Easy DIY guide to rust prevention and treatment




South African homes are fitted with a variety of steel products; from steel security gates to steel burglar bars and grills, we use steel products to protect and provide home security. Without proper protection and regular maintenance steel becomes pitted with spots of rust that eventually lead to disintegration or structural failure in the case of hinges and locks. Here are some easy DIY tips for proper maintenance and repair of steel fittings.


What is rust?


Rust is caused by the reaction between iron, oxygen and water or air moisture. When these conditions are present and left untreated, such as on metalwork not primed or painted, the reaction will continue to spread and result in the steel flaking and disintegrating, leaving holes and large gaps.

Properties in the coastal regions are a prime example of how quickly rust can destroy any fittings or components manufactured from steel. In these regions high humidity and coastal spray quickly attack bare metal and result in damage to steel window frames and gates.



Rust prevention


When you consider that the combination of oxygen and moisture are necessary for the formation of rust, it is important to prime and paint steel fittings and to regularly inspect surface finishes for signs of damage where moisture and air can start the reaction process and form rust on steel.

All steel products that are exposed to the elements (outdoors) need to be primed or painted if not already treated with a powder coat finish. And even products that have been powder coated can be attacked by rust if the coating fails.


Treat rust on steel

When using any rust inhibitor, removal or strippers always wear rubber gloves and safety glasses, as these products use acids or chemicals that are toxic.

While it is impossible to reverse the damage caused by rust corrosion, there are products that can be used to halt the process and repair the damage done.


1. Sand down the affected area with a sander and 80-grit sanding pads or a wire brush to remove all loose rust, scale, and previous. On older homes where lead paint could have been used, wear a dust mask.


2. Apply a rust-stripper to areas where rust has started to cause corrosion. Only use this product outdoors or in a well-ventilated space. Use a brush to spread evenly over the surface, or an old toothbrush to get into hard-to-reach spots, and leave the product for 10 minutes before rinsing with fresh water. Any remaining rust can be rubbed away with fine steel wool. For severe rust you may need to repeat this process.



Read the can or tin and always follow the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines for safe application.


3. Dry the treated area immediately and prime and paint within 24 hours, especially at coastal regions.

4. You have a choice of options for priming and painting steelwork.

  • Specialist metal and steel primers
  • Specialist paints for steel
  • Rust-Oleum Stops Rust spray paints
  • Hammered paints for steel
  • Rust inhibitor for unpainted wrought iron furniture


Your local Builders Warehouse or hardware store will be able to offer advice on the best product suitable for any particular application.


After removing rust I recommend Rust-Oleum Universal Hammered for security gates.

Cover surrounding areas with a plastic bin liner before you spray and then shake the can well. The can is designed to spray at any angle, which means getting into tights spots is easy.

After spraying one side, move your plastic to the other side before spraying. That way you can cover bars and railings easily and quickly.
The formula includes a rust preventative that protects steel from rust.




DO NOT treat aluminium finishes with rust treatments or specialist primers and paint for steel. Aluminium does not contain any iron and therefore does not rust, but rather corrodes. Aluminium corrosion is a condition where the surface becomes dull and is sometimes crusted with calcium, lime, tarnish, or hard water stains.

Repair damage caused by rust


Where rust has eaten away the surface of steel fittings, this can be repaired with a 2-part epoxy putty specially formulated for use on steel. The 2-parts are kneaded together and immediately applied to the damaged surface. The product starts to harden in 10 minutes, so any sanding needs to be done during the curing process but before the putty has chance to fully harden.


Janice Anderssen





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