How to Paint on Rust

How to Paint on Rust: A Quick Guide

Painting over rust can seem like a daunting task at first. Rust damages the metal and creates a surface that’s difficult for paint to adhere to. This often results in a finish that looks patchy and wears off quickly.

This can be frustrating for anyone trying to restore or beautify a rusted item. Traditional painting methods don’t usually work well on rusted surfaces because the paint struggles to stick properly. This challenge can make the task seem almost impossible.

Luckily for you, we’re here to give you a quick guide on how to paint on rust. So, get your pen and take some notes. Let’s learn about everything you need to know about painting on rust.

Can You Paint Over Rust?

The simple answer is NO. You cannot paint over rust. You will need to remove the rusty metal surfaces first with a wire brush. With the right tools and preparation, painting over rust is possible. Remember that the rust will still be there underneath the paint coat. It will trap the moisture in and cause the rusted metal surfaces to spread.

Extensive rust can cause more problems by spreading to other surfaces. Try wire brushing and using other tools to remove as much rust as you can. After that, you can bring new life to rusted metal surfaces and restore their appearance.

What are The Different Types of Paint to Use on Rust?

black paint

When painting over rust, it is important to use the right type of paint for the job. Various types of paint are available for this purpose. Each of them has unique characteristics and benefits. Here are the best coats of paint you can use for your projects. But if you need someone who will do the job, don’t hesitate to contact Noble Painting


Primers are the best type of paint to use on rust. It’s because they help to aid adhesion by creating a strong bond between the paint and the metal surface. They also help to prevent rust from spreading and bleeding through the paint coat. Primers can even ensure a more durable and long-lasting finish.

Primers specific to the amount of rust present also help prepare the metal surface. We call these rust conversion primers for extensive rust or rust-preventative primers for lightly rusted surfaces. Both help to prepare the metal surface for painting and provide added protection against future rust formation.

Acrylic Latex Paint

Acrylic latex paint is one of the best metal paints to use on rust. It’s mostly because of its water-based nature, which means it will not cause the metal to rust more. Additionally, acrylic latex paint has excellent adhesion properties. It allows it to stick well to the metal surface, even when there is rust present. 

This type of paint also provides a durable and long-lasting finish that can help prevent further rusting. Overall, it is a good choice for painting over rust because it provides a strong and protective coating that can help extend the life of the metal surface.

Oil-based Enamel

Oil-based enamel is one of the best paint options to use on rust because it provides a durable and long-lasting finish. The oil-based formula creates a strong bond with the metal surface. As a result, the paint will not easily chip or peel. Additionally, oil-based enamel contains rust inhibitors. It can help prevent rust from forming underneath the paint.

This type of paint is also resistant to fading and provides smooth and even coverage. This is the reason why it is ideal for painting over rusted metal surfaces. Overall, oil-based enamel is a reliable choice for protecting and beautifying metal.

Epoxy Paints

Epoxy paint is one of the best paint options to use on rust because it is highly durable and provides excellent adhesion to metal surfaces. The epoxy resin in the paint forms a strong chemical bond with the metal, creating a protective barrier that helps prevent rust from spreading.

Plus, epoxy paint is resistant to moisture and chemicals, making it ideal for outdoor applications where rust is a concern. Epoxy paint provides long-lasting protection against rust and corrosion, making it a reliable choice for painting over rusted surfaces.

How to Paint Over Rust?

black paint on metal

Painting over rust involves four simple steps. We’ll cover things like surface preparation and using effective tools for the entire project. Following these steps can help you achieve that flawless finish without too much effort.

Step 1: Prep The Surface

Start by removing any loose rust and flaking paint from the surface. Use a wire brush, sandpaper, or a sandblasting tool if you’re dealing with a larger or more stubborn area. This step is crucial for creating a smooth base that will allow the primer and paint to adhere properly. After scraping, clean the surface thoroughly with a degreaser or soapy water to remove any dirt, oil, or residues. Let it dry completely before moving to the next step.

Step 2: Apply Rust-Inhibitor Primer

Choose a rust-inhibitor primer that’s suitable for the type of surface you’re working on like metal, wood, etc.. These primers are specially formulated to stop rust from spreading and provide a good base for the paint to stick to. Apply the primer evenly, covering all rusted areas thoroughly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying times. This usually ranges from a few hours to overnight.

Step 3: Paint The Surface

Once the primer is dry, apply your chosen paint. Opt for a paint that’s formulated for the surface material and the environment it’s in. For example, moisture-resistant paint for outdoor use. Use a brush, roller, or spray can to apply the paint in even, thin layers. Avoid thick coats as they can drip, bubble, or take longer to dry. 

Step 4: Let It Dry and Reapply if Needed

After applying the first coat of paint, wait for it to dry completely. The drying time can vary based on the type of paint, the thickness of the layers, and the environmental conditions. If the coverage is uneven or the original surface is still visible, apply a second coat following the same process as the first. Once you’re satisfied with the appearance, let the paint cure for the time recommended by the manufacturer before using or touching the painted surface.

When Should I Not Paint on Rust?

When Should I Not Paint on Rust

Painting over rust may not be possible in certain circumstances. These could be when the rust is too extensive or has caused structural damage to the metal. The rust can eat away at the metal to the point where it is no longer stable or secure. Painting over it will only be a temporary fix that won’t address the underlying issue.

Read also: Top 10 Common Painting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Furthermore, exposure to water will only deal further damage. So, you will have to note that you cannot paint on rust near moist areas. In these situations, the rust may even continue to deteriorate the metal even with a fresh coat of paint. This could lead to ongoing maintenance and potential safety hazards. It is important to assess the extent of the rust and the condition of the metal before deciding whether to paint over it.

Wrapping Up

If you want to paint on rust, you need to choose the right paint. You will need it for long-term protective coating. There must be adequate preparation and planning to clean and paint over rust. Remember that rust can easily occur when there are loose coatings or holes.

Noble Painting recognizes the value of a smooth and aesthetic finish. Metal buildings can prove to be a challenge, especially when it involves rust. However, our team of seasoned experts stands ready with their unparalleled craftsmanship. We offer various painting services such as interior painting, exterior painting, house painting, and commercial painting. Contact us now and watch your ideal home become a reality with just a stroke of the brush.