Conditioning rusty metal

Whenever I land a piece of rusty metal, I like to condition it with something.

Conditioning rusty metal / how to prep junky pieces on

For the most part, I keep a satin spray sealer on hand to do just that.

I like to seal or treat rusty metal:

* So it’s easier to clean.
* Enhances the patina by deepening both the painted surface and rust.
* Keeps YOU safer from contaminates.

But this round, I was fortunate to have Miss Mustard Seed’s hemp oil on hand to try out.

When I met up with bloggers not long ago for a little shopping, we stopped at an antiques place, Granny and Grumpa’s. Remember I mentioned I visited the rusty bin room?

Conditioning rusty metal / how to prep junky pieces on

The cast iron pot and the galvanized bucket and whatever that other thing is, were in good condition, but hadn’t had TLC in some time.

Galvanized bucket / Conditioning rusty metal / how to prep junky pieces on

Here you’ll note the finish is flat…

Galvanized bucket / Conditioning rusty metal / how to prep junky pieces on

Compared to now.

I barely recognize this junk! 🙂

Galvanized bucket / Conditioning rusty metal / how to prep junky pieces on

The galvanized metal was pretty flat before. Now it has a nice highlighted sheen without it being shiny, with all the patina intact. It’s perfect!

Cast iron black and rust pot / Conditioning rusty metal / how to prep junky pieces on
This guy was most noticeable. The rust turned a deep brown vs a bright orange. I just LOVE it!

I was too giddy to stop and take full blown befores and afters up above. Here’s a better example below…

Conditioning rusty metal / how to prep junky pieces on

The Snowman Hat (?) is untouched. What is this thing?!

Conditioning rusty metal / how to prep junky pieces on

Half way done with the hemp oil.

Conditioning rusty metal / how to prep junky pieces on

Wow. The snowman won’t believe his eyes! 🙂

It’s still wet here, but when it completely dried, it only dulled a little bit. It still has a lovely sheen to it.

How to treat rusty metal:

* Clean the piece well with soapy water and buff dry.

* If rust is flaky, scrape off flakes with a grill wire brush

* Seal the piece with either a (non sticky type) satin clear sealer or oil.

* If using oil, allow piece to sit for a bit, then buff well, so no oily residue is left behind. Buff the next day as well.

I also spray sealed the inside of the containers as well for added protection.

While I always have spray sealers on hand for fussy, high detailed objects, I like the oil better, because it has a more natural, non sticky feeling to it while it dries. Plus it dries quickly.

Toolbox charging station / Conditioning rusty metal / how to prep junky pieces on

toolbox charging station-0537
Toolbox charging station and info on prep work

Here’s another piece I spray sealed prior to using it. Things with lots of curves and corners work really well with a spray. It just feels so much nicer to the touch and is a snap to clean, while all the old patina remains.

I fully admit, some rusty pieces really need the help. Just knowing they’re clean, even though beat up makes a world of difference for me.

I need to test run the spray sealers before telling you which one I like… I remember one being more sticky than the other, so I’ll update this post after I’ve tried a few.

This isn’t the prettiest post, but I felt it was helpful to know that I indeed do condition rusty metal when I use it, just to be on the safe side.

Do you condition metal? What do you like using?

Disclosure: I was sent the Hemp Oil as a sample to try with no strings attached. But I honestly really loved it!

Update Nov 24th: I revisited the pieces a few days later. They looked wonderful, but I did find when I rubbed my hand on them, oil came off. I took a soft cloth and repolished them. No more oil residue, yet the colours and sheen of the objects had a nice deep tone, with a satin sheen. PERFECT. So… let them sit a bit then polish.

The spray sealer left things a little sticky on the inside, (ugh) so I totally need to test another brand. More soon!

Disclosure / this post contains affiliate links.

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Categories: Junk Drawer, What To Get

37 thoughts on “Conditioning rusty metal

  1. I am glad to know this. I got an olive bucket and it needs sealed because it gets rust on everything. But I didn’t want it to be shiny. I have MMS hemp oil so will give it a try.

    • Hi Carla! The oil does leave a little bit of a shine, so maybe test the bottom first. The tone could change too, but I felt it was for the better. I love rust, but I don’t love orange! 🙂

  2. Hi Donna, I’ve been wandering about MMS hemp oil and so far your pieces look amazing. Can’t wait to hear how they turn out after a bit. I’m repurposing a steamer trunk right now, and it was almost completely rusted out. I used Skyco osphro, which will turn it black. It should be painted afterward, (upcoming post) so I’m assuming a clear sealer will suffice. Of course I like the rust patina so it seems the oil may actually seal and protect the rust. Can’t wait to see a follow-up. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hey Heather, I added an update at the bottom of the post. Both pieces look really nice after a few days, but left some oily residue on my hands. I rebuffed them and now they are perfect! A satin sheen and no residue.

  3. Great tip Donna! I always thought oil would be a good try, and that it dries quickly is a bonus, for oils can attract dust and there goes the nice finish. Love how the sheen looks on the pail. Makes looking for rusty gold with confidence on the end result much more appealing~!!

  4. That “thing” reminds me of the cap to our helium tank… I wonder if it is a cap to something similar !?!
    Thanks for the tips.. I have several junk items I now plan to seal!!

    • Helium tank cap… well, now I can sound a little more upscale vs calling it a snowman hat! haha You’ll love the way your pieces feel after a little sealing for sure. Attempt to find a satin spray (if you go that route) if you can so the object doesn’t gloss up too much. Have fun!

  5. Great post! Interested to hear the results down the road. Sealing makes all the patina just pop. AND, were you trying to get my attention with those yardsticks!?!

    • The pieces needed a little more buffing today (a couple days later), so now they are perfect with no residue in sight!

      As for the yardsticks… I’ll be sure to devote a post to you the next time I land a good yardstick haul. Sounds like it’s a good thing we don’t go junkin’ at the same place! haha

  6. I’ve avoided doing much with rusted articles, even though I love them, because I didn’t want the issue of dealing with the flaking rust. Now I’ll have to try this. Does the oil dry completely and not rub off on things?

    • Hi Noreen, I just added an update to my post after I saw your question.

      I found I didn’t buff the pieces enough after adding the oil. I think I just put on too much… now there’s no residue yet the tones are still enhanced. Very nice!

      I didn’t touch on flaking rust. I take a grill wire brush and scrape off flaky rust first, then seal. Works great! I’ll add that up above too.

    • Love Miss Mustard Seed hemp oil! It is sooooooo amazing. I does need to cure, but I find within a couple weeks there is no residue at all. Wait unti
      l you try it on wood, it really makes the wood grain pop and is very stunning.

  7. Have you tried using Penetrol? I’ve only used it once (on an old bottle capper) and I liked the results and it didn’t feel oily. I used the hemp oil on a barn door coffee table in my home and the smell of the oil is taking A LONG time to dissipate… Some people may love the smell. Me? Not so much.

    • I used Tung oil on a random piece of timber and two months later it still whiffs like a cooked breakfast.

      UK – I use Wilko’s matt varnish on wrought iron and 3 in 1 oil on tools

  8. I agree with the other comment about the “snowman hat”… It looks like it might be a protective cap for an old gas cylinder of some sort. Oxy/Acetylene or helium or…? Designed to protect the cylinder’s stem where gauges would be mounted. But it might be something else altogether. 🙂

  9. I have lots of old rusty metal in my yard and house and have found spraying the pieces with WD-40 or something similar has worked great, gets into all the cracks and crevices, and is easy. I’ve also used clear spray, but it seems to flake off on outside pieces after a season or two.

  10. Donna – I’m wondering what I can do with a VERY rusty seeder/cultivator that I have out in my yard (garden art)! If I continue to leave it, it will rot out in a year or two probably. If I were to wire brush it and clean it real good, would a few coats of hemp oil help preserve it a little longer — do you think? Would appreciate any ideas/suggestions. In the meantime I have an old lantern that I definitely see spiffying up with hemp oil like you’ve done with the objects posted!!! 🙂

  11. I recognize those containers! I knew you were a better owner for that little pot – look how you knew how to take care of him properly.

    I’m remembering this hemp oil tip for any other junky bits that I come across! 🙂

  12. Hi Donna I have been using MMS Hemp Oil on metal for quite awhile now and I just love it. I usually put a light coat on with a rag let it sit for a few hours and then wipe off the excess. Wait a day then buff. This method has worked perfectly for me. I used it on an old industrial cart that I fixed up and 6 months later it still looks great. There’s a photo of it on my FB page (studio23.rose) P.S. I used MMS Tung Oil on the wood which is fabulous too.

    • I have an old seeder that was transformed in to a coffee table. The gentleman that assembled it said he used transmission fluid on the metal. It has an oil quality to it.

  13. I have to confess I have unsuccessfully googled many times to find out how I could make the rust look more fantastic and feel cleaner on an old milk can. Everything I came up with was in the vein of ‘protection with rustoleum’. Then, totally by accident, I came across this post! MMS hemp oil has another customer!!

  14. Hi Donna … so really excited to have found your page about rust. I’ve been a nutjob over rust for decades … plus your page is just delightfully put together and inspiring 🙂 [I love the old glass doorknob behind your friendly toolbox, bunged up just like mine.]

    I almost never coat or seal rust … but have a little iron skillet from my granddaugthers. They have picked up my habit of “picking up stuff” wherever we go, and that just warms my soul!!!

    The skillet has beautiful orange circles, like little crop circles, inside the pan, which I’d like to highlight. Awesome. am thinking of rubbing it with some beeswax … because I don’t want any shine if i can help it.

    Have you ever tried beeswax, or some other wax, for our beloved rust? Your reply would be so appreciated. Natalie 05-08-16

    FYI: my website mostly has my digital art & i have tons of rust photos i gotta get on there also. And it’s great fun to read the info and questions from your fans. Again, thanks!

    • I have never heard of hemp oil and I just read about Penetrol too. I am an antique dealer and come across lots of cool primitives here in western Texas. I do a lot of refinishing, refurbishing, and/or stabilizing of patina. Linseed oil is not the best for indoor items. And
      I have an old round top trunk that has a lot of rust and character that I am going to save without changing the color much. Is Miss Mustard’s Hemp Oil available retail in paint stores or do I have to order it? Also how would someone become a dealer?
      Thanks, Judy

  15. I have an old chicken feeder (galvanized) that I want to use as a plate rack. So I want to permanently seal this item after I clean it throughly.
    1. What’s the best way to clean it so it’s sanitary?
    2. Best permanent sealant?

    • Hi Lulu!

      I personally wouldn’t guarantee anything could clean nor seal it so it’s food safe. I would only use it for a plate rack for decorative purposes myself.

      But you could try to clean it with either a pressure washer, or bleach and water… I don’t think anything kills bacteria better than bleach. I just am not sure what would happen to the metal. Perhaps do a google search on safe cleaners?

      As for sealer, I’d suggest to purchase more than one kind from a paint or hardware store and do a test. I’ve found some dry wonderfully, while others not so much. Just go for something that is built to seal metal, and you should be ok. But this would not be sanitary either. Nothing can guarantee that unless it was made in a kiln for that purpose I’m afraid.

  16. Hi Donna and everyone,

    have a try with linseed oil diluted with turpentine; super-cheap and available at nearly any paint or hardware store.
    The turpentine thins the oil so it flows easily into a thinner coat, and evaporates to leave a nice non-sticky coat of oil.
    The colour goes deep brown, like your cast iron pot.

    I used one third of turpentine with two thirds of oil, and that stayed slightly sticky for a while. I suggest you try fourty-sixty, or maybe even fifty-fifty for a start.

    I have several steel objects outside in the rain for months, and they don’t budge after three coats of the mix.

    Now I’m looking for the same outdoor protection, but keeping the rust orange…

    Cheers, Pascal

    • Oh, thank-you for your fabulous tips, Pascal!

      I admit, I’m smitten with hemp oil because it’s non toxic. I don’t even need gloves on my hands to use it! Smells neat too!

      I’m glad you shared though! I love hearing what others use!

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