A wrought iron fence is meant to last for years with proper care, but if you aren't careful, your fence can suffer from its worst enemy: rust. Rust can severely damage wrought iron and completely ruin its appearance. Fortunately, you can restore this metal to its original look and also protect it from future damage with the right steps and tools.
Step 1 - Remove Rust and old Paint
Use a paint scraper to remove any loose or peeling paint and a wire brush to scrub away loose rust and old paint. If the rust is heavy, use a drill with a wire wheel instead. Make sure to get into tight areas and joints where rust is most likely to be found.
Follow up with a coarse-grit sandpaper over the entire fence, concentrating on the affected areas. Some deep rust may require sanding all the way down to the metal, so you may want to use a drill with a sanding wheel to save yourself some pain. When you can't see anymore rust, go over the fence again with a medium-grit to take care of anything that remains and smooth the surface.
Finally, buff the entire fence with fine steel wool in a circular motion to smooth and prepare it for painting. Rinse with clear water to get rid of dust that remains.
Step 2 - Neutralize Rust
The key to restoring a wrought iron fence is to remove all the rust, not just the loose stuff. Any left behind will continue to spread and ruin the metal even after you refinish it. Although you may not see any, there can be some tiny particles remaining. Mix a commercial rust neutralizer per package instructions in a bucket. Dip the wire brush into it and scrub the entire fence in a circular motion.
For those who prefer not to use chemicals, you can use a solution of half lemon juice and half white vinegar to neutralize any remaining particles. Wipe down the entire fence with the solution and allow it to dry for one hour. Wash off with soapy water and let the surface dry completely.
Step 3 - Prime and Paint
Paint the entire surface of the fence with an even coat of rust-inhibiting primer for metal and allow it to dry at least four hours. Apply two fairly thick coats of rust-resistant paint over the primer using a medium-bristled paint brush. Use smooth, even strokes to cover all areas, and allow the paint to dry completely between coats.
Step 4 - Maintain
Now that the rust has been taken care of and the fence is repaired, it is important to perform regular maintenance to keep it looking great. Wash your wrought iron fence with soapy water twice a year, and oil latches and springs with mineral oil. Also use steel wool to buff any scratches or beginning signs of rust and neutralize with lemon juice and vinegar again. Touch up scratched areas with matching rust-resistant paint after neutralizing.