Refinishing Your Metal Outdoor Furniture

Metal patio furniture with red cushions.
  • 2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 40-60
What You'll Need
Naval jelly
Rubber gloves
Wire brush or steel wool
Garden hose
Paint brush
Metal primer paint
Metal spray paint

So you finally finished making your garden look amazing with one of our helpful articles only to look over and see that your patio furniture is a rusty mess. You're probably wondering what you can do about it. Sure, you can throw it out and buy new furniture, but getting that old furniture looking good again isn't difficult and can save you some money. If you're willing to invest a little time and money, you can rescue that old patio furniture and give it a brand new look, with a little help from naval jelly.

What's Naval Jelly?

Naval jelly is a commercial product specifically formulated to remove rust (the active ingredient is phosphoric acid, which dissolves surface rust) and is commonly available at most home and hardware stores. It's a great option for cleaning up metal furniture because its thick consistency makes it stick to vertical surfaces, giving the acid time to dissolve the rust.

A Word of Caution

Since naval jelly contains acid, you need to take some precautions when using it, such as wearing rubber gloves to protect your skin, goggles to protect your eyes, and working outside or where there's lots of moving air, so you're not breathing the fumes. Naval jelly should only be used on steel and iron. Don't use it on chrome or aluminum and, if it gets on a painted surface, wipe it off quickly or it will damage the paint.

Step 1 - Prepare the Surface

Remove as much surface rust as you can using a wire brush or steel wool. Take your time and be thorough. Doing so will prevent having to repeat steps later.

Step 2 - Apply Naval Jelly

Once the surface rust is removed, put on your rubber gloves and brush or spread a layer of Naval jelly onto the metal. Now, simply let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Be sure you don't let the naval jelly stay on the surface too long, or it could dry out and become difficult to remove.

Step 3 - Rinse and Dry

Using a garden hose, thoroughly rinse off the naval jelly. As the jelly rinses off it will take most of the dissolved surface rust along with it. Once it is completely dry, you are ready to apply the primer.

If your furniture is deeply rusted, you may need to repeat Step 1 and Step 2 until you get the desired results.

Step 4 - Apply Primer

Once the rust is gone, and you're down to clean, bare metal, spray on a metal primer paint (sprays give the best finish - no brush marks), and let it dry.

Step 5 - Apply Paint

Once your primer has dried, complete your furniture refinishing job by applying one or two coats of metal spray paint. It helps to place old newspaper beneath the furniture to avoid getting paint on the ground.

Step 6 (optional) - Apply Clear Coat

You can add a little extra protection to your newly-refinished patio furniture — and help keep it looking good longer — by spraying the metal surfaces with a clear coat.