Even if you don’t have metal patio furniture, you’re likely to find some rust on exposed metal parts of plastic patio furniture. Not only is it unsightly, but it can leave stains on clothing, and constant exposure to rust can be problematic to small children and pets. Also, rust from your patio furniture can seep onto concrete, creating stains and making the surface look shabby. Here’s a brief guide to removing anything from light to heavy rust on your furniture.
Removing Light Rust
A scouring brush or pad, like steel wool, is just the thing for removing light rust. In some cases, what appears to be rust is merely a rust stain, which can be caused by accumulation of water on certain parts of your furniture. Kerosene can help remove some of these stains; just make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area and away from open flames.
After using these methods, you may still have some rust visible. However, depending on the style and type of your patio furniture, some people will keep it for an aged look. If you’d like to stop here, you should apply a clear coat paint or car wax over the rusted areas. This will maintain the look, yet inhibit new rust from forming. If you choose to remove the remaining rust, move on to the next stage.
Removing Medium Rust
Use a wire brush (with medium bristles) for removing middling levels of rust. Make sure to look out for bubbled up paint anywhere on your patio furniture, as this indicates there is rust underneath. Scrape off the paint to get to the problem, and sand it down or scrub with steel wool.
If you plan on painting your furniture after removing the rust, consider using a commercial rust remover product; they are very effective. There are some green options as well, from commercial products to home remedies like lemon juice and vinegar. Due to their acidity, these home remedies adequately remove some stains (especially if they’re not too old) but don’t count on these methods for heavy-duty jobs.
If you don't want to repaint the patio furniture, you can try an organic rust remover which doesn't have acid or harsh chemicals. They’re convenient and eco-friendly.
Removing Heavy Rust
For heavy rust removal, use a scraper to strip away paint flakes and bubbles, and a wire brush (coarse- or stiff-bristled) to remove the remaining rust. Afterward, you can apply a commercial rust remover product, like naval jelly or a rust converter. Some converters remove the rust while leaving bare metal (especially useful if you plan on restoring wrought iron to its original condition) while another type will blacken the offending rust, turning it into a sandable primer type of surface. There are some green products on the market that do a fine job for the more dastardly rust problems as well.
Finishing with Paint
If you’ve chosen to go beyond a simple clear coat application (once the rust has been removed) you can choose to paint your patio furniture with a rust-resistant metal spray paint. Spray paints in aerosol cans are preferable if you want to eliminate the use of a paint brush and avoid drip marks. However, if you want to customize your color or want to avoid aerosol fumes, you can use a brush.
You’ll want to prime with a rust-proof primer before painting, but if you’ve used a rust converter, you can skip the priming process. Plan on having some mineral spirits on hand for cleaning since rust-resistant paints are oil-based.
If you decide on repainting, pause to take the time to think about color. Rust can be camouflaged better with certain colors, like rust red or dark tan colors, rather than white or black. You might also want to experiment with bolder colors (reds, greens and blues), assuming this fits with your outdoor décor.
Remember, you can minimize your trial and error by asking neighbors how they maintain their patio furniture or by getting some recommendations from your local hardware store. Also, calculate the cost, time, and effort required to restore your furniture. You might find that starting your rust prevention initiative on a new set of patio furniture is a better idea than saving a set already past its prime.