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That Moment When You Realise You Can Paint Over Rust

Are you looking at your rusty surfaces feeling stumped? Wondering “what paint to use on rusted metal?” Can you paint over rust? Or maybe you’ve just not been able to get round to it. Well, you don’t have to struggle any longer. It is possible to give rust a complete makeover turning it around. It’s simple to paint over it without having to spend a long time trying to manually remove it. Click here to skip recommended products and to continue reading.

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With a little prep, you can paint straight over rust

If you’re preparing your metal surface for painting – let’s make it simple and quick for you. All you need to do is grab a wire brush, a scraper and some cleaner/degreaser. Remove grease, oil and other surface contaminants by cleaning with appropriate detergents (something like Rust-Oleum Mathys ND14 Cleaner Degreaser is ideal). Then remove rust scale, loose mill scale, loose rust and loose coatings by scraping, wire brushing and sanding. This will leave you with a smoother surface to paint over and helps to ensure adhesion, don’t worry though you don’t have to remove ALL the rust! Finally, sand any previous coatings which are in good condition to roughen the surface slightly.

After all the above, make sure you thoroughly clean the surface down and it should be preferably dry during application.


Now we’re sure you want to paint over that unsightly rust. Use Rust-Oleum 769 Damp-Proof Primer as it needs minimal preparation, and penetrates the rust all the way to the metal! You can apply it on slightly moist or dry surfaces, for durable corrosion protection. It works by expelling moisture and air, and encases the rust whether you use it with, or without a top coat!

Recommended surface primer for rust

Rust-Oleum 769 Damp-Proof Primer is based on a unique, low-odour formula based on fish oil. It’s the wonder primer that started it all for Scottish-born sea captain Robert Fergusson when he noticed that the rusty deck of his vessel stopped corroding in places where fish oil had been spilled. This discovery inspired the captain to develop the first fish oil-based anti-corrosion paint. In 1921 he perfected a type of paint that prevented rust and was capable of drying overnight without leaving any unpleasant odours, Rust-Oleum® Corporation was born.

The Possibilities

Once you’ve used the damp-proof primer, you’ve got the opportunity to redecorate and be creative! You can paint over the newly prepared rusty metal with any colour scheme you like using Rust-Oleum 7500 Alkythane. By using the damp-proof primer you’ve skipped the manual rust removal process, saving you time!

Recommended topcoat for corrosive environments

If you’ve got a rusty old staircase, why not give it a re-vamp and paint it with bright, exciting colours! You could even use hanging baskets and flowers for a quirky, colourful look. Metal cladding not looking too great? Just paint over it with the damp-proof primer and choose a strong colour to bring it back to life. Whether you stick to a plain finish, or something bold, you’ll be able to hide the rust underneath and protect the surface with Rust-Oleum 769 Damp-Proof Primer.

If you’re struggling with your rust-revamp, just contact the friendly team at Rawlins Paints!


  1. Do you have an etching primer plus follow-up paints for a galvanised garage door from which the paint is flaking?
    Many thanks.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. My parents door got really rusted, we then decided to get a new one for me because rust covered the entire door and painting it wouldn’t work.

  3. That is the end. Rust is painful and sometimes a sign that you need to get a new one.

  4. We have a metal barn roof that was rusty and has already been painted once 8-10 years ago white. It looked great until this year and now the rust is coming through again. What do you recommend we do regarding painting as don’t want to invest in the cost of re-tinning the whole roof of the barn.


  5. Hi,
    We also have a large barn roof with old galvanised corrugated steel. It is old and the steel is thick, but it has not been painted for years and is 50% rust. Can’t see myself scraping away with a little wire brush, would take a month. How do I prepare this efficiently? Anything that will simply bond all the rust in place?
    Many thanks

  6. We have a 120 year old standing seam metal roof with non pitted rust. It is not galvanized but the tiles were originally coated with copper which seems to have worn away iver the years. We are interested in stopping the rust and painting with a lighter color or silver colored paint. We prefer oil based for durability and to prevent water penetration under the paint.

  7. Hi there, I have a car lift that is losing the paint and mostly rusting on surface where the rides on. What do you recommend to repair this surface that will holdup to the tire pressure

    • Hi Dave,

      We would recommend Rust-Oleum 9100 High Solids Epoxy for this application. It can be applied to minimally prepared surfaces and should be durable enough to withstand cars driving over the surface. All existing rust will need to be mechanically be removed before application of the coating.

      I trust that this answers your query, but certainly come back to us if we can help with anything else.

  8. Hi Kyle, I have a metal balcony that is in need of cleaning and repaint…has some old paint flaking and a few rusty or slightly mossy spots. What Rustoleum products / in what order should I use after scraping & sanding? Thanks!

  9. I have some old milk crates that are metal and rusted pretty bad. Do I need to take a wire brush to them before painting? What kind of paint would you recommend? Spray paint or with a brush. This paint that’s based on fish oil, do you have to clean up as you would an oil based paint?

    • Hi Cathy,

      Thank you for your question. We’d recommend preparing the surface with a wire brush to remove any loose and flaking rust, at this point it could be painted using Rustoleum CombiColor Original.

      For a longer lasting finish we’d recommend a coat of Rust-Oleum 769/780 Damp-Proof Rust Primer before applying CombiColor Original if there was still quite a bit of rust left on the metal after the initial preparation.

      I hope that helps, and feel free to get back in touch if you would like any further advice.

  10. I have a small outside shed with metal roof. The total area of the roof would be around 8M2. Rust has started to appear on the white roof. What steps should I take to prevent further deterioration please?

    • Hi Kelvin,

      Thank you for getting in touch. Assuming the roof is either mild steel or galvanised we would recommend the existing rust be removed by mechanical abrasion prior to cleaning down the roof. Once clean and dry, we’d recommend a minimum 2 coat application of Rust-Oleum Mathys Noxyde Peganox.

      I hope this helps, please feel free to get in touch if you have any further questions.

      Many thanks

  11. Hi, I have an old galvanised water tank that I’d like to convert into a water feature (no fish). It’s water tight and rust free externally but inside it is quite rusty. I’d like to treat/paint the interior for longevity. Needs to deal with the rust and then be waterproof. Any advice welcome, thank you.

  12. I have some outdoor bolts with rust on them. I was told to clean then coat them with a rust prevention paint. Would wire brush scraping then painting with the Rust-Oleum 769 Damp-Proof Primer work?

  13. Hello, I’m restoring a truck that was exposed to winter road salt and the rocker panels were badly rusted. I removed the damaged sheet metal and got about 80% of the rust removed. But there are some places the rust has spread to beneath the cab floor and inside the B-Pillar. I can access these somewhat to remove most of the rust but likely not all of it.

    Can you please recommend a product suitable for automotive application that will stop and seal the lightly rusted areas I can’t easily replace? I’ve tested self etching primer and an epoxy primer both with two coats of top coat then two coats of clear. The epoxy primer showed tiny rust spots bleeding then the self etching primer shortly followed.

    I want to use a better quality product that has a better chance of actually sealing off this rust from spreading. I also will be coating the frame and would be curious if you could also recommend a product for that?

  14. I have a painted black metal outdoor furniture set that is rusting and chipping and looks like it’s been spray painted more then once because I can also see green paint.
    How can I paint it again?

    • Hi Miriam,

      Thank you very much for your question. For this application we would recommend wire brushing any rusting areas back to a sound surface before applying Rust-Oleum CombiColor Original in either the paint on form or aerosol depending on the colour you require.

      I hope this helps and please feel free to get in touch if you have any further questions.

      Many thanks

  15. Hi there,

    we have corroded metal I beams in a damp basement of a brick building built around 1910. Most of the rust was removed from most of the beams and the beams were painted with an anticorrosion paint. However in some places rust under the paint has caused this paint to come off. This is especially the case within about 20cm from where the beams enter the brick walls as it was difficult to remove rust from these places. The beams support the ground floor of the building. And although Engineers have inspected the beams and aren’t too worried I would like to treat the areas where the paint has come off. What product would you recommend for this?

    • Hi Nick,

      Thank you very much for your question.

      Assuming you would be unable to remove the full extent of the rust in some areas, we would recommend priming with Rust-Oleum 769 Damp-Proof Primer. This should then be allowed to dry for 24 hours before then applying 2 coats of Rust-Oleum CombiColor Original in the colour of your choice.

      I hope this helps and please feel free to get in touch if you have any further questions.

      Many thanks

      • Hi Stuart,

        Thanks for the reply. Someone suggested Sigma Cover 350 to me. If we can remove the loose rust would this be suitable? (Pity there isn’t a way to add photos to this post. I can send some if that helps answer.) Or is Rust-Oleum 769 Damp-Proof Primer more suitable even in that case? Btw the location is about 800m from the sea.



        • Hi Nick

          Thank you very much for your message. When using PPG Sigmacover 350, although it is surface tolerant, all existing rust would need to be mechanically removed back down to a rust free, sound substrate prior to application. As this is an epoxy it would then need a protective, UV stable topcoat such as PPG SigmaDur 550.

          The main thing to note with these 2 pack products that the level of preparation required is much higher then the recommend Rust-Oleum 769 and Rust-Oleum CombiColor application.

          Many thanks and I hope this helps.

  16. Hello. I have some used 36’ steel drill stem poles. They all have a layer of surface rust. We will be using them to put up flood lights around a playground and I need to be sure that we will not have to repaint them again for a long time. What would be the best method of painting them?

  17. I have rust on surface of my above ground pool outside wall below the skimmer on the bottom but its light surface i know i need to take care of the problem before it gets worst what you recommend me to do its small area not big wont need lots of products thank you

    • Hi Leo,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to read our blog and for your question. Assuming there is already a Chlorinated Rubber product applied you would need to thoroughly abrade the area that has rusted to remove all rust and open up the area for painting.

      Once cleaned and degreased we would recommend priming using the Teamac Metaclor Antifouling Primer.

      Followed by two coats of Teamac Chlorvar Chlorinated Rubber Paint.

      Once the existing sound paint is lightly abraded the Teamac Chlorvar Chlorinated Rubber Paint could also be applied directly to this without priming.

      However, if the existing coating is not a chlorinated rubber product or if you are unsure, our Technical Team would need to need more information to try and ascertain what product has been used on the surface – if you could please send some photographs over to [email protected] with your contact details and they will be happy to assist.

      I hope this helps and please feel free to get in touch if you have any further questions.

      Many thanks

  18. I have a rusty shipping container which I need to paint. The roof has some sections of deeply pitted rust. Suggestions on how to treat and paint effectively. I seek white of light final coat for heat issues. Thank you.

    • Hi Chris,

      Thank you very much for your question and for taking the time to read our blog.

      On a roof like this we would recommend all of the rust is removed by discing or mechanical wire brushing, shot blasting would be brilliant back to bare steel.

      You can then fill any holes, gaps or cracks using Eagle Ultraflex Sealant, followed by two coats of Eagle Demsopol at 0.5Kg/m² thickened with Eagle Desmothix, approx. 0.5L of Desmothix to 1 x 25Kg drum of Desmopol. Apply two coats of this, allowing each coat to dry in between.

      You can then also then apply Eagle CoolTop on top of this to reduce solar build up.

      I hope this helps and please feel free to get in touch if you have any further questions.

      Many thanks

  19. Hi, I have a hail damaged car and I would like to get few badly damaged panels done with solid truck liner rubber paint. I have few minor rust points on the panels that I am not worried about. My main question is if your primer will work on the factory clear coat that I have on the car or I need to sand it down? And the other question is, can I apply any rubber paint on the primer or you have some special one that I can use.

    Thank you,

    • Hi John,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to read our blog and for your question. Many of the anti-corrosive primers work by cathodically protecting the steel so they would need to be in direct contact with the steel area and not on top of a clear coat.

      At present we don’t offer a product which can be used as a “Truck Liner” so we wouldn’t be able to advise on this aspect of your question unfortunately.

      I hope this helps and please feel free to get in touch if you have any further questions.

      Many thanks

  20. Thinking of using Rust-Oleum 769 Damp-Proof Rust Primer to treat then re-paint a 12′ utility trailer. It has quite a bit of rust, but mostly just on the surface. Any of the spots that were at or close to pitting have been mechanically sanded/wire brushed, and there are still parts of the trailer that have factory paint (though faded) visible. Couple of questions:
    1. Will this product work to stop the rust from developing further?
    2. Does the entire surface of the trailer need to be sanded/brushed prior to using Rust-Oleum 769 Damp-Proof Rust Primer?
    3. Do I need to also use something like Rust Reformer in tandem prior to top coating?

    Many thanks in advance

    • Hi Sam,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to read our blog, for your question and for your patience.

      Our Technical Team have been liaising with the Technical Team at Rust-Oleum and we have the below recommendations/answers in relation to your queries regarding Rust-Oleum 769 Damp-Proof Rust Primer:

      1. Will this product work to stop the rust from developing further? – Yes, assuming that preparation is to St3 standard* and all oils, greases, salts etc. have been removed.

      2. Does the entire surface of the trailer need to be sanded/brushed prior to using Rust-Oleum 769 Damp-Proof Rust Primer? – The higher the cleanliness level achieved by the preparation, the longer the paint system will last.

      3. Do I need to also use something like Rust Reformer in tandem prior to top coating? – We don’t currently supply this type of product, however we would not recommend their use in this instance.

      *To clarify, St 3 Standard: Extremely thorough scraping and wirebrushing, disc sanding, power brushing etc. Surface preparation as for St 2 Standard** (see below), but considerably more accurate. After removing the dust, the surface should have a pronounced metallic sheen (not polishing).

      **St 2 Standard: Thorough scraping (with hard-metal scraper) and wirebrushing – disc-sanding – etc. During the operation all the loose scale, rust and foreign matter should be removed. Finally, the surface is cleaned with a vacuum cleaner, clean and dry compressed air or a clean brush. It should then have a faint metallic sheen.

      We would then then suggest cleaning with the Rust-Oleum Mathys ND14 Cleaner Degreaser.

      Please note that no rust converter would be recommended as a substitute for good preparation work.

      I hope this helps and please feel free to get in touch if you have any further questions.

      Many thanks

  21. Hi,

    I live in a coastal town where corrosion is a big issue.

    I have a large metal framed sign made of a non galvanised metal frame. Between two terraced houses. It has metal letters about 400mm high made of 3mm steel. The sign was put up 17 years ago and has been painted a few times using various paint systems. The first repaint after about 5 years was done using two coats of Hammerite. This lasted 6 years. The second repaint was done after a good clean off of the rust and was painted with Ferris oxide, a two part epoxy undercoat and two coats of black two part expoxy black gloss
    This lasted about 4 years although the manufacturers stated 15 years min. The spec is as used on oil rigs. I suspect the expoxy wasn’t mixed properly.

    It was repainted about 3 months ago after a lot of rust showed itself again. The painter ground off the rust, primed with a red oxide the previous rusty areas and painted with one coat of Johnson metal paint.

    The rust is now coming through again.

    The painters says it’s because there was damp under the existing paint ?
    Also Johnston’s Metal paint is the best you can get.

    I am not sure about either of the above.

    Can you help. I need something that with last 5/6 years if possible.

    • Hi Norman,

      Many thanks for your question and for taking the time to read our blog. The critical aspect for your project is the preparation. To maximise success we would recommend a thorough clean & degrease using Rust-Oleum Mathys ND14 Cleaner Degreaser or Rust-Oleum Pre-Paint Cleaner followed by very thorough preparation with power tools, abrasive blast cleaning would be even better until all rust is completely removed back to clean bare steel.

      We would then recommend one coat of Rust-Oleum 769 Damp-Proof Rust Primer followed by two coats of Rust-Oleum 7500 Alkythane.

      It’s important to note that on the coast the substrate can quickly become contaminated with soluble salts, these can be removed with lots of clean, fresh water and to avoid any flash rusting a thorough drying afterwards before painting.

      I hope this helps and please feel free to get in touch if you have any further questions.

      Many thanks

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