How to prevent rust

Updated February 21, 2017

Rust is a nightmare for anyone working with metal or wanting to enjoy the results of someone's metalwork efforts. Whether it is a car, a garden trowel or a fence, if it is made from a ferrous metal, it will rust unless treated. Knowing how to prevent rust is essential if you want your metal property to last.

Clean your metal items regularly, using non-corrosive cleaning products such as soap and water. Make sure that the object dries all over as rust will form on metal objects exposed to water for long periods. For cars and other objects that are covered in a protective layer of paint, it is sufficient to let the object dry naturally. But for other metal items, drying with a cloth may be necessary.

Paint the exposed parts of the item. Paint provides a protective layer that prevents metal from reacting with water and air to form rust. For items that are already painted (such as cars), check them regularly for scratches, signs of wear or other evidence of damage and use touch-up paint to repair the paintwork. This keeps the protective layer intact and helps to prevent rust.

Keep the item away from damp areas and do not allow the metal to stand in water or air with a high water content (such as a humid room) for too long. Rust can form when an object with exposed metal areas is left in the presence of air and water, so keeping these items away from contact with water is essential to preventing rust forming.


Finding rust on your metalwork does not have to be the end of the world. If rust does start to form, a light buffing with wire wool or even a firm-bristled brush to remove the rust can prevent any more from forming, giving you time to treat the surface with paint.


Painting an object that is already rusty will do nothing to help prevent rust. If you paint over rust, your metalwork will still be rusty and any water in the paint, or trapped underneath it, can then react with the metalwork. Clean up the metal and dry it thoroughly before painting.

Things You'll Need

  • Soap
  • Water
  • Drying cloth
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
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About the Author

Based in the United Kingdom, April Kohl has been writing since 1992, specializing in science and legal topics. Her work has appeared on the Second Life News Network website and in British Mensa's "LSQ" magazine. Kohl holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from Durham University and a diploma in English law from the Open University.