Learn how to remove rust from metal patio furniture and paint over it with fresh color.
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When exposed to rain, sun, and outdoor elements over long periods, metal patio furniture will eventually rust. With enough time, this natural phenomenon is mostly unavoidable, but a little rust doesn't mean you have to throw out your outdoor table and chairs or pass over an old patio set you found on the cheap. Painting rusted metal furniture is a simple DIY project that can quickly make tables and chairs look good as new. However, paint won't stick to dirty, rusty surfaces, so you'll have to remove the rust before adding your favorite paint color.

Before you begin this outdoor project, make sure the rust hasn't damaged the structural integrity of the item. Small spots of rust are likely manageable, but large corroded areas might not be salvageable. If the frame remains sturdy, use the following steps to paint rusty metal furniture, including pieces made from aluminum, iron, and steel.

Garden party with hammock nook patio
Credit: Tria Giovan

How to Paint Rusty Metal Furniture

Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors, that's not exposed to direct sun or strong wind, which can affect the adhesion of the paint. To protect surfaces from overspray, lay down a drop cloth and make sure you're not spraying too close to the side of your house or other areas where you don't want paint.

What You Need

  • Metal patio table and chairs
  • Small paint scraper
  • Sanding block
  • Drop cloth
  • Rust primer
  • Rust-resistant spray paint
  • Clear sealer
scraping off rust
Credit: Jacob Fox

Step 1: Remove loose rust.

Examine each furniture piece to determine any rusted areas that need attention. Gently use a paint scraper ($7, The Home Depot) to remove loose, corroded material. Scrape off large chunks, but don't worry if you can't get it all.

sanding off rust
Credit: Jacob Fox

Step 2: Sand rusty areas.

Use a sanding block ($4, The Home Depot) to remove rust down to the bare metal. Use sandpaper with a lower, coarser grit to clear away rust more effectively. Then wipe the furniture with a rag to rid the pieces of any debris.

spraying rusty metal primer
Credit: Jacob Fox

Step 3: Spray on primer.

Place the table and chairs on a drop cloth. Treat the sanded, rusty areas with a metal primer that deters rust, such as Rust-Oleum Rusty Metal Primer Spray ($4, The Home Depot). Make sure to spray the spot from all angles, reaching every nook and cranny. Let dry for two hours.

spray painting old metal furniture
Credit: Jacob Fox

Step 4: Apply spray paint.

Apply two coats of metal-approved spray paint in your color of choice. Hold the can about 8-10 inches away from the surface and use a sweeping back-and-forth motion to apply a thin, even coat across the entire piece, including the back and underside. Allow the paint to dry for two hours, or the time recommended by the manufacturer, between coats.

Step 5: Finish with sealer.

Protect your freshly painted patio furniture from further rusting or chipping with a clear coat. Choose a sealer designed for outdoor projects with UV protection to help prevent fading. Following the manufacturer's instructions, let dry and cure completely before use.

Comments (4)

Better Homes & Gardens Member
July 25, 2020
We used a hammered-look metal paint. 5 chairs, a loveseat, coffee table and 2 end tables, 24 cans of paint and 3 days of sanding with die grinder = new large patio set.
Better Homes & Gardens Member
October 15, 2018
We used polypropylene webbing for the chair strapping. You can read the instructions for remaking the chairs here: https://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/porch/outdoor-rooms/how-to-make-a-woven-chair-seat/ -BHG
Better Homes & Gardens Member
September 30, 2018
I would like to know where to (please) find the strapping to redo my chairs. ????? I'm in Jax, FL.
Better Homes & Gardens Member
July 19, 2018
I just love the turquoise paint job on the tabletop and chairs - I had bought 5 cans but worried that it would be too jarring all in one color - You have given me the perfect solution to have a one-of-a-kind painted patio set that will be so awesome. Thx. Linda Jean (FL) = Oh-I love your web daily inspiration