Everything degrades over time; metal objects are usually the victim of rust. When your car, lawn furniture, or tools are exposed to the elements for a long enough time, they are likely to undergo a process called oxidation, which corrodes the metal until it turns to rust.
Fortunately, there are several ways to combat rust, such as manually removing it with sandpaper, wire brushes, acid- and chemical-based rust removers, or a rust converter. Instead of rust removers that use an acidic or chemical process to strip the rust off a metal surface, rust converters transform the rust into a paintable and sometimes sandable material while also preventing future rust formation. This allows a rust converter to serve three roles: rust remover, preventer, and metal paint primer.
Rust converters are available in water- or chemical-based formulas in large bottles, spray bottles, or aerosol spray cans. Water-based formulas are nontoxic, non-corrosive, and environmentally friendly, but they’re often (but not always) less aggressive and powerful than chemical solutions.
Unlike spray water-based formulas, chemical formulas also are available in easy-to-use aerosol spray cans. However, users can fill a spray bottle with a water-based formula to enjoy advantages similar to an aerosol can. Both water- and chemical-based rust converters can be applied with a paintbrush or roller. Read on to discover some of the best rust converters in each of these categories.
Our Top Picks
In the quest to conquer rust, the plethora of options on the market can quickly overwhelm the most determined DIYer. To determine which rust converter is best for your unique needs, consider some of the following highly rated options.
Whether you’re restoring a car, lawn furniture, tools, or boat, Corroseal’s rust converter is a powerful solution to troublesome rust. After a little surface prep with a wire brush, apply this water-based converter with a brush, roller, or spray bottle. Even though it’s a thin water-based solution, it usually requires only a single coat to restore rusted material while simultaneously priming it with a durable latex primer. The water-based formula is nontoxic, noncorrosive, nonflammable, and environmentally friendly. Cleanup requires just soap and water.
Corroseal states that a single gallon can cover 200 to 250 square feet, and a 5-gallon jug also is available for greater coverage. Corroseal offers 1-quart and 32-ounce quantities. This product is slightly more expensive than some other options.
For converting rust at a relatively affordable price, Rust-Oleum’s Rust Reformer Spray is hard to beat. Rust-Oleum incorporates “any-angle” spray technology that allows you to disperse the converter from any position, even upside down.
The oil-based formula uses rust prevention additives to prevent additional rust formation and to keep rust from spreading to surrounding metal surfaces. Dry to the touch in 20 to 40 minutes, the small quantity in each 10.5-ounce can of the converter and primer likely means multiple cans are required to finish a large project.
For a heavy-duty, industrial converter, Permatex’s rust converter’s proprietary formula can transform the toughest rust into a primed and paintable surface. It even prevents rust from spreading and protects the coated surface from further rust formation.
This rust treatment comes in an easy-to-use spray can, and it dries within minutes. Permatex also offers a liquid solution for those who prefer a paintbrush or roller. One downside is that this product costs almost double that of comparable quantities of other converters.
FDC’s Rust Converter is one of the best ways to turn troublesome rust into an inert substance that’s ready to paint and protected from further corrosion. One gallon can cover up to 500 square feet and dry to the touch in only 20 minutes. It can be applied with a brush, roller, or spray bottle.
This product works best on thin layers of rust, may require more surface prep than some other products, and two coats might be required to be fully effective.
Rust Kutter uses a unique chemical conversion process that transforms rust into a paintable phosphate coating. It comes ready to use with an attached sprayer head, but the head detaches to allow coverage via a brush or roller. Rust Kutter also offers a 1-gallon jug. Expect an impressive 600 square feet of coverage per gallon of formula. Once applied, the surface is ready to use or be painted in 24 hours.
It can often take multiple coats to get the job done, and after each coat, users must wash off the material residue that’s left on the surface from the chemical reaction. The converter also is fairly corrosive and can damage fabric and other vulnerable materials.
For convenience and ease of use, it’s hard to beat an aerosol can. With a single coat, VHT rust converter can be used to convert rust and prime on practically any surface imaginable. It can be sanded down to a smooth finish, allowing the application of a finished topcoat on the primed surface. It sprays on clear but dries black, allowing you to know when the surface is ready to be used or sanded and painted.
This converter is available only in a spray can. It’s also fairly corrosive due to its aggressive chemical composition, so be careful not to spray it on nonmetallic materials that could be damaged.
GEMPLER’S rust converter features a water-based formula that contains no toxic or caustic chemicals, but converts rust into a primed surface just as good or perhaps even better than some chemical formulas. Apply the thin, water-based formula with a paintbrush, roller, or spray bottle. It takes only one coat for effective coverage, and a single 1-quart bottle covers up to 125 square feet.
GEMPLER says to allow up to 48 hours of drying time. While this product is eco-friendly, it’s also quite expensive, which may make it impractical for large-scale home improvement projects.