glass or plastic container large enough to hold it.
Immediately pour vinegar over the metal and shake in a handful of salt. Instead of playing the waiting game, force the metal to rust using chemicals designed for this purpose.
Place the metal project pieces into a plastic tub or bowl. Remove the metal from the vinegar, if it looks rusty enough for your liking; if not, leave the pieces in for another day.
Remove the pieces with rubber gloves or tongs if you do not want to touch the vinegar. Rinse the pieces off with a garden hose or wipe them off with a damp rag.
Experiment with different metals; some, such as steel, will rust, while others, such as brass or copper, may develop a patina. Mist the paper towels with more vinegar, as needed, from a spray bottle.
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It may sound odd, but ketchup is actually a great answer to how to clean rust from stainless steel. The acetic acid in the sauce attacks the rust, breaking it down and making it much easier to remove.
If you’re wondering how to remove rust from a stainless-steel sink or other household items, this cupboard essential could be just what you need. Baking soda is used all over the house, and it’s great for tackling stainless steel rust.
Then, rub the product with a slightly damp sponge, following the grain lines of the metal. Another food item that works wonders at getting rid of rust when it first appears is citrus fruit, such as lemons and limes.