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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.

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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.

With a little prep, you can paint straight over rust


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?

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