How to Remove Rust and Restore Metal


Nancy asked: I have a metal shower curtain rod that’s rusted over the 15 years it’s been in place. How can I restore its clean, fresh metal surface? It’s a three-piece joined shower curtain rod, custom bent with two 90 degree angels for the location. There are sleeves that hold the rods in place, and chains by which it hangs from the ceiling. I don’t know what kind of metal, other than very ordinary. It has some small surface rust in places. It’s still strong and works fine. I want to restore the metal surface which has dulled over the years. Any thoughts?

Restoring rusty metal can be time consuming, but well worth the efforts. For situations where there is only a small amount of surface rust, or the piece is custom made, there are some steps that can be taken to remove the rust and reapply a metal coating to the piece. Of course, this can be professionally done, but also makes a great job for those who prefer the do-it-yourself methods.

You Will Need:

  • Sandpaper
  • Steel wool
  • Metal Paint (Ex: RustOleum)
  • Metal Primer
  • Gloves
  • Protective mask
  • Metal etching solution

Steps to Remove the Rust:

Always protect yourself with a face mask when removing the rust. The fine particles will enter the air and could be inhaled. Gloves are good as well to protect your hands.

  1. There are several ways to remove the rust from the surface of the metal. The first and easiest is sandpaper. Simply rub the sand paper over the rusty area until it is removed.
  2. Another way is to buff the surface of the metal with steel wool. This will have the same removal outcome as sandpaper, but may be more efficient.
  3. If needed, a metal etching solution can be applied to remove any residual rust on the surface.
  4. Follow the package instructions for use. Rinse thoroughly to ensure all residue is removed.
  5. Do not touch the bare metal with your hands. The oils from your hands will lead to future rusting. Wear gloves to avoid this.

Steps to Refinish the Metal Surface:

  1. Work in a well ventilated area when painting.
  2. If an acid etching solution was used, then the metal will need to be primed with a bare metal primer. RustOleum carries a quality line of products for this purpose.
  3. After the primer is set, or if no acid etching solution was used, a metal paint can be applied to the surface. Sand the surface lightly before applying the final coats of paint.
  4. Apply the paint following the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
  5. To add shine to the piece, finish off with a metal lacquer or enamel.
  6. When the paint has dried, the piece is ready for use.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • There are a variety of colored metal paints available to change the look of your metal piece, if desired.


  1. I wouldn’t be telling people to put lacquer over Rustoleum to add shine.

    The lacquer will destroy the Rustoleum in seconds.

    Better use polyurethane or varnish.

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