Best Ways to Paint Wrought Iron

Best Ways to Paint Wrought Iron

Level: Beginner

Wrought iron railings, fences and patio furniture have been a classically elegant staple of homes for decades. Over time, exposed to the elements, wrought iron can become pitted and rusty and in need of refinishing.

Even if your wrought iron pieces look good, you can paint them a different color to add a personal touch and contemporary style to what is usually a traditional element of your home.

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    • Step 1: Get Ready to Paint
      white housedrop cloth

      Pick a warm, dry day to paint your wrought iron pieces. Don’t start painting if surfaces are wet, when the humidity is more than 80 percent, if the temperature is less than 50 degrees or if the piece you're painting is directly in the sun.

      If you’re painting movable wrought iron pieces, choose an open area outdoors, covered with drop cloths or tarps for your workspace — you don’t want overspray or splatters and drips to ruin surfaces that you don’t want painted. For fences or railings, make sure that the ground and surrounding surfaces are protected by drop cloths and painter’s tape so they aren't marred by the paint if the overspray is caught by the wind or if the paint drips.

      Helpful Tip

      Set up a large piece of cardboard, lightweight wood, or hang a drop cloth or sheet as a shield against overspray that might blow onto other objects. Place the "shield" on the side opposite of the one that you're painting.

    • Step 2: Remove Old Finish and Rust
      Naval Jelly

      Clean the metal with a vinegar/water solution (50/50) or use water with a mild detergent and a scrub brush or rag to remove dirt and grime. Use a bleach/water solution or a commercial mold remover to remove any mold or mildew.

      You need to remove both the old paint and rust for new coats of paint to adhere properly. Keep in mind that you don’t have to remove every bit of the old paint. The surface just needs to be free of loose flakes of paint and other debris. Sanding and scraping the surface also “raises” the surface a bit for better paint adhesion.

      You can remove both rust and paint using a stiff wire brush or an electric drill equipped with a sanding pad and abrasive discs. Emery cloths (cloth-backed abrasive sheets) can be used when there is minimal rust. Emery cloths work well because they are sturdier and easier to use than sandpaper on items such as railings or fences because of their flexibility. Paint scrapers come in handy as well. Remove sanding dust as you go.

      Safety Alert!

      Wear a tight-fitting dust mask, safety goggles, and appropriate clothing that covers your skin while you sand and scrape away paint.

      Use Naval Jelly rust dissolver to ease removal of any remnants of rust on the metal. When applying, always follow the manufacturer's instructions on the label. After it has dried, wipe the surface down with a rag to remove any leftover dust or debris. You should see bare metal where the rust has been removed.

    • Step 3: Apply Primer

      Spray wrought iron with a primer made specifically for metals, such as True Value X-O Rust rust-inhibiting primer. Aerosol primer and paint often provide the best, smoothest coverage results on metal, however; it may be necessary in some areas to apply metal primer with a brush. For best results, apply two coats. When spraying, "back-brush" (painting over just-applied paint before it begins to dry) to work the paint into the surface so it will adhere better and smooth out any drips. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly for at least 24 hours. Primer does not always feel wet or tacky before it is completely dry.

      Helpful Tip

      After using aerosol primer (or paint), tip the can upside down and depress the nozzle for a few seconds until paint stops coming out. Next, wipe off the nozzle with a cloth. This prevents the nozzle from being clogged the next time you use the can.

    • Step 4: Apply Paint
      rust removerfinished set

      Spray on a coat of True Value XO-Rust rust-inhibiting paint or apply it using a small to medium-sized paintbrush. Spray painting gets the job done fast and provides excellent coverage and a smooth finish. Hold the can about 8 to 12 inches from the object you're painting and keep the can moving to avoid excess paint that can drip. Apply several light coats. If you've painted furniture, let the paint dry for at least 24 hours before using.

      Helpful Tips

      For best results, apply a second coat of paint within 1 hour of applying the first coat.

      In most cases, using True Value X-O Rust spray paint allows you to skip priming because it is formulated to be a paint and primer in one.

      Great job! Your wrought iron pieces look good as new.

  • Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.

    Before you begin, use the shopping list below to uncheck the tools you already have to complete this project.

    Then, print or save your updated list and bring it to your local True Value hardware store, where an expert Hardwarian will give you the remaining tools and expert advice you need to complete this project.

    You can also shop online for these project items at and receive FREE shipping to a participating store.

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